For your new or renovated lobby, office, or restaurant, you’ll probably need to consider new furniture as a portion of your project. Today we’re talking about contract-grade furniture for these types of spaces, and why choosing the right product for the application is so important.
Part of the interior design process is selecting the furnishings that will go into your space, which can be the most fun because users get to touch and feel and use these items on a regular basis. These items are necessary to the function of the space and will impact the users, so it’s worth using the correct product, which could initially cost more. With the trend of resi-mercial (residential feel in commercial spaces), we can often find similar looking contract-grade pieces through our resources. You might ask, “But I found the piece for a $1000 less online. Can’t we just get that?”
There are lots of reasons for the above: off the bat, liability. Say we specify a residential grade dining chair for your cafeteria, and someone sits in it and falls and hits their head. Ouch! They may have a minor bump, a concussion, or something worse, which their attorney will let you know. You then wonder why the chair failed, and you call me. Because we failed to specify the correct item, we would be responsible. Say instead that we specify a contract-grade chair, and because it’s $200 more expensive than the one you sourced on the internet, you decided to purchase the cheaper ones instead. Now the liability is on you. Is the picture getting clearer?
Durability: in a different class
Contract furniture is specifically built to last a very long time, being designed and crafted to put up with daily use and even abuse in some circumstances. Most contract furniture has been tested rigorously as compared to residential furniture that can be cheaply constructed and easily obtained. The items we select for commercial projects are from contract-grade furniture manufacturers that produce furniture for offices and hotels (with the expectation to change things out every 7 to 10 years). Such places are an ever-revolving door of visitors and users, requiring the furniture construction and craftsmanship to be the highest possible. Obviously, things with doors, like a sideboard, may wear out faster than for example, a stationary table (unless the doors are affixed to be shut permanently).
In general, residential-grade (aka “off-the-shelf,” retail, store bought) furnishings are not made to the same specifications and stringent requirements as contract-grade furnishings. They also aren’t meant to last as long, even with only residential use. Moreover, good commercial interior designers will never specify residential-grade furnishings for use in a commercial space because they know those products will not stand up to the performance requirements of day in and day out use.
Now if you’ve done any amount of scouting around for cool looking furniture for your new lobby, you may have come across some retailers that offer commercial and contract-grade options. Jackpot! Well, not so fast, Jack.
Just because something says “contract” or “commercial” doesn’t mean it has passed the necessary tests or stringent requirements. How would you know? By asking for them.
There are several pretty well-known online stores with photos of sleek furniture in chic locations. I like looking at the pictures as much as anybody, but for our clients, “cool” isn’t enough of a reason. So, I called up one of them and asked for their warranty. They warrant (stand behind) their product for zero days. I also needed to know if an item conformed to ANSI/BIFMA standards set in place for commercial furnishings. They refused to provide any documentation. Therefore, as far as I would be concerned, it’s order and install at your own risk.
David Edward – Thatcher
Between design and construction budget, I’m sure you want to know how you can save on furnishings. Here are two:
One possible way to save on the budget is to go with graded-in fabrics on upholstered pieces. A manufacturer may have partnered with a contract fabric company by buying a lot of several fabrics, which they offer at tiered price points. This can a) save on the expense of selecting other fabric and having it shipped to the furniture company and applied, and b) save time in production. The offered fabrics stand up to fire and abrasion tests and may be finished or backed with a material added or inherent to the fabric to hold up to staining, liquids, and general wear and tear. Thus, that’s a win-win situation.
Another way of adding years to pieces selected now is to lean toward something rather timeless that will never really go out of style. Staying true to a more classic profile will easily lend itself saving money down the road once furniture styles shift. We believe if you buy quality, you only buy once (at least in theory). In consideration of not switching out pieces regularly and being a good steward of the earth and avoiding consuming more resources to replace often, we’ve selected items that are of a very high quality and include great finishes and exceptional craftsmanship.
The New Traditionalists – Credenza no. 190
Want to see a real example cost/year analysis we did for one of our clients?
12 contract-grade benches at $3,347 each, lasting a minimum of 10 years equals about $335/bench/year, or less than a dollar a day in value per bench.
Conversely, 12 similar-styled residential-grade benches at $2,000 each, lasting a minimum of 2 years due to material and construction issues equals $1,000/bench/year. This number excludes the need to replace every two years. That cost over the life of ten years is $120,000 versus $40,164 (Delta $79,836/198.7%). These numbers exclude the additional time for the selection of both the new bench, finish, and fabric, review and approval, specification, procurement, tracking, receiving, inspection, delivery and installation, and management of the process every two years that would be required.
The commercial bench option initially costs more up front, whereas the cheaper residential bench would cost a whopping $79,836 more over the next ten years�”Talk about savings!
What we’re talking about is the right tool for the job or the right product for the application. In my professional opinion, contract furniture (commercial-grade furniture) is by far the wiser investment when considering a space which needs to last and look good for years to come.
As you can see, the furnishings selection process is more than what looks good or what something costs, but the myriad standards and other factors listed above that I know are important whether or not they are noticed. To conclude, going with furnishings that comply with industry standards is preferred over procuring substandard and more risky items. Don’t you agree?
We’d love to hear your opinion in the comments below. If you need commercial planning or help with your furnishings selection project, contact us and we’ll set u a time to talk.
We hope you like what you read and will share it with someone that might find it valuable.
Written by Emilie Kyle
Lush Interior Design LLC is a Hospitality, High-end Residential, and Commercial interior design firm located in the Washington, DC area. Lush specializes in elevating brands through beautiful and functional interior design to make the most impact on guests and users of each space. If you are a restauranteur, hotelier, creative brand, or association and want the Lush team to manage your interior design project, book a complimentary call to discuss how we can help!