Furniture hunting might not seem like the most critical component of setting up a workspace, but iQ Office Suites CEO and co-founder Kane Willmott explained differently.
“You’re going to work,” he said. “This isn’t a fad for something that you may or may not do. You’re going to need this furniture for a long time…so pick it right.”
Know the Purpose
“You really need to look at what your expectations are of that piece,” Willmott said of buying furniture.
Buying quality furniture for a workspace is vastly different from buying for a residential setting. Willmott explained that quality furniture for a dining room is meant to be used for around an hour a day (during dinner). However, quality office furniture must withstand being used eight or more hours in a day, five days a week, all year round.
This frequency of use becomes a key consideration in whether to pick up a department store magazine and order furniture or whether to look for something commercial grade. Willmott said the quality of the mechanisms, the pistons, the plastics, the rubbers, the foam, and the fabrics all come together to create not only durability, but also a user experience that will be comfortable over time.
“It feels comfortable right now, but it’s not going to feel comfortable after you sit in it for five, eight hours a day,” he said of standard residential-grade furniture.
Rely on the Experts
“There’s a lot of hidden stuff you don’t see,” Willmott said. He explained this was why his spaces work with a reputable furniture dealer to help them find furniture that won’t break down, will be durable, and won’t ruin work clothes (or the user’s back).
“It’s something that we’ve always done,” he said. “There really is a science to getting the perfect office furniture,” he said.
Willmott views this partnership as an investment into furniture that should last longer than less well-researched furniture would. In addition, while Willmott remarked that few clients will choose a space based on the furniture, the influence of comfortable furniture that supports good posture and productive work contributes to the overall experience that retains clients.
A good dealer isn’t tied to a single company, Willmott explained. The expertise on furniture is important, but so is the ability to go out and find the perfect furniture that fits your space. Working with just one supplier is too limiting; a dealer will have relationships with a variety of suppliers and an understanding of the industry, allowing them to point you in the direction of furniture with high quality and a fair price tag.
Comfort Can Be Deceiving
Willmott compared furniture comfort levels to the comfort of a car. While many cars may seem comfortable when you first sit in them, far fewer will be comfortable several hours into a drive. Similarly, a chair that seems comfortable in the department store (or in a catalog) may not be comfortable over time, whether that is simply because of a lack of quality construction from the outset or just from a lack of durability. Foam will break down. Moving parts will break. The furniture will become hard to clean.
Desks are similar. While a residential-grade or cheaper commercial-grade desk may look great at first glance, if the construction behind the aesthetics doesn’t hold up, then the desk may begin to sway, chip, or warp.
While it can be tempting to buy a set that looks great in the showroom or off the catalog, there are a few more considerations when choosing a design scheme that will work over time.
If your goal is for furniture to blend in (rather than being the statement piece of your workspace), you have to choose furniture that matches the color scheme and feel of your space. However, Willmott warned against choosing matching furniture that may go out of fashion. If you expand your space or need to replace furniture, you’ll need to be able to easily swap in new pieces—even if the furniture you originally bought isn’t available anymore.
Willmott also cautioned against choosing furniture that goes excessively beyond client needs as well, however. For example, buying elaborate desk setups for a new space may lead to operators finding that clients find these desks too large or intricate for their needs. While too small of a desk would be problematic, a desk that is too large can also diminish productivity, causing the furniture to detract from rather than add to the office environment.
Don’t Use a Catalog
Willmott stressed the importance of a furniture dealer to help find the perfect furniture for a space. However, he also said a dealer has the expertise to not only help you select well-crafted furniture, but also to help you adequately test it as well.
Willmott said they never choose furniture from a catalog. Instead, they either go to a showroom and test the furniture, or, more commonly, arrange to have samples of the furniture shipped to the space so that they can test it extensively as a team.
“There’s no reason why that furniture shouldn’t last ten years,” Willmott said of truly high-quality furniture.
Since the furniture search and selection process is so involved, it is also important to budget an appropriate amount of time for finding, selecting, and installing furniture. Willmott suggested planning on a minimum of eight weeks but noted that it often takes longer.
Completing the Space
For Willmott and iQ Office Suites, great furniture really comes down to quality because the focus is on a exceptional experience for our members—every day they come into work.