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When Did Contract Furniture Become So Cool?

Click through to any article on workplace design these days and you’re guaranteed to read that the boundaries between home and commercial furniture are becoming blurred. And indeed they are. Consumers are now enjoying higher-quality, ergonomic designs at home whilst the workplace is looking to the more comfortable and luxurious private sphere for inspiration. However, co-founder of Swedish design studio Note, Cristiano Pigazzini, has recently taken this one step further and proclaimed that the division between sectors is disappearing entirely!

In a recent article appearing in onOffice magazine that ended up stirring a little controversy in NeoCon this year, Pigazzini drew some much-needed attention to a widespread convergence in the approach to furniture design, production and marketing. “Products once looked different from each other,” he commented. “Contract wasn’t so fun – the products looked indestructible (whereas) with home products you could play a bit more. But the differences aren’t so clear [now].”


Breaking Boundaries. Breaking Habits.


This breaking down of boundaries is largely due to the fact that how we work is rapidly changing. Sitting in one designated chair and office from nine-to-five is no longer the norm for much of today’s workforce. Where and when you work is not as important as it used to be, the emphasis now is much more on what you do. This means that work is conducted in a variety of environments and so people want offices that look and feel more like home or, conversely, spaces in their homes that are functional and comfortable enough for prolonged sessions of work.


“For companies like Google, Skype or Facebook, their office is like a playground with furniture that ten years ago would be impossible to use in this type of space,” says Pigazzini. “Companies are talking about quality and longevity but no one is saying ‘this will only work for home’ because then people will ask ‘why, because it’s worse quality?"


To this end, furniture manufacturers are increasingly making better quality pieces without pigeon holing it into any one category. Swedish brand Fogia, for example, has removed the home and contract sections from its website altogether and top Danish brands like Muuto, Normann Copenhagen and HAY are said to be thinking in a similar way. In that sense, freedom has been handed back to the consumer because “instead, companies just make good furniture and it doesn’t matter how you use it,” says Pigazzini.


But Does This Mean That Commercial Brands Are Becoming Irrelevant?


Far from it! At P4, we believe that if anything, it actually opens up a whole new set of very exciting opportunities for the full spectrum of the A+D community.  Today it is undeniable that the commercial sector is now looking for more luxurious pieces such as soft, deluxe sofas (think of the veritable slew of swanky new offices popping up) whilst more residential designers are on the hunt for practical pieces such as desks and ergonomic chairs (have you noticed the greater presence of traditionally 'office-only' brands appearing in our homes?).

This shift towards multi-faceted furniture that can function across a range of sectors is also evident (and crucially so) in the work of our own brand partners. 


Due to its heavy focus on in-house R+D and innovation, Boss Design is continually developing its product portfolio responding to the rapidly changing needs of commercial environments with ranges like Agent (above) – a versatile piece that's available in standard or ‘high’ sizes and ideal for meeting areas, boardrooms, breakout or collaborative spaces. Or its high-backed Entente collaborative lounges, which blend corporate needs with hospitality style. These recent innovations all undergo rigorous research phases to perfect a design language that speaks to both the need for comfort we normally associate with the residential market, and the primacy of productivity that falls within the traditional ambit of the commercial world.




Another of our brands at the forefront of agile, multi-functional furniture is Maxdesign. The Italian studio’s entire premise is based on evolving with the market and creating multi-purpose products that focus on human well being whilst catering to the ever-changing boundaries between the public and private realms. The ever popular Stratos chair by Hannes Wettstein (pictured above) with its sleek, minimalist form make it equally suitable for residential, commercial or hospitality projects. In contrast, its Betty range (pictured below) are soft and plump – cleverly combining cushion-like shapes into a single uniform structure – but again, perfect for home and office alike thanks to this ‘new’ demand for comfort and style in the workplace.




One final studio worth mentioning in the context of furniture that seamlessly traverses design boundaries is True. Established in 2014, this is the brainchild of two young, forward-thinking, Italian men who believe that, to meet the needs of our ever-changing industry, they need to design with an appreciation for the past but with their eyes firmly set on the future. In other words – classics for the modern age that, due to their high quality and timeless appeal, can be used across all sectors and for many years. True’s Arca (below) and Hive chairs (very top) encapsulate this philosophy perfectly with their classic, elegant curves and modern simplicity.


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