Smart introductions in smart office spaces

HIGH POINT — Home office introductions this fall addressed a mix of product needs and concerns ranging from function and technology-based looks to more traditional, stately pieces.

Together, the large mix opened the floor to a wide array of consumers, ranging from Millennials to Baby Boomers, giving many resources the opportunity to address trends on several different levels.

Going with the motion

As expansions continue on the assortment of desks that allow users to work sitting or standing, vendors at all price points are looking to address new lift desk styles and new lift desk issues within the market.

“A thing we’ve been saying at Twin Star for the past few years is that sitting is the new smoking,” said Lisa Cody, vice president of marketing for Twin Star Home.

Working on that idea, Twin Star has been pushing its Get-Active timer in all of its sit-and-stand desks, including in its two most popular collections from this past High Point Market, Genevieve and Ashford.

Done in the “spirit of smart watches,” the timer reminds users to stand up after set periods of time. The timer can be used with the desks’ integrated Illumitouch control panel, which also allows users to set programmable height settings.

Some new introductions in lift desks at A.R.T. Furniture, a middle to upper-end whole home furniture resource, focus on the company’s ideals of “surprise and delight.”

“Surprising and delighting the customer is just as important as style and function for today’s consumer,” said Doug Rozenboom, A.R.T. Furniture’s vice president of merchandising and sales. “A surprise gem in the Summer Creek collection is the Cape Cod Peninsula Desk with an L-shaped writing desk and return with a hidden mechanism that raises one section of the desk to standing height.”

The Summer Creek collection, made of scrubbed oak and accented with painted pieces in whites and other neutrals, was one of several collections that Rozenboom and A.R.T. Furniture President Bryan Edwards named as stars of home office at October High Point Market. Other collections, such as Arch.Salvage’s new home office collection and the Geode collection, do not currently offer sit-and-stand desk options.

Turn to traditional

Despite the emphasis on modern, technology centered pieces in the home office category, many resources reported trends continuing back toward more traditional stylings.

Hooker Furniture Vice President of Merchandising Pat Watson said Hooker’s market introductions leaned heavily on traditional style. Two of its most popular collections, Ciao Bella and Woodlands, were well received in large part because of the returning trend.

“We anticipate further developing our traditional offerings in our upcoming product introductions. After focusing on modern styling the past few years, the market is swinging back to traditional,” said Watson. “These timeless designs never go out of style and really appeal to all demographic groups, including Millennials. Not all Millennials want everything in modern styling.”

Ciao Bella, Watson said, is an “eclectic mix of European farmhouse pieces that have the appearance of furniture that has been refinished multiple times” that features a 60-inch writing desk.

The Woodlands collection, which “features designs inspired by America’s great mansions of the Gilded Age,” according to Watson, includes home office items such as a 66-inch writing desk and an etagere, and it will be expanding to include new executive home office items in time for the April High Point Market.

While not reflecting the same traditional styles in its pieces, Director of Merchandising Holly Lightfoot did note that Parker House had seen a consumer push for more customary furniture-like pieces in some of the company’s more technology centered pieces like motorized lift desks in their Modern Americana collection.

“Rather than just having the desk top that sits on top of metal legs, we actually built wooden sleeves that coordinate with the tops,” said Lightfoot. “So if it’s in the down position, you can’t even tell it’s a lift desk. It really appeals to more traditional furniture looks.”

To meet those needs, Lightfoot said the company is offering sleeves to cover the electronics on lift desks and investing more in lift desks that have larger, more-decorative bases as opposed to single lift pedestals to create pieces that look less like lift desks and more like stationary pieces.

Martin Furniture is looking to similar cosmetic changes in its lift desks, too, as more traditional furniture looks in home office continue to be important.

Small spaces

Home office resources also felt the squeeze of small and dual purpose spaces in consumer demands on their introductions this year.

“The number of people working from home has also grown significantly over the past five years,” said Cody. “So, you take that and combine that with the fact that people want focused flexibility, meaning that, I know I want to work from home, but I also have to live in the space where I’m working, so I will want pieces that are multifunctional and multipurpose.”

Capitalizing on that, Twin Star Home has introduced pieces such as the Command Central desk and table combination from its Uptown Loft collection.

“It can be a work surface during the day and can be your dining surface at night,” said Cody. “It also happens to be adjustable and comes with stools now, so it can be your work surface, dining surface, bar surface and your homework surface.”

Pieces from Twin Star are also focusing on height and scale, according to Cody.

“If you put multiple pieces together in a row, everything is on the same plane. With Genevieve, for example, you can have just the bookcase, desk and filing cabinet if you have a small space, but you can also add on with removable moldings on the tops, bottoms and sides, almost making a larger wall unit.”

Parker House has been taking small spaces into account for several years, but Lightfoot said at the October High Point Market the demand had really increased.

“People — Millennials, Baby Boomers and more — are all becoming a part of the downsizing movement, so we try to give our customers as many small-space options as possible, especially as that need increases.”

To meet that demand, Parker House is in the process of launching a specialized small-space collection called Parker Studio.

In the meantime, introductions such as Parker House’s functional file cabinet, a part the company’s Modern Americana collection, are filling the demand for small-space solutions.

“It’s more than just a lateral file,” Lightfoot said. “It has a printer pull-out, and the top even extends to act as a work surface. It’s a great example of the multifunction we strive for and that our customers want.”

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