Throughout 2017, some of the brightest, most powerful minds in the contract interiors world came together with a common goal: to determine what’s broken with the contract furniture buying process and identify opportunities to fix it. We believe that with the rise in ancillary furniture (all the non-cubicle-based pieces), furniture has become one of the most time-consuming and least profitable pieces of an A&D firm’s business. If empowered and savvy about the A&D design process, dealers can be a key element to help alleviate challenges designers are facing in the new ancillary world. This assumes, of course, that all parties have an open mind to change or evolve historical processes.
CBRE, the world’s largest global corporate real estate firm, recently announced the 2019 launch of Hana, a new service offering designed to help institutional property owners meet the rapidly growing demand for flexible office space solutions. Despite rapid growth over the past decade of the coworking sector, many have still dismissed the coworking concept as a fad. However, the statistics, including this move by CBRE, suggest that coworking is, in fact, the new normal.
Resimercial. Respitality™. Soft Contract. There are many terms on the market today to describe the use of residentially designed furniture in commercial spaces. The design trend is hot, and many would argue is here to stay, specifically as the lines between work and home continue to blur. People are looking to replace the buttoned-up workplace environment with a more casual vibe, complete with fully stocked kitchens, relaxation spaces, and even workplace amenities like childcare centers and laundry services. There’s no denying it – the workplace is becoming more comfortable.
Photo: Christopher Barrett
Imagine for a minute that you walk into a sleek, well-designed office space, thirsty for inspiration. You’re immediately captivated by the polished concrete floors that add a modern appeal to an otherwise “lived-in” space. Your eye then is drawn to the stunning interconnecting staircase, which, frankly speaking, serves more as a work of art, gathering space, and conversation starter, than a simple means of transportation from one floor to another. As you walk through the office, yo’re inspired by the demountable walls that transform the space from an open-concept layout - devoid of individual, heads-down work - to an environment configured for collaboration, sprinkled with little areas for concentration. The design is rousing, to say the least, and you’ve pulled several key concepts that you’d like to transition to your new specifications.
It’s no secret: anyone who has ever worked at a dealer previously, or works at or with one now, knows that the world of the dealer is rapidly changing. And as contract furniture dealers make strategic shifts to avoid becoming a taxi in an Uber world, their most important asset (people) needs also are shifting. From an outsider perspective, one of the most notable shifts could perhaps be the rise of the “dealer designer.”Historically, dealer designers have been far from celebrated at many contract furniture dealerships. Wanting to avoid conflicting services with A&D firms, even the title of the dealer designer (often referred to as “specifiers” or “the CAD department”) has begun evolving. However, these designers (many degreed and NCIDQ-certified) have a lot to offer when it comes to passionate knowledge around furniture, and as industry roles begin to evolve, there is increasing empowerment (and hiring!) for this role.
WeWork Wonder Bread-Factory Commons Washington, DC.
Historically, when we think “innovation” in the contract interiors market, we think PRODUCT innovation. We even have an annual trade show where 50,000 people descend to celebrate the most innovative products developed each year. However, the most dramatic future innovation in this industry will likely come from PROCESS innovation. This industry has seen more change in the past five years than in the past 30, and is likely to see even more change in the next five.
Julie Deignan (CBRE) and Amanda Schneider (CCG) kick off the 2.0 Forum in Chicago.
After a year of studying the furniture bidding and buying process with cross-functional groups comprised of internal industry constituents in multiple cities and extensive client interviews, Julie Deignan, Director of CBRE’s Furniture Advisory Services concluded, “It is clear that we have mastered the art of designing, producing, and delivering furniture, however, what we have not mastered is the client experience. That is where there is huge opportunity, and we, as an industry, can do better.”
A recent Fast Company article starts with, “The tectonic plates of the fashion world are moving.” This is a beautifully dramatic lead-in, and, fascinatingly, much of what the article goes on to discuss could parallel major changes afoot in the Contract Interiors market, which was built upon specification of cubicles and panel systems but is drifting into a world of ancillary that may fundamentally change core elements of how this industry operates.
Here are three shifts to track in 2017 and beyond.
We ditch the term ancillary.
It’s just how we work.
The term “ancillary” was born to describe “everything else” on a floorplate when 80% of the floorplate was systems furniture. However, as ancillary nears – or sometimes exceeds – 50% of the floorplate in many projects, the term hardly holds true. Ancillary is becoming “primary” in many floor plates. Many brilliant workplace strategists, keen product development teams, and talented architects and designers are serving this industry well by doing their part to help design what this new world of work will look like in physical form, policy, and culture, but there is still much to figure out.
SPACE: WEWORK, SUBMITTED BY: STANTEC CHICAGO