The annual UK furniture show usually takes place in May under sunny skies. This year the CDW organisers ran an ‘unlocked’ showroom-only event in July, featuring rather less temperate weather.
However, the wet streets couldn’t dampen our spirits as we witnessed the inspiration, endeavour and confidence of the many furniture manufacturers who have invested in developing product solutions that will help office occupiers adapt to agile working patterns.
The future of work is right here in Clerkenwell!
It was uplifting to visit several brand-new showrooms established by British manufacturers; reflecting their confidence in a strong future for the workplace. These are carefully planned and designed environments of some scale, allowing the owners to display products in the context of agile work settings and provide inspiration for office occupiers and their professional advisers.
Senator welcomed us to their new building in Back Hill. As the UK’s largest manufacturer, Senator Group has products to fit every working category, and this large, impressive space contextualises product application in a series of agile settings ranging from lounge and breakout spaces to more focused task work and meeting settings.
Of particular note is their new Play range of mobile task furniture, designed specifically to allow easy reconfiguration, meeting the needs of different agile teams.
In their lovely three-story showroom right in the heart of Clerkenwell, Frem demonstrate a series of thoughtfully-evolved products that are absolutely right for these times. For example, their already flexible Oasis pod and booth systems now incorporate acoustic baffles for the air circulation systems, together with lighting that actually cleans the air of viruses and bacteria.
The soft mobile booth can now incorporate a battery system so powerful it will run its own lighting and power laptops for many hours. Their Novus steel-framed storage/space-zoning system is one of the strongest available, exhibited here in many configurations.
This a really thoughtfully designed showroom in Bastwick Street. UK maker Sixteen3 has long been an Interion favourite, and this spacious new showroom gives them the opportunity to display their full range of innovative products, including the fabulous Bodyn mobile meeting booth and the Arny Lite mobile laptop station with personal storage space.
Their Calvert range is a very original and useful space defining/storage system which sets itself apart from most of the ‘me-too’ grid-style ranges available in the market.
The best of the rest...
Icons of Denmark
Tucked away in St John’s Path, the IOD showroom may at first glance appear unassuming, but the thoughtfulness that goes int each and every one of their products is second to none, as is the passion and enthusiasm of owner Jesper and his colleague Alex, both of whom made us very welcome.
We should not forget that IOD’s Grid system was the original metal-framed storage and space-division system, copied by many but rarely surpassed. Although perhaps IOD have surpassed themselves with the elegant 4T range; a kind of hybrid partitioning system that helps to define spaces, yet is easy to reconfigure and relocate.
They introduced the rather fabulous GAB Lounge chair. Constructed using traditional woodworking techniques, it already looks like a design classic – and is vey comfortable.
Add to this the Sky ‘a-frame’ stacking chairs, Woodstock mobile flip-top meeting tables with Oak legs and solid wood lipping, and the beautiful Ekko sofa with hand-shaped foam – IOD’s products are thoughtful, elegant, ergonomic, comfortable and durable.
Ocee have long been ahead of the game with their extensive Four ranges of booths, tables and seating. For CDW they featured a new FourUs Works mobile work desk; complete with fitted screens it can easily be moved or folded-up and stored away.
We also admire Ocee’s Den screened pod system. Very robust, it is available in a very wide range of configurations which allow the formation of private and secure work settings. With great acoustic properties, this range is a natural fit for agile environments with less reliance on the traditional desk.
Spanish maker Forma 5 have always provided great value. They’re in the process of obtaining a new Clerkenwell showroom, so there was a limited display of new products.
However, they were displaying the Noray range of mobile acoustic screens, which can also support whiteboards and other working tools, together with new soft furnishings Pausa and Cyl and new lounge chair Bow. We should also mention the Dot.Pro task chair which features a dynamic weight-sensing articulating mechanism and provides excellent value-for-money.
German manufacturer Assmann are known for their superior quality and state-of-the-art manufacturing techniques, which they are now applying to the new Syneo range of lounge furniture.
They are quietly becoming a full-range supplier, with elegant technical solutions including the Mix-award-winning Cubas storage range with rotating elements, which offers an alternative to ubiquitous metal-framed systems.
We also liked their Plaza large-format electronic height-adjusting meeting table and the elegant new fully-articulating Streamo task chair.
As a staple of good value, Workstories continue to add to their eclectic collection of design-focussed pieces. The new Atelier booth offers a softer private booth experience than many, making extensive use of natural timber plywood.
Recycled ‘smile plastics’ worksurfaces are now available across all ranges, and the new circular xxxx lounge/task chair provided our ‘Marmite experience’ of the day!
Joint Design Direction
JDD are a UK manufacturer of booths, pods and seating with a great ethos of designing and manufacturing under one roof; typically the people who make the products also deliver and install them. This means they are much more flexible than most suppliers, offering cost-effective customisation to fit specific site dimensions.
We liked their new Betty ‘Work pods’, shown upstairs with an integrated laptop workchair.
Pronounced ‘Shinnarps’, this Swedish manufacturer has the greatest environmental credibility of any maker; we have previously enjoyed their ‘sawdust cookies’ – one ingredient of which is sawdust from the factory floor (without any side-effects).
Their extensive Turnmill Street showroom features their full-range capability, including many products first introduced at Orgatec 2019. This slideshow features just a few of the agile/mobile products in the range.
This well-established UK manufacturer of seating and tables is known for great design and quality. Having already produced pods that rival other manufacturers in their acoustic and technology, by listened to clients they have designed Mews.
This new evolution provides softer spaces using more comfortable seating, pendant lighting and curtains and are made for focus work or one to ones with video conferencing if required. The glass fronts incorporate a corrugated manifestation that allows the light in but beautifully masks the people inside to give privacy.
The range also accomodates the positive and negative spaces (in-between), that can hold soft seating or small open meetings.
We were delighted to finally see the much talked about refurbishment and make-over of Elite’s showroom, and it lived up to our expectations! The company’s sense of fun has been incorporated in the huge bar-like reception area, complete with optics.
Downstairs they have created brickwork alcoves that are in keeping with old London basements or railway arches which give a unique showcase of their amazing array of products in different working and soft meeting areas.
Always a regular stop for us on the CDW tour, the Naughtone showroom never fails to impress. Their versatile high back Pullman range can come as a booth, sofa and single seater including a work table and swivel base. We are finding these kinds of items can be inserted into busy office spaces and still give the user separation to focus.
Another eye-catching piece was the Hue which is their answer to a poseur height 4-person meeting booth. The sides have been left deliberately low to encourage additional people to stand and collaborate.
The focus at Verco was their new mobile screen system Enclave. The design of the hinge and clip system allows the flexibility to easily create enclosed spaces in conjunction with either new or existing furniture.
We have always been fans of their iconic Martin table; they now have a lower-cost alternative - the Jack table, which still features natural timber frames and laminate tops.
Spacestor’s products are the perfect blend between London and California cool – and they offer a great customisation service to get the perfect finishes and dimensions for any client requirement. We like the fact that Spacestor have been running expert webinars throughout lockdown, sharing expertise and knowledge to help all of us adapt to the future.
The team was very hospitable, providing authentic Italian pizza that picked up our energy levels!
Spacestor are very much ‘in the zone’ of new, agile, ways of working. From a background in storage wall and lockers, they have developed an impressive range of agile product solutions, from the excellent Palisades space division system to the thoughtful Residence Connect videoconference booth.
We also liked their new modular stacking seating system Bleachers, and the Portals family of ‘productive spaces’.
Connection’s collection represents another sweet spot for agile working. Their innovative office furniture can also be applied in schools, restaurants, bars, and home offices.
Their two-story showroom displayed a range of work settings featuring the new Harper collaboration zones, which utilise bungee cords within steel frames to divide space without breaking sight lines. We also like their stacking modular seating range Platforms Additions, which can provide valuable storage space within theatre-style meeting spaces.
But some individual pieces also grabbed our attention, including the Regent Chair - an elegant piece with high back and partial visual/acoustic privacy – and the Bloomsbury Sofa, a modern, comfortable interpretation of the traditional Chesterfield.
Products that help the environment...
This Dutch sustainable brand featured their seat/surface material made from recycled clothing. It’s mainly seating in the portfolio at present but they’re developing the material offering into surfaces and work/table tops.
Arper’s new Kata chair with a recycled 3-D knit fabric was a particular highlight. Some PET materials can be a bit rough and hard, but Arper have produced a really nice feeling material that is comfy, strong and looks great too!
Advice, help and personal tours
A show like this can seem a bit daunting; where to start? who to consider? We’re based in the heart of Clerkenwell, which means we are very much in touch with the latest developments and can identify the suppliers and products meeting your specific criteria.
Many of our clients have benefitted from a hosted tour of curated showrooms, which we are happy to arrange without cost or obligation.