Workplaces Seek Innovative, Authentic Furniture
As anyone thinking about re-designing their workplace knows, the available furniture options are seemingly endless. It used to be that whether you were designing a small creative workspace or furnishing a large corporate workspace, the high-end options were defined by the major furniture retailers: primarily companies like Steelcase, Knoll, and Herman Miller. These companies offered well-designed, ergonomically friendly chairs, tables, and other office furniture to the commercial real estate market.
High-Tech Innovative Workspaces
Fast forward to the dawn of the internet era and beyond, and the landscape has changed dramatically. Companies like Google, Facebook, and Apple continue to up the ante as they compete for new employees. It’s no longer enough to create a comfortable, well-designed office space. Many high-tech company offices and co-working spaces now include open work areas, offices, lounges, cafes (often with a barista), and meeting rooms, as well as a variety of other areas for collaborative work and socializing.
All of these creative spaces require furniture that matches the environment. Companies are looking for furniture designers who will create customized, colorful lounge chairs and sofas; tables of varying heights; and furniture made with sustainable materials. In general, they are looking for furniture that is different from the ordinary and can help market the company to prospective employees, clients, and investors. As an important element of interior design, furniture can help define the company as caring about its employees and concerned about the environment. And of course, creative furniture implies an innovative company with lots of promise for the future.
New Era of Furniture Makers
All of this demand for customization has created a perfect environment for a new era of furniture makers that are finding success servicing high-tech companies as well as restaurants, hotels, and other industries looking for innovative lounges and work spaces. On the one hand, there are well established businesses like MASHstudios in Los Angeles that have created furniture for companies like Google, Pinterest, and Yelp. There are also much smaller furniture startups achieving success. For example, furniture designer Uhuru founded a small workshop in Brooklyn in 2004, focusing on creating furniture by re-using materials such as reclaimed wood and other sustainable materials. Since then Uhuru has gained fame by creating furniture for companies like Shake Shack and Adidas. In addition, some of its pieces are showcased in the Smithsonian and the Brooklyn Museum.
Online Creative Marketplaces
And where do most of these furniture startups get their start? In recent years online marketplaces have played a significant role, helping small business entrepreneurs gain a foothold in the market. Creative marketplaces like Etsy and Houzz provide inexpensive marketing for small business furniture makers, allowing them to reach a worldwide audience of consumers seeking both residential and commercial furniture that is handmade, sustainable, and customizable. This marketing environment is a marked improvement over a time when small furniture workshops were lucky to get business contracts through local referrals.
Search for the Authentic
In addition to the demand for innovation, one of the main driving forces behind the custom furniture trend has been the search for “authentic” furniture. In other words, a move away from mass-produced furniture that is made from some unknown material in an unknown place to custom furniture made by a small local business that is using sustainable, sometimes reclaimed materials and creating a low carbon footprint. This might seem odd at first, considering that the high-tech work environment is all about creating new, cutting-edge software, and looking towards the future. And many high-tech companies are large multinationals; quite the opposite from small businesses. Perhaps locally made, handmade, sustainable furniture provides workers with glimmers of authenticity; reminders of our homes, our pasts, and places away from work. In our increasingly virtual high-tech worlds, it is possible that we all feel more grounded when we have references to the actual world that we can return to periodically while we are at work.
Creative Workplace Experience
In today’s high-tech workplace, you might find yourself working at a table made from reclaimed maple wood and be reminded of sitting at the dining table at home while writing a paper for school. After working for awhile, you might take a break to order your favorite custom coffee drink (made by a friendly barista). Later in the day you might opt to bring your laptop to the lounge, where by chance you run into a few co-workers and spend some time discussing your latest project. Before you know it, it’s time to go home. Before you leave, you look over your day’s work and realize that you managed to accomplish quite a lot today. You’ll probably finish up the project tonight at home after dinner. Overall a pretty good day at work.