3equals1 Design's Furniture Showroom Research

April 12, 2018

Furniture Showrooms Research: What to look out for at Clerkenwell Design Week

With #CDW upon us have a read of our latest furniture showroom research and find out what's trending...

With Clerkenwell Design Week approaching what a perfect opportunity to discuss the continuous exploration 3equals1 undertakes into the ever-changing trends in the workplace design world. We do this in a variety of ways: from visiting furniture showrooms and workshops, to going to specialised talks. Our most structured visits are those to showrooms, which take place every other Friday. It’s a great way to experience the products on offer, particularly the examples we specify in our projects. We always recommend to our clients that they test products before purchasing them. It’s important that we do the same!

After visiting so many furniture showrooms, it becomes tricky to remember what we had seen and how suppliers compared with one another. Therefore, we ended up formulating a questionnaire which we now take to every showroom visit. So far we’ve collected answers from 12 furniture manufacturers with operations in London and the UK.

The manufactures we have visited so far include: Patrona Frau, B&B Italia, Verco, Techo, Vitra, Kusch, Senator, Allermuir, Brunner UK, Moroso, Opus Magnum, and Andrea World.

The questionnaire put to them covers the following topics:

  • Company Nationality
  • Lead times (in weeks)
  • Their favourite product
  • Product trends
  • Most popular sector
  • Comparison to car brands
  • Workplace trends
  • How many products launched per year
  • Internal / external designers
  • Which country buys the most

Lead times, breakout spaces, and homely furniture...

We have drawn several conclusions from the data we collected, the first would be that the majority of manufacturers are operating on a 6-8 week lead time. Therefore, given the pace of the workplace industry, anything over this amount of time is a tough choice for us to make. The product would have to be really special. Looking into workplace trends and product types, the trend of breakout spaces seems to be a recurring one. In addition, work-spaces with a homely feel are on the rise. Suppliers who more traditionally would provide furniture for the residential and hospitality sectors are now seeing their products being used in the workplace. These include Andreu World, Moroso, and Patrona Frau.  

German manufacturer Brunner setting the standard...

Aside from UK manufacturers who had a heavy presence in our research, Germany seem to be at the forefront of office-related product manufacturing. When it comes to the sale of their products, they dominate their own country’s market. Brunner is a great example of one of these German manufacturers. They are one of our go-to manufacturers. With the release of their soft powder coated finishes and high number of product launches per year, they attract a wealth of different clients. From chatting to Olly at Brunner, he explained how their market in Germany was very different from that of the UK in terms of style. In Germany the traditional finishes you associate with corporate office spaces like the use of chrome for instance is still very popular. Nonetheless, their UK market was looking for something softer in style with a more homely aesthetic. This spawned their soft powder coated finishes range. From our experience we have noticed Brunner becoming ever more dominant in the mid-to-high end market. Their stunning showroom refurbishment reflects this. As we touched on previously, they release a large number of products - 14 per year - with the average from our data being 5. Maybe this is why they are doing so well and leading the market.

German car brands leading the way in the eyes of furniture manufacturers

One of our favourite questions to ask the manufacturers is: ‘if you had to compare your brand to a car brand what would it be?’ One of the most interesting responses we got was from Moroso, who compared themselves with Tesla. This was due to their innovative and experimental approach. In contrast, the majority compared themselves to executive German car brands like BMW + Mercedes. Interestingly, Allermuir - being part of the Senator Group - gave the exact same response as its parent company. They opted for Jaguar which speaks of their British association.

Design Influences

One of the final questions we ask refers to design influences. We ask whether the designers they use are internal or external. The majority said they use external design studios. The benefit of this as we see it is that it paves the way for a broader collection of styles. It is also another opportunity to collaborate with different designers. A good example of this would be how Moroso teamed up with world renowned architect Daniel Libeskind to create the Gemma collection.

Tips For #CDW

We are incredibly lucky to have all these showrooms at our disposal in London. However, it’s important to use a variety of manufacturers in our projects so that our designs look fresh and unique from each other. For us Clerkenwell Design Week is going to be very useful to find up-and-coming design companies, which maybe don’t yet have a London presence. One of our favourite areas last year was the Design Fields marquee, which showcased leading furniture, lighting, and product design from around the world. If you combine a design team like ours with some of the amazing new products out there clients can feel excited and confident that the dawn of a more productive workplace age is without doubt upon us.

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