We’re all in this together

With downsizing the order of the day, along with an increase in working offsite, the office as we know it is going, going – not gone, but considerably smaller, likely open plan, and in need of more touchdown and temporary spaces. The industry has been quick to tailor its offerings to this new paradigm. For example: lounge furniture doubles as collaborative work space; workstations have a smaller footprint; storage goes vertical; tables fold and tuck away; chairs are lighter and/or stack.

In the following pages, you’ll find my favourite examples of this kind of compact, flexible and versatile product, along with some fab fabrics and carpeting, introduced this past June at NeoCon – the largest architecture and design exposition and conference focusing on commercial, healthcare, hospitality and educational interiors. Attendance was down a tad from last year, though not so you’d notice. The show’s 700+ showrooms, spread over five floors of the magnificent Merchandise Mart, buzzed with activity.  

In part to deny a rumour that NeoCon – after 44 successful years – might not have a long-term future (a rumour I hadn’t heard myself), show dates through 2025 were posted in Mart lobbies. Right on! NeoCon 2013 runs June 10-12 (as, by the way, do NeoCon 2019 and NeoCon 2024).


Designed by frequent Keilhauer collaborator EOOS, Talk is a new seating system of benches with backs, chairs and tables, created to accommodate face-to-face meetings. (Notes EOOS’s Gernot Bohman, “The seats and backs angle slightly at the centre to create the perfect configuration for talking, without losing touch with the backrest.”) Its  single- and two-seat benches – the seats in both work height and lounge height – feature backrests that are high enough to double as privacy screens and sound barriers (low-backed versions are also available). Completing the collection are four lounge-height tables, one desk-height table and one small end table.  keilhauer.com


Gunlocke’s newest wood casegoods collection – Silea Open Office – was conceived and scaled for open-plan environments. Its desks have smaller footprints and a conference-table end to facilitate collaboration; configurations can be customized with varying heights within a workspace to support different work styles.  gunlocke.com


Created for Teknion by Christopher Wright, design principal of Toronto-based Figure3, Sidewise is a new style of compact,
collaborative casegoods workstation. The monolithic, vertical storage component structurally supports the workstation while minimizing the footprint; further space optimization is offered with unique sliding, side-access storage options. Lounge-, desk- and counter-height configurations accommodate casual to formal work styles.  teknion.com


Groupe LaCasse’s Zen-inspired Quad collection redefines storage: the 

use of its components – in varied heights or lengths that can be stacked or suspended – enables clever use of workstation volumes. Clean vertical and horizontal shapes create an architectural look. Available in a variety of finishes.  groupelacasse.com


Allsteel added to its product portfolio with a new offering, Beyond Architectural Walls. Its initial introduction in the category of movable, frameless glass features a breakthrough innovation – a unique, built-in, scissor-lift leveling mechanism; functioning like a pneumatic jack, it levels the glass within the floor channel, allowing for easy and quick installation. Featuring ½-inch-thick glass that is exceptionally soundproof, Beyond is highly structural, allowing for an optimal privacy-tile system with components that hang directly on the glass.  allsteeloffice.com


Humanscale’s Mode chair is ideal for classrooms, seminar areas, conference centres and banquet halls. It features a flexible back that reclines up to 12 degrees to encourage an ergonomic posture and dense foam cushions sculpted to accommodate the body’s natural contours. Mode’s durable, lightweight components can be quickly and easily disassembled and replace in field.  humanscale.com


The newest addition to Haworth’s seating family is Lively, in task and side chair versions. The task chair (shown) features pneumatic seat-height adjustment, weight-assisted tilt tension, an upright back lock and a tension back; the complementary side chair stacks in style, up to five high, freeing up valuable floor space. haworth.com


New Brandy, designed by Lievore Altherr Molina for Andreu World, is a collection of upholstered armchairs and lounge chairs with a structure covered in flexible foam. The armchair version (shown) is available in five different bases (cantilever; sled; four steel legs; four beech wood legs; central swivel base with four legs of oak plywood). The lounge chair comes in two
styles with four wood leg bases.


From Herman Miller, the Setu Conference Stool marries the ergonomic benefits of a task chair with the lightweight scale and simplicity of an occasional stool. Designed by Berlin-based Studio 7.5, it features the Kinematic Spine and elastomeric fabric pioneered with the Setu multipurpose and lounge chairs.  hermanmiller.com


Designed by Jehs+Laub, Davis’s Tre stool series features three separate pieces that rise dramatically to form a triumvirate. Constructed from paper-thin layers of beech, pressed tightly to form a solid yet slender core, Tre is offered in bar, counter and lounge heights, with a proportional base on each.  davisfurniture.com


Coalesse’s FreeStand is a foldable and portable table allowing its user to work comfortably anywhere. Available in black or white, it swivels 360 degrees and is height-adjustable from 20 to 27 inches. Light enough to be easily transported, FreesStand folds down to quickly slip underneath a lounge or into a closet for storage.   coalesse.com


Nienkämper’s new Metronome benching series echoes the distinctive composition and thoughtful design of its award-winning Metronome table. Carefully tailored table legs are available in clear anodized aluminum with polished aluminum details, or in fully polished aluminum; tops come in a wide range of wood veneer or laminate.  nienkamper.com1


Steelcase Education Solutions launched its first-of-its-kind table-based collection of classroom furniture. Verb creates an integrated, table-based learning space with personal-sized whiteboards for instant collaboration. The three other components are an instructor station, with easy access to storage and an adjustable lectern; student tables, in a unique chevron shape; and board display, allowing for effective display, storage and presentation of whiteboards.  steelcase.com


The Paces table series from Versteel features, above side-by-side welded legs, a top dubbed Airfoil: a patented frame of spars and ribs, it’s up to 75 per cent lighter than traditional tops. Light in scale and weight, Paces tables fit in any work environment. Tops tilt vertically with the ease of a single-handled pull below the work surface; the tables nest together in a tight pack for quick storage.  versteel.com


From Davis comes the Perch stool series, ideal for quick, impromptu meetings. Its seat, padded for comfort, forms a downward-sloping diamond shape, allowing the user to rest in a relaxed position; though weighted at the base for stability, it’s light enough to be picked up, moved around and easily stored. Perch can be fully upholstered in any fabric or leather. 


Accomplished Spanish designer Patricia Urquiola has created a casual lounge collection for Coalesse. Hosu provides a comfy place to work; it can also serve as a place to put your feet up, when converted to a chaise. It’s available in two sizes: a 36-inch-wide one-seater, in fixed and convertible versions (shown), and a fixed 64-inch two-seater. Rear and side storage pockets and technology accessibility round out Hosu’s features.  coalesse.com


Interface goes global with its new Urban Retreat collection of carpet tile (soon available on all six continents). Inspired by
the emerging science of biophilia (which shows how the human race is “wired” to connect with the natural world), its styles are sorted into pattern studies ranging from refined textures to broad organic forms; eight colourways include earthy neutrals and lush greens that reference lichen, grass, ivy and moss. Urban Retreat is grouped into three categories. Shown here (17a) is Urban Retreat One; when grouped together, UR101, UR102 and UR103 create the look of moss growing on stone, with veins of green running across the floor. Shown here (17b) is Urban Retreat Two; UR201 recreates the look of ancient tree bark. Urban Retreat Three offers textural complements to the other two categories.  interface.com


From Carnegie comes Xorel Graphic, a ground-breaking wallpaper collection that merges digital printing with woven design.
Through the use of translucent Xorel yarns, the jacquard woven fabric allows the printed layer design to be visible and interact aesthetically. Among the five lines is Pixel Graphic, a multi-coloured modern geometric with a complex simplicity; the woven layer is a repeated small box design.  carnegiefabrics.com


KnollTextiles introduced several knockouts. Designed by Suzanne Tick, Jot (19a) is a drapery fabrics inspired by digital binary code strings reminiscent of DNA strands. An orderly matrix of small-scale dots is created by a unique process incorporating burnout and printout technologies. Available in four colourways, Dot combines three light neutral ground dots conveying a sense of airy buoyancy; two accent colours give each of the colourways its personal identity. The Stitch Collection (l19b), from KnollTextiles creative director Dorothy Cosonas, was inspired by stitching and embroidery techniques as well as fashion. It comprises three upholstery fabrics: Tryst, with high-sheen thread contrasting to a dry cotton ground; Marquee, with a bold, nine-inch-square geometric repeat; and Mod Plaid, inspired by a Missoni fashion fabric.  knolltextiles.com


Maharam presented its first collaboration in woven textiles with the ever-imaginative Antwerp-based Studio Job.
Farm (shown) depicts traditional farmland scenery in a complex woven jacquard construction; using a flattened perspective, this truly delightful textile presents an assemblage of livestock, crops, implements and rural transport. The complementary Farm Stripe features repeating ribbons of farm iconography, including pitchforks, apples, split-rail fences, sheaths of wheat and life-sized horseflies.  maharam.com