Over the past few months, right here in this very column, I’ve discussed some of the most noteworthy trends in architecture. One area that has adapted with the times, in order to mesh more closely with the needs of today’s tenants, is furniture.
I know just how important furniture is to the finished look—and functionality—of an office space, and lately others have taken notice, too. The fact that it’s a topic brokers are talking about, and increasingly understanding, further underscores its relevance. “Benching” and “open plan” have achieved buzzword status!
Here are six office furniture trends to watch:
- Stadium-style seating: Open plans and informal gathering spaces have given way to one of the most exciting trends in furniture today: stadium-style seating. Inspired by amphitheaters, this style of seating comfortably gets a large group of people into a smaller area. Prebuilt and buy-and-assemble versions are available from nearly every major office furniture company including Allsteel, which has a best-selling customizable solution called Rise. Wider-than-average staircases can also help companies achieve the same function, allowing for a place of public assembly, along with informal meetings and discussions. Whether edgy or corporate, adjustments can be made to suit a company’s culture and aesthetic. However, all of these seating arrangements have one great benefit in common: plenty of flexibility.
- Benching: The benching trend is nothing new; in fact, I’d consider it an established solution for many firms’ seating needs. So, while I’d confidently say it’s here to stay, I’ve seen some changes in the past year or two. Benching solutions are becoming more refined and are incorporating the bells and whistles, including technology, right into the furniture. An example of a company that has brought benching to the next level—we’ve even used it in our own office because of its classical, modern aesthetic and expandable technology—is Knoll. These sophisticated options are far more than benches with sheetrock; they’re custom-created to respond to the needs of today’s end-users and are fast becoming the standard, rather than an extra.
- Portable, comfortable furniture: Comfort and portability are critical to creating planned huddle areas—a must for many firms these days. Options include storing lots of different stackable seating in a closet and bringing it out, along with a few tablets, as needed. It can also include several couches that can be easily moved and configured at a moment’s notice. The size of the space and its location may vary. It can be a small training area, a corner of a larger office space or an area under a stairwell or along the perimeter. As long as there’s a plan and soft furniture in place, it’s a go.
- Customizable chairs: Today’s workstation looks dramatically different than it did just a decade or two ago. The iPod, iPad, iPhone and Galaxy have changed the way we work, and furniture companies are responding accordingly. Since everyone is not using a desk-mounted monitor and a CPU, modern chairs need to change with the times and support the different positions one’s body is in while using technology. A perfect example of a chair that ties into this trend is Steelcase’s Gesture chair . Its customizable armrests and responsive back contouring make the work experience more personal and, at the same time, more pleasant.
- Stools: Companies are ready for, well, company, with the multiuse guest seating that we’re seeing more of today. Stools have increased in popularity in recent years, which speaks volumes about how people are interacting and collaborating in today’s workplace. They are being employed as seating solutions in open spaces and paired with high-top tables in pantries, kitchens, coffee bars, lounge areas and even in private countertop areas along office windows (just like the ones you’d see at Starbucks) for use by an individual or a group.
- Tech-friendly furniture: Last, but certainly not least, are those media units with built-in technology, such as Steelcase’s media:scape. Half-computer, half-furniture, these durable setups allow several workers to share information through one central area as opposed to hovering around a single computer or passing a project back and forth. Some units can be moved; others are hardwired. Control pucks are built in so workers can toggle through to share control over the central screen and collaborate on projects more easily.
Whatever your firm’s favorite furniture solution is, rest assured the industry’s top manufacturers are keeping pace and creating more innovative, user-friendly solutions by the minute.
Here’s to the next wave of furniture trends!