Published on:

15 October 2021

Updated on:

12 October 2023

Read time:

10 minutes

A virtual London Clerkenwell Tour

The commercial furniture industry is at the forefront of innovation in the workplace. Through clever design and deployment, inspiring workplace products are shaping our spaces and the way we use them.

From soft seating to curtain-enclosed spaces, these products are delivering dedicated areas for people to collaborate, grab coffee or work alone.

As part of the latest in our series of free webinars, Office Principles’ Hannah Robinson was joined by experts from four leading furniture brands to bring you a fast-paced introduction to the products shaping our workspaces.

  • Dan Gillmore, creative director at Table Place Chairs
  • Bertie Van Wyk, workplace specialist at Herman Miller
  • Nathan Hurley, research and insight manager with Orange Box
  • Kornelija Kopustaite, business development manager and designer at Connection Furniture

Ready to transform your office or workplace? Get in touch for advice on your project.

Furniture for forward thinking workspaces

As a leading interior design consultancy, clients often ask us what we consider to be the most exciting office furniture products on the market. Here are some of the best:

On the QT is ideal for those times that require a ‘little’ privacy. Inspired by a traditional phone booth, it has been designed to encourage quick calls, while offering more space and functionality for those needing to spend longer, more focused time inside.

“The workplace of tomorrow has a rich bandwidth of work settings, we have the ability to choose what setting is appropriate for the task in hand,” explains Nathan Hurley of Orangebox.

“On the QT focuses on focus – individual focus. It tries to give you a moment of solitude and a break away from open plan working. You may think this is some kind of phone booth but it goes far beyond that. We don’t want people to be in these products all day but moments of sanctuary are really important.”

The product contains a kink for acoustic quality, and as a freestanding unit is available for immediate ‘plug and play use’. It comes in two sizes and can be moved by pallet truck between floors and within properties.

Hospitality in the workplace

Table Place Chairs has used its vast experience in the hospitality sector to bring the Circle of Life to the workplace.

A structural freestanding framework, the product consists of hanging recycled plastic curtains, the sustainable answer to partitioning walls. It delivers a great place to have impromptu meetings and quiet times.

Dan Gillmore explains: “We’ve spent years designing products for restaurants but as the lines have become blurred, these kinds of products have had an appeal in many other sectors too. We’re now looking at ‘hospitality in the workspace’ which has been accelerated through Covid. Everyone is looking for comfort when they come into the office. “

So called because of its sustainable qualities, the Circle of Life contains several modules that can create a circle, chairs, wave or stadium chain. It’s also adaptable to a variety of spaces and comes with thinner or thicker curtains as required.

“The product is really based on the concept of making places for everyone,” adds Dan. “Many employers are looking for distinct zones within the workspace. The idea is that if someone needs an impromptu meeting, quiet or focused time, they can enter this space.”

Creating working neighbourhoods

Kornelija Kopustaite showcased a product that is also based on the desire to create zones within the workplace.

Her company, Connection Furniture, has created a product called Harp, which has evolved specifically with the fluid workplace evolution in mind.

Its unorthodox bungee cords construct ‘walls’ which act as a space divider and an enclave without obstructing visibility or creating a permanent structure. It is available to configure as an individual workspace or a multi-zone format and can be designed in an infinite number of ways to create a multitude of settings and space division solutions.

“We know that people want to socialise and collaborate,” says Kornelija. “Harp creates softer boundaries rather than partition walls.”

Optimised essentials for agile workspaces

OE1 is a collection of optimised, essential pieces for a new era in the workplace.

It’s designed to help people experiment with space, discover what works in the moment and change rapidly for the future.

Bertie van Wyk of furniture experts, Herman Miller explains: “When we were looking at the future, we were unsure what the world and office will look like. What if we could create a space where we could change the environment in one minute and the whole design within a day? That’s when we came up with OE1.

“It’s not just one item that will change the way we work, so we came up with a product line that covers a choice of settings that are easy to adapt and fit in with what you already have.”

The OE1 range can create a complete floor plate or integrate instantly with the space and furniture you already have.

“There is so much wasted space in environments, this product range allows you to get more out of the spaces that you already have. It delivers a flexible, fluid environment that is scalable.”

Standing the test of time

As part of a wider group discussion Hannah Robinson asked our experts to look to the future. The challenge for suppliers is in developing products that stand the test of time. How are our furniture experts approaching that task?

“There’s no doubt that we’re in the most creative moment in our industry that many of us will ever see,” says Nathan. “There are some fabulous examples here of designing a healthier future for us all. I suspect new products will take around 3-5 years from design to manufacture and so in the short term we’re probably going to see lots more trials, with people carving real estate to test things.”

Sustainability is also a crucial part of the process. What’s Nathan’s view? “Dan was talking about circularity in the development of his product and the responsibility should definitely be on us to recycle and reuse. How do we look at a system where we take back some of those products when they’re no longer wanted?” he asks.

The office vs home

There has been much debate about the office as a space for collaboration but do we also need focused spaces for our own productivity and wellbeing?

Bertie certainly thinks so. “When we’re creating spaces of the future, we still need environments where you can break away and have privacy in close proximity. You don’t collaborate for nine hours a day, you need space for focused work and if you don’t get that at home, guess what? People will stay at home.”

Before the coronavirus pandemic, the office had never really competed with home before. Nathan Hurley agreed that it provides the traditional workplace with a formidable opponent.

He explains: “You have a choice to make when you wake up. The office previously competed with a coffee shop. You now have to go above and beyond and provide people with the richest experience you can. That can be expensive but potentially we need to do it to attract and retain the best talent.”

Fixed zones, hi-tech and open plan offices

One area where our panel did disagree, was in the use of flexible office furniture. In Dan Gillmore’s view, there will always be a need for designing and zoning spaces.

“I disagree on the use of wheels,” he says. “That’s where I see hospitality in the workspace so you have spaces to sit and relax, places to eat, to talk. It’s about how we develop our spaces.”

For many businesses, the decision on what type of furniture to procure depends much on who is going to be in the space, with the need to adapt areas to be as inclusive and diverse as possible.

“It’s important to reflect on what employees need and our needs have changed,” says Kornelija. “You have to have meaningful and insightful consultations before implementing change. If my employer can’t accommodate me, I can work elsewhere. You have to have the balance.”

Our expert panel received some questions about the struggle to find technology. Could that hamper our efforts to make workspaces more flexible and accessible?

“Every organisation needs good technology otherwise you’re affecting what your people can produce,” says Bertie. “And it has to be fantastic. People should just plug it in and easily engage in a much more ergonomic environment. We don’t want to wake up in the morning wondering whether you can get focused work done. If you don’t have a good answer to that, people stay at home.”

Nathan agreed and cited the importance of the pandemic happening now, rather than 20 or 30 years ago. “Being forced upon us has led to some great innovation in a short amount of time,” he said. “We’ve all been exposed to real novel moments. Novelty like being able to make a sandwich or grind your own coffee beans or meet friends early. They add value and make you feel good. That sort of stuff should be embraced. If people feel comfortable in different clothes, let them. Let’s not make all the good stuff, things that you only do at home.”

Ready to transform your office or workplace? Get in touch for advice on your project.


Herman Miller

Table Place Chairs