Office Design That Sends a New Message

Office Design That Sends a New Message


This article is part of our November Design special section, which focuses on style, function and form in the workplace.

It’s been 20 years since the release of “Office Space,” the Mike Judge movie that lampooned the drudgery of the corporate workplace. In many ways, office culture remains the same. But these days, the soul-sucking software company that employs the film’s protagonist would have very different digs.

The energy-guzzling fluorescent lights are looking antiquated, as are the sea of gray cubicles and the immobile steel desks covered in stacks of memos. More than ever, workplaces are being used as tools for recruiting and retaining employees, and companies are taking a health-focused and agile approach to design.

Referring to the “uncertainty” of the modern workplace — which expands and contracts like a jellyfish to accommodate fluctuating opportunities and personnel — Nora Fehlbaum, the chief executive of the Swiss furniture manufacturer Vitra, stressed corporate demands for “flexibility of cost, personnel, space and ultimately, furniture.” But businesses still trade in archetypes, Ms. Felhbaum said, and a traditional boardroom transmits a different message than a super flexible space.

Here are several new products that characterize the contemporary office landscape.

Vitra’s Dancing Wall, designed by Stephan Hürlemann, is a whiteboard, mobile garden, room divider, powered TV stand and more. From $2,890; vitra.com

OiKo Design Office’s graphic Asana floor lamp for Estiluz features a movable arm that can pivot to direct light, and a little table to hold plants or other knickknacks. From about $2,400; estiluz.com

A cake stand inspired the commanding profile of HBF’s ash-topped Torre (Italian for “tower”) conference table by Artis Studio, which integrates power through its base. From $6,020; hbf.com

The rise of co-working spaces and work-from-home policies means that the sofa is the new office chair. But the garden-variety couch isn’t designed for long-term sitting. Soft Work, a modular system by Barber Osgerby for Vitra, supports lengthy laptop sessions and has options for integrated tables, power outlets and charging stations. From $1,535 per module; vitra.com

Plants make ideal office companions: they dampen acoustics, boost air quality and soften visually sterile design. (They also don’t abuse “reply all” on email chains.) The two-sided Duet living wall puts a garden on wheels, giving users the added benefit of a flexible partition. From $10,000; sagegreenlife.com

Muuto’s dimmable Leaf LED lamp nods at nature and won’t fall at your feet in autumn (unless you give it a shove). It is cast aluminum and steel and comes in floor ($535) and tabletop ($385) versions; muuto.com

Heartwork’s perforated monitor stand adds a punch of color and texture to a desk and is made of recyclable steel. $70 (a solid version is also available, for $45); heartwork.com

The St. Charles desk by Brooklyn-based VOLK incorporates bleached ash, marble, steel, and a leather blotter. Other woods and finishes are available, as is custom sizing. From $5,800; volkfurniture.com

Egg Collective’s asymmetrical Landry bookcase comes in a variety of woods, with or without backing. From $16,200; eggcollective.com

Post Office shelving by Pinch has solid oak and ash box construction and pronounced joinery. Price available on request; pinchdesign.com



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