March 23, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The office furniture industry is seeking balance between residential and commercial pieces. Achieving “resi-mercial” style is quickly becoming the norm.

This trend began as workplaces dedicated more room to common spaces. Large corporations used these amenities to attract and retain employees.  Now it’s an industry standard to provide areas for relaxation and collaboration, aligning closer to a hospitality setting with residential comfort.

Contract furniture manufacturers took cues from crafted hospitality and residential furniture. The makers movement influenced clients seeking unique pieces. Conversely, commercial furniture has long been more substantial to satisfy the functional requirements of high use.

Corporate clients seek entry spaces and collaborative zones more like living rooms to encourage a level of comfort largely absent. A decline of the traditional 9-to-5 workday has employers actively seeking ways to make employees more comfortable for longer periods of time.

What should be considered when looking at residential furnishings for commercial use? Integrity and durability. Residential furniture is not made for multiple people sitting on it for long periods of time. It shows wear and tear earlier than its commercial counterparts.

Residential furniture also doesn’t carry the same warranties, weight capacity, flammability testing, or stain and wear resistance as commercial furniture. This results in more costly replacements and repairs, and additional coordination time by facilities teams for warranty issues with manufacturers.

It’s important to understand where and how residential-grade furniture can blend with commercial quality to meet the company’s functional and aesthetic goals. Many manufacturers have done a great job producing furniture that looks more artisanal, while still being functional and durable. The availability of decorative, yet functional, pieces at various price points has allowed designers far more freedom and flexibility in creating interesting spaces than ever before.

When blending residential and commercial aesthetics, soft seating in subdued colors, such as browns and grays, works well. The darker palette then offers the ‘homey’ contrast to the sterile white of many corporate interiors. Table lamps and personal lighting further create that comfortable atmosphere. Low lounge seating using warmer, unexpected materials and finishes all contribute to making the space feel more intimate and less institutional.

Most importantly, with commercial furniture, every piece tends to have a set function in the space. When you introduce rustic materials, such as wood, a conference table can now be used as a casual dining table. Residential furniture offers freedom and flexibility, but those dual purposes must fit with the intent of the space. Employees in all industries want to be comfortable at work, and the “resi-mercial” style offers a workable option.

Doug Schuring is director of sales administration at All Makes Office Equipment Co.


This article was printed in the April/May 2018 edition of B2B.