At a panel discussion titled “The New Basics,” designers, developers, and facilities experts tried to work out what will be essential to the office of the future.
From private chefs to meditation rooms, companies have pulled out all the stops when it comes to amenities in the workplace. Whether driven by the battle for talent or employee demands, tech and media organizations in particular continue to vie with one another to provide employee benefits. Cafes, phone booths, and lounges have become commonplace, with nap rooms and fitness centers following suit. But how much amenity is too much amenity? Is there any downside to this trend, and what should we consider to be the new basics of the office?
A group of workplace experts gathered at the Poppin showroom in San Francisco earlier this year to discuss these questions and point to a way forward in office design. Primo Orpilla, whose award-winning firm Studio O+A created some of the first amenity-rich offices in the tech sector, spoke to the origins of the trend. “We really just wanted to create a place where people would come together, collaborate, share ideas and maybe spend a little more time, and that time be more meaningful,” he said. “It was also a great way for the company to show that they cared.”
But now the pendulum might have swung too far, said Alex Spilger, vice president of development and director of sustainability at Cushman & Wakefield: “I see friends that work for these tech companies that say, ‘I want to leave my job but I’m afraid to give up the free massage and the free food,’ and I have to ask them, ‘Are you staying there for the right reasons?’”
Amenities cannot be expected to stand in for a sense of purpose among employees, and companies have to work at fostering that spirit of community. “The spaces have to have meaning to the company and to the employees,” said Verda Alexander, cofounder of Studio O+A. “The idea of superficial amenity spaces really needs to fall by the wayside.”
So what kinds of amenities would not be considered superficial? Sometimes, essential amenities are determined by the culture of the organization, said John Liu, facilities director at Rakuten. At his company, “AV is gargantuan everywhere because that allows [companies] to have video conferencing with every office, to be able to sync up without having employees travel as much.” Hoteling is another such amenity, which Liu finds he has to figure more and more into his headcount projections.
However, workers aren’t just concerned about short-term benefits for themselves or their employers. “People want to work for companies that care,” Spilger said, “so a commitment to sustainability is a core amenity.” The urban (or suburban) context, and the company’s commitments to the community outside also figure heavily in employees’ list of wants. “Those values are part of the new basics,” said Jason Bonnet, vice president of development at Brookfield Properties. “I can get a paycheck from any tech company here, but what are you really doing when I step outside as it relates to improving where I live?” At Brookfield’s new developments in San Francisco, such as 5M and Pier 70, office spaces are situated within a mixed-use context. The developers have built social impact into the plans, offering ground-level activations and donating spaces to non-profits.
Talking about the backlash against tech giants in Seattle and San Francisco, Alexander said she wished offices could integrate “more amenity spaces that are maybe on the ground floor, accessible to the public and that interact with the public. I would love to see more social responsibility, environmental responsibility, and any kind of amenity space that could directly engage the public.”
Spilger summed up the discussion by offering a demographic analysis of where workplace design needs to focus next. “A lot of amenities were driven by millennials—ping pong tables, foosball, free food, happy hours,” he said. “Those millennials are starting families. They no longer need the happy hour or the ping pong table; they want flexibility, autonomy, and purpose behind the work.”
On the eve of NYCxDESIGN, 14 brands from around the country offered designers a look at their latest offerings at Interior Design’s Market Live event. Held on May 9, the manufacturers and artisans presented a curated selection of textiles, surfaces, lighting, and other products to more than 140 guests at the magazine’s New York City headquarters. The evening offered an opportunity for specifiers to learn about new manufacturers in the marketplace while mingling with fellow industry professionals over drinks and bites. The gathering was an intimate and inspiring way to get in the spirit of design before another exciting NYCxDESIGN kicks off.
A special thanks to our sponsors who made this event possible:
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An exhibition and pop-up at WantedDesign in Manhattan is spotlighting emerging Polish design, from ceramics to jewelry and even toys. Titled #PLDSGN: Up-And-Coming Designers from Poland, the exhibit is presented by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, an organization dedicated to showcasing Polish arts and culture on the international level. Throughout the exhibit, one trend is clear: a growing preference for sustainable manufacturing and the reduction of environmental impact.
Goods will be for sale at WantedDesign at the Terminal Stores in Manhattan through May 21, and at WantedDesign’s IC Store in Brooklyn from May 23 through June 13. The presentation coincides with the Institute’s launch of its Guide to Polish Design, a comprehensive online document surveying a century of Polish design. Here are five highlights from the exhibition.
Read more: Highlights from WantedDesign Brooklyn
Look at Me Plates by Magda Pilaczynska
Illustrator and designer Magda Pilaczynska adorns each of her porcelain dishes with spirited graphics and gilded detailing. Look at Me Plates measure 25 inches across and are equipped with a hanger, so they’re suited to walls as well as tables. Plus, each piece is unique—Pilaczynska crafts and fires each one by hand.
Bubble 06 lamp by UAU Project
To sustain its goal of zero waste and zero emission, UAU Project generally makes its products to order—like this Space Age-inspired lamp, Bubble 06, which the company designed and 3D printed in recyclable bioplastic at its Warsaw studio.
Bangle Bag No. 2 by ATOMY
ATOMY’s line of exclusively hand-sewn bags use only regional materials and plants, and none of it goes to waste. Take, for example, its Bangle Bag No. 2, which is handcrafted of fully organic, vegetable-tanned cowhide leather. It sports a robust wax coating for water resistance, along with a pair of circular 3D-printed handles that lend the tote its name.
Carbon jewelry by bro.Kat
Strongly influenced by its roots in Europe’s Silesia region, design collective bro.Kat forays into fashion with a new collection of carbon jewelry referencing the region’s days as a wealthy exporter of coal. It’s a project befitting the company’s name, which is both a nod to its home city of Katowice and a play on words, translating, roughly, to “black gold.”
Espresso cups by Fenek
At only four centimeters tall, these artisanal cups by Fenek are perfectly scaled for espresso. Handcrafted in porcelain, each features a small face—one of the Warsaw-based studio’s several hallmarks—along with quirky glazes in a range of abstract patterns.
10 Questions With… EDIT Napoli Founders Domitilla Dardi and Emilia Petruccelli
EDIT Napoli, a new fair created to support and promote independent design and craft, launches on June 6th in Naples, Italy. Focused on the rise of the designer-maker figure, the debut will feature 60 exhibitors—among them well-known and emerging designers as well as established producers and manufacturers—who all have one thing in common: they favor quality over quantity and have a practice rooted in making. Interior Design spoke to the two women behind the project, Domitilla Dardi and Emilia Petrucelli, about the city of Naples, the event, and alternatives to globalized, standardized products.
Interior Design: What does Naples represent to you compared to other Italian or international cities?
Domitilla Dardi: It is the only truly international Italian city. It was the capital of Italy before Rome was and has an urban structure that brings to mind both the great European metropolises of Paris or Madrid with their wide ‘boulevards’ and the small Italian art towns. And then it also has the port and the sea. Naples is one of the Mediterranean capitals and its geographical situation makes it perfect as a crossroads for exchange and cultural encounters. It is no coincidence that it has always been the only Italian city, along with Venice, that is a real reference point for international contemporary art. They are both gateway cities between East and West.
ID: What was it about the city that inspired you to create this event?
Emilia Petruccelli: As a city, Naples never leaves people indifferent. There is too much sameness and standardization in the world and I believe that we need more cities like Naples, where you can breathe and cultivate difference and independent ideas. The people who will come to EDIT Napoli are looking for something different, something unexplored.
ID: When did you get the idea for EDIT Napoli?
DD: Emilia came to me two years ago with two very clear ideas: that we should launch a new fair and we should do it in Naples. Together we understood that instead of focusing on sectors like collectible design and design galleries—which already have endless venues and events—we should focus on the world of small batch production, craftsmanship, and the designer-maker. Today this figure is more relevant than ever. We need products that have an identity.
EP: We wanted to create something that was curated, but where people could still be surprised. An event with purpose and clear economic intentions. I believe that independent design has to do business in order to survive.
ID: Why was it important, in your opinion, to launch EDIT Napoli?
EP: Because the retail world is moving and changing fast, from the internet to the commercial and industrial strategies of flagship brands. It needs to innovate and to do so it needs specific places in which it can reflect this change and address it. EDIT Napoli proposes being that place.
DD: Because a fair dedicated to this market segment didn’t exist. We have done a lot of research in the run-up to the event, but the fair won’t be about prototypes or concepts; it will be about real products for the real world.
ID: Who do you want to reach, convince, convert with EDIT Napoli?
EP: We aim to reach and connect international buyers, architects, designers, shop owners, interior designers, all the different strands of the design world basically. The ambition of EDIT Napoli is to become an international reference point for authored design, which thanks to the push of the fair we hope will experience sustainable growth within a few years.
ID: Is there a large community of makers, artisans and designers in Naples and the surrounding area?
DD: There is a large community of artisans throughout Italy and in all Mediterranean countries. It is a historical fact that where industry did not have the right socio-economic conditions to take off, craft continued to thrive. But today craft uses updated tools and advanced technologies. There is still much to do to make this sector more widely known and more accessible and this is what we are aiming to do. We want to be a sounding board for the sort of design that can be a genuine alternative to globalized and standardized products.
ID: Do you hope that the event can work as an economic engine for the city?
DD: EDIT Napoli was created as something that could impact various industries in the region. A good example of this is the Made in EDIT residencies. We hosted international designers for a month so they could work with local artisans. The result won’t just be a unique piece that tells the beautiful story of this encounter, the result will be an object or collection that will be replicated, produced, and sold as part of the Made in EDIT brand. Everyone involved in the process will profit from this relationship, not just economically but also in human terms.
ID: Can you give me some examples of important and interesting crafts, materials, and manufacturers in the area that you are looking at?
DD: For Made in EDIT, we investigated the ancient Bourbon silk factories of nearby San Leucio with Amsterdam-based designers Faberhama, the leather and metal artisans of the city’s historic central districts with Lebanese designer Khaled El Mays, and the ceramicists of Minori on the Amalfi coast with NYC-based artist Reinaldo Sanguino. In the future we will focus on other manufacturing processes, too, such as coral brooches and Capodimonte porcelain, for instance.
ID: Are there any other local crafts that we should know about?
EP: We are already looking at numerous other artisans and supporting them, so they can take part in the 2020 edition. They include stonemasons, leather goods craftspeople, weavers, and cabinet-makers. But we also want to open ourselves to other craft sectors and not necessarily only local ones from the Campania region.
ID: Tell me about a particular highlight at EDIT Napoli? Something you yourselves can’t wait to see?
DD: We are excited to see the new collections. Almost all of our 60 exhibitors are bringing products that they are presenting commercially for the first time at EDIT and for this reason we have launched a dedicated award for best new product to be judged by an international jury. It will be interesting to see the ‘big names’ in design rubbing shoulders with experienced craftspeople and the most disparate typologies being presented side by side.
Seizing on the momentum generated by the Trump administration’s timber and steel tariffs, a coalition of tile manufacturers is lobbying the U.S. government to impose tariffs of over 400 percent on Chinese-supplied ceramic tiles. While the approval of new duties could lift domestic producers, some design industry professionals are pushing back.
On April 10, eight U.S. ceramic tile producers, all members of the Tile Council of North America, successfully petitioned the Department of Commerce (DOC) to launch an investigation into China’s practice of tile dumping. That group, collected under the name “Coalition for Fair Trade in Ceramic Tile,” included American Wonder Porcelain, Florida Tile, Inc., Crossville, Inc., Florim USA, Dal-Tile Corporation, Landmark Ceramics, Del Conca USA, Inc., and StonePeak Ceramics. The coalition claims that the Chinese government is subsidizing the production of ceramic tiles to below-market-rate prices (or even below production costs) to artificially crowd out the competition, and the group is asking that the DOC impose retaliatory penalties on Chinese manufacturers to level the playing field.
To avoid confusion over what is and is not a tile, the coalition has issued a blanket request pertaining to any tile-like product, no matter the use, thickness, or design, for pieces up to five-feet-by-fifteen-feet. The scope of the complaint also includes tile originating in China and modified— beveled, painted, or refined in any way—in the United States.
In response, the newly-formed Ceramic Tile Alliance (CTA), a group of designers, retailers, and distributors, has launched a petition against imposing new tariffs on Chinese tile. The group argues that doing so would hurt the long-term health of the U.S. ceramics industry to the benefit of domestic manufacturers, that architects and interior designers would lose valuable connections that they’ve cultivated with international artisans, and that retailers would only be able to offer a limited selection.
Additionally, the CTA alleges that showrooms would need to renovate their displays, some of them larger wall and floor pieces, to reflect that certain products would be no longer available. Overall, the CTA estimates that “thousands” of jobs could be lost as distributors and retailers would be forced out of business by higher prices and restricted supplies.
The United States International Trade Commission (ITC) will issue a preliminary injury determination by May 27. If the ITC and DOC find in favor of the coalition, the duties could be imposed as early as the beginning of next May.
This is the first in a series of columns from Maury Riad, the founder and CEO of Fuigo.
Designers are undoubtedly the stars of the interior design industry. There’s a reason manufacturers lavish so many fancy dinners and free trips on them: These brands understand the power designers wield over their clients’ purchases. But after two decades in the industry, I have seen how common it is for designers to get squeezed out of their fair margins. They deserve more—and there are simple methods that have been successfully used by other industries for decades that can increase a designer’s bottom line.
Three years ago, I co-founded Fuigo, a project management platform and interior design co-working space in New York, in order to help designers gain access to the tools they need to be successful. I knew plenty of interior designers who ran thriving practices, but felt that they were being severely shortchanged—especially considering the pivotal role they play as industry tastemakers and gatekeepers for the entire buying channel to suppliers.
Other industries—from medicine to construction—have already caught on to this power dynamic, creating group purchasing organizations to leverage their collective buying power. When group purchasing happens in these other lines of business, buyers from different organizations team up to negotiate better terms. If you are a hospital looking for gauze, you find a couple of other hospitals that also want to purchase gauze, then approach the medical supplier as a group to strike a deal. From a simple supply-and-demand perspective, this type of aggregated purchasing power makes perfect sense. But in the interior design industry, this concept hasn’t yet become the norm.
Designers typically make purchases either directly from the manufacturer for a trade discount, or through a retailer’s trade services program (which is really brands leveraging their larger wholesale discount and passing a few percentage points of their profit to their designer customers). In both cases, purchasing involves establishing a one-on-one relationship, making a custom order, and executing significant follow-up with a third-party retailer for what are often bespoke pieces that are hard to keep track of—in short, a huge logistical effort for most design firms. By relying mostly on complex systems of purchasing, designers get squeezed out of potential earnings. The interior designer’s margins can also be jeopardized when a client’s choices and selections max out their budget—the designer’s margin is often the first to be sacrificed to keep clients happy and save a project.
Ultimately, neither purchasing methodology truly leverages the buying power of designers en masse. What has been missing in our industry is the infrastructure to make this possible. But from a brand’s perspective, it’d be a welcome change. Take Fortuny, the company my family has been running for 25 years. As a globally recognized textile house, we know how group discounting can take our product accessibility to the next level, not only driving greater sales but also empowering more talented designers to use our materials.
Group purchasing is not completely new to the industry—companies like Design Trade Service offer access to trade brands with better discounts and logistics management, and designers have long formed their own ad hoc groups to take advantage of better pricing—but have never become mainstream. In my work with Fuigo, I have seen exactly what creating this kind of support can do for an interior designer, from the ease and resourcefulness of group workspaces to the increased accessibility of a shared sourcing library, and I believe that group purchasing should be next. With the recent launch of Market, an online marketplace of to-the-trade vendors, our project management system now does all the legwork of group buying by simply introducing a commercial infrastructure. It’s a highway speedily connecting buyers and suppliers, where demand is already aggregated and the “group rate” is always in effect.
I believe the deeper discount designers will receive from group purchasing could as much as double their gross margins, on top of trade discounts, which would elevate the designer’s profit margin on client projects. No matter how designers access that group discount, the benefits of group purchasing are within close reach of the interior design industry, and it’s a missed opportunity for designers who aren’t taking advantage of that power. Technology will bring our industry to the next level, and utilizing the tools to get there will keep design moving forward.
Maury Riad is the founder and CEO of Fuigo, a co-working space for designers in New York and project management software. He is also the co-owner of renowned international textiles brand Fortuny, which his family has owned for nearly three decades. In his column for BOH, Riad shares his deep insight into the business of design and how designers work today to weigh in on how, with small changes to their business model, design professionals can revolutionize the industry.
The liminal areas between creative fields are a constant source of inspiration for Monica Khemsurov and Jill Singer, founders of Sight Unseen. So for Sight Unseen OFFSITE’s flagship exhibition during NYCxDESIGN 2018, called “Field Studies,” the duo paired 13 furniture and interior designers with creatives from such fields as food, fashion, film, art, and music. The prompt? Design a functional object together.
“The idea was to connect creatives across disciplinary boundaries so they could work outside their comfort zones, search for commonalities in their practices, and discover what interesting, unexpected ideas might result,” said the founders in a statement. Each design duo masterminded objects ranging from sconce lighting and lounge chairs to wall-mounted mirrors. Showcased at Sight Unseen’s 201 Mulberry Street hub in New York from May 17-20, each object is available for purchase on 1stdibs with net proceeds going to a charity of each pair’s choosing.
Compared to a set of custom Roman shades or drapes, plain roller shades are the steal of the century—a few hundred bucks versus a few thousand, easily—and they beat out café curtains and slatted blinds for looks by a mile. But the turn-offs are real, too: that mechanical roller, sticking out like a store thumb; the plastic-y fabric you wish were more like actual linen; sterile colors and bad patterns only, apparently. It’s hard to decide if they’ll look frumpish or nice (or how to steer them towards the latter) but somehow, designers manage it. So we called on Kevin Greenberg, principal at Space Exploration design, for his best tricks of the trade when employing roller shades, starting with when to use them at all: “We use roller shades in our projects with modern or contemporary detailing because of their clean, discreet look,” he says. “They’re an especially good complement to windows that have deep jambs, and in situations where windows are detailed without trims or casings.”
Ten design experts reveal to us the colors and combinations that never fail them. From classic choices to unexpected favorites, the answers are sure to inspire.
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