Shaw's Pam Rainey on Seizing Opportunities in the Flooring Business
You may think designing a kitchen remodel would be a cakewalk for an award-winning product and interior designer, but Pam Rainey’s approach to a kitchen remodel proves that she’s much like the rest of us.
“For most designers I know, their own homes are an experiment—we’re never finished because we’re always exploring,” said Rainey, ASID, IIDA, vice president product design, who leads nearly 50 people on the product development teams for Shaw Floors and Anderson Tuftex, providing design vision for both hard and soft surface products.
Her personal love for color and design is expressed through her recent kitchen remodel in Cartersville, Ga., where she lives with her husband, Don, and Blue Weimaraner, Shadow.
On a sunny spring day, Rainey whipped up some traditional Southern pimento cheese (her recipe includes hand-grated cheddar, pimentos—scattered by hand—jarred diced jalapeño, a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce, and Hellmann’s mayonnaise), and she walked us through her kitchen.
“Even though design is my job and my life, when it’s your own house, you’re not very objective,” she said. “You want a little of that outside help.”
That outside help came in the form of curated images on Pinterest and Instagram, which developed a kitchen palette of blue and yellow.
“I gravitate toward neutrals, but I like the way blue and yellow look together—it’s classic,” she said.
Rainey settled upon painting her existing cabinets in two-tone Tuxedo style, white and blue-gray, and added Shaw’s Islander 3x6 ceramic tile for the backsplash. She hired a local contractor to reconfigure the island with a wood countertop and added a new sink.
“The big stainless steel sink holds up to a lot of abuse,” she explained. “Not only washing pots, but also paint brushes. My husband is a maker and I’m a designer, so we are the perfect partnership on that. We like to take old things and repurpose them.”
Her hardwood floors, which had been refinished, complement the cool tones of the cabinets.
Rainey, who grew up in Louisiana, said much like her research-heavy approach to the kitchen, she relies on consumer insights and collaboration with her Shaw team to create successful product collections.
“You need to develop product for certain channels—you don’t just take one product and throw it across them all. Having consumer insights has helped us understand how we need to change our development process—much more collaboration between product development, manufacturing, marketing, sales.”
Rainey, who has a master’s degree in interior design, began her career at an architecture firm in Houston where she achieved the level of vice president by her mid-30s.
While working in architecture, flooring consistently piqued her interest, in part because she consulted with Masland for many years.
“Flooring brought life into all of the spaces we designed,” Rainey said. “I felt led to the industry, but to be part of it, I knew I’d have to move to Northwest Georgia, where the industry was concentrated. I had and still have wonderful relationships with my colleagues at Masland, and I am so fortunate they took a chance on me and helped me break into the flooring industry.”
In 2006, Rainey began work as a hospitality designer for Shaw’s commercial business.
“What I love about Shaw is they have it all figured out—they have process, procedures, and systems,” she said.
Her start as a hospitality designer proved to be fortunate. The look of hotel rooms was shifting from traditional red and green palettes to all-white bed coverings.
“With an all-white bed, it allowed the floor to become more patterned,” she said.
Her first collection was a large-scale pattern, which won best in show that year.
“I was like, wow, what do I do next year? But I won every year for flooring in hospitality after that—except 2010.”
In 2016, she was approached with an opportunity to apply what she had learned about hard surface in commercial to residential.
“I was hesitant because I had focused my career on the commercial side of the business,” Rainey explained. “I was comfortable where I was. Though, there’s something energizing about being a little uncomfortable in your role and having to learn something new. Because I knew I would be supported by a collaborative team who would help me apply my skills while gaining an understanding of the residential business, it felt like the right move. I always tell new hires, staff or people I’m interviewing that if I were at another company, I might have had to leave to have had that new experience. At Shaw, I’ve been fortunate to have five different roles.”
Rainey said her team has implemented many changes to Shaw’s residential business, including having product designers work on a product from conception through merchandising. They also place an emphasis on the use of consumer research, and instituted immersion trips which help product designers identify trends.
“Now, I’m eager to get more collaboration between hard and soft surfaces,” she said.
Rainey recently joined the Industry Board for the University of Tennessee Knoxville School of Architecture + Design. The connection with the school will help to promote product design as a career option for architects, interior designers, and graphic designers.
“When you see an opportunity, raise your hand,” Rainey advises. “I’m ultimately glad I did raise my hand to help design some of our commercial business’ initial resilient products. That experience opened the door for me to help design hard surface products to meet the exponentially rising consumer demand for the residential business.”