Beauty of Steel Furniture
While the showroom’s basic architecture was not changed significantly, the atmosphere inside was radically transformed by the Gensler team. “We reworked the showroom to portray the company’s values,” explains architect Collin Burry, who served as the creative design director of the project from the San Francisco office. Creating a refuge from the sensory overload of NeoCon, the designers devised a “front porch” along the showroom’s entry facade, complete with wicker outdoor furniture, prairie grass, and a lemonade stand. Exuberant hues of blue, yellow, green, and orange were applied to the walls, along with graphic entreaties to encourage visitors to relax in the comfortable, informal environment.
“We’re thrilled with the way the Gensler organization has captured the spirit of our company,” says Tim Smith, Allsteel’s vice president of marketing services. During NeoCon, visitors flocked to the showroom to enjoy the cheerful ambience and sip lemonade. The company’s brightly colored totes, also designed by Gensler, were another big draw: the showroom reported that nearly 7,000 were given away during the three-day show.
Less is more in house decoration
From demolition to decoration, “the project was an exercise in finding new resources and processes,” recalls Brent McMahon, principal and creative director of Kingmahon Design Partnership. Two layers of carpet, foam padding, and, worse, asbestos tile were removed (and responsibly disposed of) to reveal a concrete floor that was then scraped, cleaned, and finished with a self-leveling concrete, and left bare. The designers categorically avoided the use of materials that deplete resources or require harsh cleaning solvents, says McMahon, as well as lead-based pigments, epoxies, and polyurethane. The walls, baseboards, and ceiling (which was vaulted to improve air circulation) were smoothed with water-based plaster and painted with China White latex.
Like the architectural shell, furniture was kept simple. A large worktable is positioned in the center of the space with four smaller reading stands placed around the perimeter and a reception desk positioned opposite the entry. All pieces are made of solid Indonesian teak harvested from a plantation with a one-for-one reforestation protocol. “Teak is durable and is available in large, solid slabs, so the furniture could be fabricated without veneers or lamination, which require glues,” explains McMahon. One of the project’s aims was to reduce the number of VOC’s circulated through the air system, so each piece was finished with natural teak oil instead of varnish. The tops of the reception desk and reading tables are made of a concrete composite that utilizes reclaimed textile and carpet fibers. Finally, samples of Innvironments wall coverings were packaged in modest, book cloth-covered boxes. “We even opted to emboss the boxes rather than label them to avoid the use of printing inks,” says McMahon. “We wanted to use fewer natural resources and create less waste. Since the new collection was developed as an environmentally responsible alternative to vinyl wall coverings, we felt it was important to launch the new brand in an appropriate context.”