Tag Archives: furniture

2017’s A’ Design Award & Competition Winners Have Just Been Announced, And They’re Genius

The A’ Design Award & Competition is a magnet for creativity, and every year the contest attracts thinkers and inventors from all over the globe. The winners of the 2016-2017 period have just been announced, and they’re so innovative they could change the world as we know it – or at least make it a little more functional.

The awards were doled out to over 1200 projects spanning a wide spectrum of categories, including but not limited to furniture, packaging, graphics, and architecture. The designs share common themes of practicality, modernity, and efficient use of space and materials. A’ Design is a unique concept in the competitive world, offering winners the prize of mass publicity rather than cash, and giving the designers an arsenal of tools to forge success on their own terms.

Have a scroll through some of the handiest inventions from different categories that won the 2017 A’ Design Award & Competition, and tell us which ones you’d love to have right now in the comments.

More info: A’ Design Award & Competition (h/t)

A’ Packaging Design Award Winners:

Little Pocket

This is a french fries box design.The “little pocket “on the front can guide the user to squeeze ketchup in it, rather than on a paper plate, provide a sanitation, environmental protection and healthy way to eat (Image credits: Dong Jiang)!

Marais Piano cake packaging

The inspiration for this design, the piano, is an instrument that creates beautiful harmonies from the combination of each individual key’s sound. You could say that society is a lot like this as well. We know that you will be giving this gift to someone important to you, and you want to give them something that was made with care. We’ve made each and every one of our gift boxes with our customers needs in mind. With each key of this gift box, your feelings are sure to be heard. All Japanese pianos are made here in Shizuoka Prefecture. In Japan, as well, the piano is considered to be a special symbol of elegance and splendor (Image credits: Kazuaki Kawahara).

Honey packaging design Funny Honey

This seemingly honeycomb structure, through folding and reversing can become a checkerboard, while in the taste of honey, but also to experience the fun of life. Reduce the excessive waste of packaging, and increase the fun and interactive experience (Image credits: Lu Zhao, Jian Zhang, Lin Huang, Tingyue Yan).

Meow – The Cat Nutrition for Stray Cats

In Turkey, there are lots of stray cats in the streets even documentaries have been made about it. When we come across a poor stray cat in the street it is really hard for an animal lover to look another way and go ahead. We care about them so lots of people carry cat food in their bags. But the hardest part is not just feeding, it is mostly about giving them water or to find a container to pour fresh water for them. The idea with Meow is to supply both cat food and clean water in one package (Image credits: Bahar Bostancı, Evrim Uvacin Isik).

Instant noodle packing box

This is an instant noodle packaging box design, it is different from a normal instant noodle packaging.Firstly, when it is not being used, its size will be much smaller, but when we use it the volume will be larger .In addition, during preparing the fork, customers could hold the lids and keep them clean.Besides, expanding the size of the bowl can increase the user’s sense of comfort, so that a good user experience will be felt by the customer (Image credits: Cao Weizhi, Ding Jian, Chen Yuru).

Whisky heart chocolate packaging design

This boutique chocolate box opened after the fold, that is, chess board, inside each chocolate monomer packaging along the polyline open, and then fold can become a chess pieces, will be delicious and entertainment together, Is the innovative design of this packaging design (Image credits: Lu Zhao, Jian Zhang, Chaoyi Wang).

Pasta Nikita Packaging

I use the strands and shapes of pasta to create an interesting series of packaging that captures attention on the shelves. It emphasizes the high-quality & naturalness of pasta. And, of course, It should bring good mood for people with good taste (Image credits: Nikita Konkin).

A’ Fashion, Apparel and Garment Design Award Winners:

The Travel Bra Anti-theft and comfort

The Travel Bra has a patented drop-down mesh pocket that stores cash and even stretches to take a passport. It folds up under the band when not in use. It has a side mesh stretch sleeve that takes a credit card or hotel room key. It has mini-pockets integrated into the shoulder straps for jewelry or scan card. Extra storage is available under the cups for storing more cash. In one version it has a front pocket for storing lipstick. The Travel Bra has no underwire, is ant-odor treated and super soft (Image credits: Dr Annie Holden and Brenda Barnett).

A’ Bakeware, Tableware, Drinkware and Cookware Design Winners:

Teanochio Tea infuser

Teanocchio comes from puppet play, aims to change the way we prepare our drink and make teatime events more pleasurable. Adding some fun and nostalgia about old games while preparing tea, makes a joyful user experience and causes user feels he is making alive the character while drinking (Image credits: Soroush Vahidian, Mohammad Afkhami).

Coffee Cup Indicating temperature

Nowadays, people especially office workers like to drink coffee on the way to work. If they can know what temperature they can drink, it may give people good taste and avoid scaling people’s lip. Thus, this design is suitable for them especially for office workers. They can enjoy good taste coffee at suitable temperature with this indicative design (Image credits: Yi Teng Shih, Rengrui Xiang, Yuting Chen).

A’ Furniture, Decorative Items and Homeware Design Award Winners:

Keymotif Key holder

The idea that one’s absence from home or office could be transformed into a colour footprint by removing a key holder from it’s base was very intriguing to me (Image credits: Vassilis Mylonadis).

Grow up Multifunctional Chair

The rapid growth and development of children shorten the children products’ life , resulting in a waste of resources . The children’s dinning chair is designed into a dual-purpose chair through a reverse way to prolong the service life of the chair.From parenting chair to the adult chair , the change of this two using ways witnessed the parental process (Image credits: Yong Zhang,Ya-nan Shi).

Feather Coffee and Side Table

The impression of the beauty of the plumage while drifting and overlapping layers. It has become to be the Feather collection. The collection consists of one side and one coffee table. Both have that hand-made welded stainless steel base with a laser cutting and a wooden top. The Feather table gives the sensation that is so light and it could be fly (Image credits: Apiwat Chitapanya-Asia Collection).

Whale Chair Stool

My goal was to make a connection between everyday life & the faraway nature; and to create a simple & modern stool inspired by the whale’s tale that can be quite comfortable & can help overcoming the tiredness made from sitting too much. A one leg plastic stool with two piece mold, the lower parts made from heavy materials and the upper parts made with light & durable materials (Image credits: Farzaneh Biazaran).

Multi functional chair

A chair that could modified according to environment setting. By pushing or pulling to make them four art installation pieces. The composition will be changed according to environment. With different viewer’s experience, it start to generated unlimited imagination. It will fit in any kind of space and create interesting spatial experience (Image credits: Yi-An Hung, Yestudio).

 A’ Vehicle, Mobility and Transportation Design Award Winners:

Gita Robotic Vehicle

Gita is an intelligent, robotic vehicle that extends a person’s cargo-carrying abilities. What is unique about the design is the integration of engineering and performance into an elegant form. The parent company is the maker of the legendary Vespa; Gita is inspired by that heritage, with an approachable, recognizable and attractive design (Image credits: Greg Lynn).

A’ Social Design Award Winners:

UltraDry Dryer in bus stop

There’s very little to do while waiting for the bus. We propose using this time to ensure that umbrellas are properly dried before boarding. With UltraDry we can safely store away dry umbrellas and ensure a dry floor on the bus greatly decreasing the chances of slipping or falling. By placing the action in the most sensible place we can improve the experience of public travel (Image credits: National Taipei University of Technology).

Bookhouse Latrine

Bookhouse Latrine is the outhouse design exercise in the Garden City Lands, Richmond, Canada. As the usage of physical books is on the decline in the digital age, the Bookhouse Latrine project is the architectural attempt to recycle or recirculate physical books for public. A waterless composting toilet was placed in the centre. Wooden bookshelves were designed to be a load-bearing structure, and books on the shelves become “walls.” Depending on the types of books or materials used, a program of Bookhouse Latrine could be variously changeable. For example, it can transform into a chapel (bibles), a meditation retreat (sutras), a DVD storage (DVDs), a thrift store (recycled clothes) or a stuffed animals house (stuffed animals), etc. (Image credits: Yongwook Seong).

A’ Sports, Entertainment and Recreation Equipment Design Winners:

VELO SOCK Bicycle Storage Solution

Urban cycling is growing and more people are keeping their bicycles in their living quarters. Our idea was to create a solution which helps to store bicycle inside with function to keep floors and walls clean from dirt, mud, sand and other debris which stick to a bike after a ride (Image credits: Gvido Bajars).

A’ Bathroom Furniture and Sanitary Ware Design Award Winners:

Jazz Shower

Jazz is an artistic and lavish design project that aims to challenge our perception on how do we imagine a shower. Jazz is designed to be the artistic object that fulfills the looks of a modern bathroom space by creating a unique experience for the user through the shape of a trumpet which carries the water instead of sound. Its ideal dimensions make it highly practical in every home even if space is limited (Image credits: Vlad Mititelu).

A’ Interior Space, Retail and Exhibition Design Award Winners:


Firstly, we took mountains into our consideration as the local physical geography features mountainous and rugged terrain. In order to stir visitors’ physical and mental enjoyment of the mountains, the features of mountains, being rolling, lofty, amazing and rugged, are adopted to give an eye feast to visitors by means of deconstructuralism. There are many natural karst caves, naturally formed crystal. The round stalactite and natural crystals are combined together to amaze film goers (Image credits: YANG WANG & HAO NIU).

Hangzhou Zhongshuge Bookstore

Upon exposure to the forest of books, we intend to acknowledge readers the awareness of knowledge as indispensable as oxygen from trees in our lives. These tree-like pillars stand tall and emit the light of knowledge to indulge every soul comes here. The ceiling is decorated with small lights that are dancing joyfully as the elves guarding the forest. The ground-stationed desks are mingled with the forest, flexible as a creek to allow people to read by sitting on or standing beside (Image credits: Li Xiang).

Ocean Chapel

The idea of a space that functions as a wedding hall to spend an extraordinary moment for once in a lifetime is materialized in a space that gives a feeling of ‘buoyancy’, free from “gravity”. Because it was designed in such a way that we may feel as if we stand at the bottom of the ocean, when we look up, there is an illusion of being sucked up to the surface of the sea. Ocean is the overall theme of this place (Image credits: Atsuhiko Sugiyama).

 CONTemporary Library Exhibition Installation

The architectural installation represents a CONTemporary library containing solely books of contemporary art. It provides lots of comfortable places to sit or lay, bookcases, magazines and newspapers shelves, as well as computer with very rich and detailed multimedia and video archive of contemporary artists. It can be used also for presenting contemporary art performances (Image credits: studio 8 1/2).

A’ Architecture, Building and Structure Design Award Winners:

Organic House House

The organic house is born with the idea of creating an area adapted for man, according to his environmental, physical and psychological needs. Its origin is in nature, because it looks for areas similar to the maternal womb, to animal shelters, to those of man, who in the beginning, adopted the caverns without modifying its environment, to an igloo and to all the friendly spaces and concave that recall the arms of the mother that cuddles the child (Image credits: Javier Senosiain, Daniel Arredondo).

Rosemont Hotel and Residences Hotel and Serviced Apartments

Representing a shell & pearl, moving lights illuminate Rosemont’s five star 448-key, 53-storey hotel tower in a pattern inspired by atomic, orbital rings. Wrapping the tower, lighting spirals around the podium, shaping the dynamic form. Inspired by the element of water, the 280-key, 55-storey fully-serviced apartment tower is conceptualized as a flowing river – the façade’s dynamic lighting enhances its bold architecture (Image credits: ZAS Architects in association with K&P).

Punjab Kesari Headquarters Office

The inspiration was to translate a traditional Indian facade pattern by using digital simulations into an iterative processes to create a responsive built form. This traditional “Jali” screen creates culturally a sense of belonging. Sustainability is at the epicenter of the project embedded in form of, optimized natural lighting, cross ventilation and reduction of heat gain. An urban lobby is created whereby landscape flows inside the building and creating a seamless movement path (Image credits: Amit Gupta: Britta Knobel Gupta).

Continue reading 2017’s A’ Design Award & Competition Winners Have Just Been Announced, And They’re Genius

CBRE Furniture Forum Sparks Launch of Two Industry Disruptors

Husband-and-wife team Jeffrey and Lindsay Braun.

Nearly two years ago, commercial real estate company, CBRE, embarked on a yearlong journey to uncomplicate the process behind furniture buying. The question was simple: What can we do better? In November 2017, the CBRE Furniture Forum released a list of 15 recommendations designed to unravel the complicated web of the furniture-buying process. The high-level, process-improvement ideas include, among others, bringing a dealer designer in as a sub to the A&D firm and increasing process efficiency.

Fast-forward to spring 2018, when the owners of a Los Angeles furniture company read the results and recommendations of the CBRE study with great interest. The report’s results prompted husband-and-wife team Jeffrey and Lindsay Braun to make a dramatic decision: sell their 17-year-old company, Jeffrey Braun Furniture, to pioneer something new.

Enter Platform, an in-house furniture design and manufacturing division of Unisource Solutions, and Emblem, a company that breaks the mold of contract furniture acquisition.

Lindsay Braun, founder and CEO of Emblem, explains what provoked the pivot: “There were problems and inefficiencies in the old model that drove Jeffrey and me nuts. We were frustrated with the multiple layers between our company and the end user. There were so many opportunities for incorrect interpretations and faulty assumptions,” she says. “It felt good to see the problems we were experiencing addressed in black and white by the Furniture Forum. Jeffrey and I were fully worn down by the current sales process, and we thought, Do we still want to do this? Is this solving the end users’ problem? How could we expand on this model?”

Addressing the Need for Enhanced Dealer-Designer Relationships

At the time, Lindsay and Jeffrey thought perhaps they could be a dedicated vendor for one of their strongest dealer clients, Unisource Solutions. But instead, Jeffrey was recruited by Unisource Solutions and now serves as executive vice president of Platform, its new, in-house design and manufacturing division—a direct result of the dealer-designer prediction from the Furniture Forum.

“We approached Unisource’s leadership with an idea and a feeling that we could all be doing a better job servicing customers,” Jeffrey explains. “I had designed furniture for several of Unisource’s clients over the years and worked with their team as a vendor. Rick and I started talking about the possibilities of doing away with the vendor layer altogether.”

Fox Aftershock / Custom seating, Platform by Unisource Solutions.

Rick Bartlett, president of Unisource Solutions, says his team had already been discussing the best way to innovate new solutions and create greater efficiency for their clients. “The timing was perfect,” Bartlett says. “We knew that our clients and the A&D community were actively searching for residential-inspired, ancillary furniture for their workspaces. The demand for this type of furniture was increasing, and we needed a new approach. Jeffrey’s knowledge of furniture design and manufacturing enabled us to innovate an entirely different solution.”

As part of Platform, Jeffrey is now designing custom furniture for clients at Unisource Solutions. In less than a year, Jeffrey and his team have installed furniture for Google, Warner Brothers’ Music, and Aftershock Games, helping each of these companies reflect its brand, culture, and vision in its spaces with bespoke furniture solutions. By integrating the designer into the dealer model earlier in the process, the company can condense the timeline and provide an open line of communication between the designer and the account manager/dealer.

Custom seating for Google Spruce Goose project, Platform by Unisource Solutions.

And Jeffrey’s not stopping there.

“We’ve designed an exclusive line of furniture available only from Unisource Solutions,” he says. “These are workhorse seating designs that every office environment needs, but because I’m working closely with local manufacturers, we also offer easy custom adjustments. Our goal is to give our clients more control, better design, and greater efficiency with every project.”

Streamlining Delivery Time Through Process Integration

While Jeffrey Braun was eliminating frustrations and boosting creativity at the dealership level, Lindsay Braun was working on an entirely different set of pain points. In the past several years, she had noticed more of her designer and dealership clients specifying and buying residential retail furniture instead of contract furniture. She was asking herself, How can I provide a quick and easy commercial-grade solution?

Lindsay acknowledged that Jeffrey Braun Furniture was simply not set up to take on this challenge, so she began working on Emblem: a vertically integrated contract furniture company designed with the lofty goal of delivering commercial-grade construction, fabric, details, and finishes in just three to four weeks.

Simply stated, Emblem is setting out to offer the online retail experience with commercial-grade quality.

Emblem’s Bend Sofa, Bend Chair, and Capital Chair.

Scheduled to launch this month, Emblem initially will offer 17 seating designs with seven fabric offerings and four metal finish options. Each piece is designed and built in California. Dealerships and designers will receive a trade discount, but business owners will also be able to buy online directly from Emblem’s website.

“I wanted to give designers and dealerships a quick furniture solution they would feel confident about,” Lindsay explains. “Emblem is beautifully designed. It’s built for high-use environments. Our textiles are commercial grade with stain resistance and a minimum 100,000 double rubs. Emblem has the same high quality that designers expect in furniture for their commercial projects.”

Responding to concerns about giving businesses a way to buy contract furniture without a dealer, Lindsay says, “Most of these companies are not engaging a dealer. They are buying furniture online because they aren’t being serviced by the contract furniture industry or the dealership model. The more we can help businesses understand the benefit of contract furniture, the more they will find value in a thoughtful, efficient dealership model.

“If a small business needs a sofa and two chairs for a lobby, I want to give them the autonomy to easily find pricing, make a decision, and buy commercial-grade furniture for their own space,” Lindsay continues. “When that same business grows and needs desking systems and other services, they will already see the value in contract furniture versus going the residential retail route.”

Jeffrey Braun, Executive Vice President of Platform and Lindsay Braun, Founder and CEO of Emblem.

When asked why they would sell their furniture business and take on the risks involved with launching two new companies, Lindsay and Jeffrey say the decision was simple. “This all happened in just one year after we heard the results of the CBRE study,” Lindsay states. “The study resonated with us and was a major factor in our decision. Jeffrey and I have always wanted to serve the industry and our clients in the best way we could, and these new ventures are the results. We did this because we believe this is the way the industry should function.”

 Amanda Schneider is President of ThinkLab, the research division of Interior Design magazine. At ThinkLab, we combine Interior Design magazine’s incredible reach within the architecture and design community with proven market research techniques to uncover relevant trends and opportunities that connect back to brand and business goals in a thought-provoking, creative, and actionable way. Join in to know what’s next at https://thinklab.design/join-in/

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Back-Painted Glass Is The Sleek Solution For Inspiring Spaces

Teal back-painted glass (Lacobel T) used as wall cladding for a pop of color. Photography courtesy of AGC North America.


Thanks to increasingly impressive technological developments, designers today have an astonishing array of surfaces to specify for their projects. From completely new materials, such as technological quartz, to ancient options that have been improved with modern tech, like glass, the variety can make a designer feel like a kid in a candy shop. Despite all this abundance of choice, a designer’s task still comes down to the same riddle for every project: what material will look the best and stand the test of time?

Back-painted glass is one such material that is extremely prevalent around the world, and is gaining in popularity in North America. It retains the sleek, modern appearance of glass while also enabling designers to insert fun pops of color and texture into their projects. Back-painted glass is equally at home in residential or commercial settings as wall coverings, tabletops, shelving, partitions, furniture, and doors.

In this Prague hotel, three different colors of back-painted glass (Lacobel) are combined for a bold, modern look. Photography courtesy of AGC Glass North America.

AGC Glass North America, the world’s largest glass company, recently unveiled four new back-painted glass products for the North American architectural market: Lacobel, Lacobel T, Matelac, and Matelac T. These products are not only aesthetically pleasing, but environmentally friendly, as well. They are produced using high-quality, low-VOC paints and are certified Cradle to Cradle Silver.

Back-painted glass (Matelac) can serve as a functional design element, such as these kitchen cupboards. Photography courtesy of AGC Glass North America.


The Lacobel T and Matelac T product lines are comprised of float glass that are back-painted and can be quickly and easily tempered to create a true enameled glass. They are both coated with a high-quality temperable paint that can result in either a glossy finish (Lacobel T) or an acid-etched satin finish (Matelac T). Each line comes in an attractive palette of 10 design-forward colors. Both Lacobel T and Matelac T are heat, UV, and shock resistant, making them suitable for indoor or outdoor applications.

A motif can also be applied to back-painted glass (Lacobel) which serves as the wrapping for a Prague airport refreshment kiosk. Its clean, contemporary lines make a statement in the busy terminal. Photography courtesy of AGC Glass North America.

AGC Glass North America also carries two interior-exclusive lines: Lacobel and Matelac. Similar to the aforementioned products, Lacobelis a float glass that features a glossy finish. Metalac is a float glass that has been acid-etched on one side, rendering a satin-like finish.

The differences between the tempered and non-tempered product lines comes down to the color and customization options. Lacobel and Matelac come in 20 trendsetting colors (of those 20, 14 are shared between the two lines). There is also an option for designers to specify a custom color for Lacobel or Matelac, which is ideal for someone working in the commercial sector.

Lacobel, Matelac, Lacobel T, and Matelac T are available for specification now.

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ICFF 2019 Highlights

Watch highlights from ICFF 2019 at Javits Center in Manhattan. We captured the latest in lighting, bath fixtures, furniture, and more. Video by James Eades and Steven Wilsey.

> Check out our coverage of the 2019 NYCxDESIGN Awards and ICFF party

> See our full coverage of NYCxDESIGN 2019

Continue reading ICFF 2019 Highlights

Friend or Foe? Why the Future of Design Depends on Strengthened Relationships Between Designers and Dealers

Throughout 2017, some of the brightest, most powerful minds in the contract interiors world came together with a common goal: to determine what’s broken with the contract furniture buying process and identify opportunities to fix it. We believe that with the rise in ancillary furniture (all the non-cubicle-based pieces), furniture has become one of the most time-consuming and least profitable pieces of an A&D firm’s business. If empowered and savvy about the A&D design process, dealers can be a key element to help alleviate challenges designers are facing in the new ancillary world. This assumes, of course, that all parties have an open mind to change or evolve historical processes.

One of the leading takeaways from this furniture forum was the notion of evolving the traditional furniture-bid process by bringing the dealer into the process earlier. In doing this, the dealer could be viewed as a subcontractor to the A&D firm, allowing the dealer/designer team to work together to weed through manufacturer-dealer alignments, appropriate aesthetic and price point balance, and manage lead times more efficiently.

But what we are seeing today is that this isn’t happening as often as it should. Generally speaking, A&D often fear that bringing the dealer in early will result in non-competitive pricing (perhaps due to the need to reconsider new pricing models). Additionally, past (negative) experiences with “misbehaving” sales reps leave some designers hesitant. How can we help eliminate this tension and improve the overall experience with the furniture piece of the process? A look at the history of how the furniture industry was built may help.

How the Industry Was Built

When we think about the traditional model of the furniture dealer, we recognize that it looks much like a pyramid:

The traditional dealer model. Image courtesy of ThinkLab.


Systems furniture (cubicles) typically are selected first, along with anything else that makes sense from a dealer’s primary aligned manufacturer relationship. At one time this represented, on average, 80 percent or more of the typical project order, which makes a lot of sense from a “simplifying logistics” standpoint, as well as by offering the ability to leverage bulk discounts.

In the middle, we find relationships with key partners. If products can’t be found from a “major” manufacturer, the dealer will go to a small group of other key (proven, trusted) manufacturers. At the very bottom of the triangle is the “other” bucket—the portion used to represent “all the other stuff” needed for a project.

This model makes sense. Consolidate purchases with fewer manufacturers to simplify the order process, obtain greater bulk discounts, and work with partners that are pre-vetted, proven and trusted.

Why The Traditional Model Changed

Yet the needs of the industry have shifted. Today, we are seeing a massive uptick in ancillary furniture as an overall percentage of the floorplate. In fact, our estimates suggest that while the typical project may have had 10-15 manufacturers on it, today, that number could have as much as doubled.

In this new world of ancillary, the design firm’s ability to curate an eclectic selection of products is their unique value add. As often the closest one to the client’s design intent and goals for the overall space, it makes sense. Because of this new model of design, the way designers approach product conceptually today varies significantly from the traditional dealer model we just discussed. Today’s unique designs often demand an eclectic blending of goods. So, almost the opposite of the foundational dealer model pyramid we previously discussed, A&D starts broad, narrows, and eventually gets to a selection. It is the conflict between these two (opposite facing) triangles today that causes confusion.

The traditional dealer model (left) vs. how A&D think (right). Image courtesy of ThinkLab.


This way of designer thinking evolved as the natural progression of design, perhaps due to a more informed consumer. Or Pinterest. Or more information available on the importance of design and its impacts on our wellbeing. But one thing is certain. To remain relevant and competitive in this ever-evolving atmosphere, we must figure out a way to work together toward a common goal; a better client experience. And to understand the core strengths and weaknesses of our counterparts and operation in lockstep to accomplish that goal. The atmosphere has evolved. Our relationships (and understanding of one another) can, too.

Where the Friction Lies

So why don’t designers simply bring the dealers in earlier? Let them give suggestions for these ancillary pieces that now are more prevalent in design? For many, the friction lies in a series of misunderstandings of the counterpart.

For starters, designers don’t want the spaces they design to look like (insert manufacturer name here) showrooms. And while this was a justifiable concern of the past, today, there are more options and partnerships than ever. Proof lies in the number of acquisitions we’ve seen over the past few years as manufacturers bolster their lines with new offerings. Steelcase’s acquisition of Orangeboxpartnership with West Elm, and relationship with Blu DotHerman Miller’s acquisition of Hay and alliance with FrameryHaworth’s partnership with Buzzispace; and Knoll’s acquisition of DatesWeiser Furniture Corporation, are just a few examples. But it’s not limited to the large manufacturers. Today, manufacturers of ALL sizes and proficiencies are increasing the well-designed options at a rising range of price points and improving service capabilities as well as specification and selection tools. As David Solomon, Managing Principal, Solomon Coyle, shared, “Today, most clients are looking for a defined look versus a specific product. Reputable dealers today can source that look through their existing portfolio of manufacturers.”

The sheer number of manufacturers each dealer works with is growing. While estimates previously suggested that the average contract dealer works with 200 manufacturers on an annual basis, that number now is assumed to be closer to 300, with some estimates putting it much higher. 

How to Evolve

Amidst all this misunderstanding, many A&D firms are left wondering, Are contract furniture dealers my ally or competition? And the answer isn’t always simple. We do see an opportunity for the rise of the dealer designer role as degree-holding designers not only understand the complexity of a project from the perspective of an A&D firm, but also have a passion for (and knowledge of) the details and complexities around furniture. Imagine the dealer as a (not-pushy), trusted source to help A&D firms navigate the complexity of furniture options in this new ancillary world within budget, appropriate lead-times, and on point design. 

ThinkLab frequently converses with both dealers and A&D firms, and we recognize that the opportunity to work even closer in partnership is promising. For example, if you ask a design firm what they hate about their job, more times than not, the answer will be lead times, logistical management, knowledge of substitutions, etc.—in other words, all the things that dealers (and dealer designers) excel at.

That said, here are some actionable solutions to move forward in this evolving world in which we live:

Take note of the shifting atmosphere.

Recognize that the business models are changing, and so are the ways of doing business. By removing assumptions about your counterpart (such as those surrounding the variety of product lines), you’ll open doors to wider sourcing opportunities.

Acknowledge that time is money. And quality service depends on it. 

Most projects today are quoted by the project instead of an hourly rate. This pricing structure, which affects both the dealer and the A&D firm, means profit is directly tied to efficiency. Solomon adds that, “From the service component of business, both sides of the house benefit when they learn to work efficiently together. In the end, the client gets better service and both A&D firm and dealer can achieve a healthier bottom line.”

Recognize the value of industry experts. 

Both the dealer and the A&D firm bring a different skillset to the table. Acknowledging the worth of each delivers value to the client.

On that note, Solomon leaves us with this, “If I want to design an acoustic studio, I might have a vision of what the space will look like, but I’ll hire an acoustical consultant to get the technical aspects correct. In design, both the A&D firm and the dealer serve as a consultant for their respective services. When A&D view dealers as the experts in sourcing furniture, and dealers view A&D as the authority on design, both parties can bring their best knowledge to the table for an enhanced customer experience.” 

As for the future of this relationship, ThinkLab is continuing the conversation with the launch of the Process Innovation Council. Designed to illuminate the underlying challenges of the industry by identifying actionable solutions, the council aims to strengthen ties to improve the future business process. For more information, please email us at info@thinklab.design.

Amanda Schneider is President of ThinkLab, the research division of Interior Design magazine. At ThinkLab, we combine Interior Design magazine’s incredible reach within the architecture and design community with proven market research techniques to uncover relevant trends and opportunities that connect back to brand and business goals in a thought-provoking, creative, and actionable way. Join in to know what’s next at https://thinklab.design/join-in/

Continue reading Friend or Foe? Why the Future of Design Depends on Strengthened Relationships Between Designers and Dealers

What Caught Our Eye at ICFF 2019: Pops of Orange and Curvy Shapes

Arched and rounded furniture at Phase Design

One color dominated this year’s International Contemporary Furniture Fair: Orange, in its many variations.

It’s visible in chairs, tables, carpets, shelving units and wallpaper. There were booth dividers that utilized the color to great effect; even the carpet at the entrance to the event utilized the color.


Dizzying in scope — there are more than 900 exhibitors across four days, located within the massive Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan — ICFF is one of the year’s biggest design events and the anchor of New York Design Week. Vendors come from all over the world to show their latest designs for furniture, hardware, plumbing, rugs and wallpaper.

Aside from shades of orange, another detail we noticed at ICFF this year: curves, in everything from furniture to lighting and accessories.

The wackier the better. We had a chance to sit in these chairs designed by Mojow, which used inflatable air-filled cushions on simple, modern frames of both wood and metal. They were sturdier and more comfortable than you’d imagine.


Along the same lines were these felt busts from Floquem, a brand from Mexico. The one above is called ‘Lil Marc,” who was “born and raised in the streets of Brooklyn.”

envy lee parker

One of our favorites at the show was the work of Eny Lee Parker, who works out of a studio in Bushwick. On display were tables, chairs and lights she designed that look like irregularly-shaped Ken Price sculptures that had been modified into playful furniture. The ceramic bases are unglazed, which gives them a rough edge.



Bushwick-based Souda made deconstructed furniture that nodded toward both tradition and progression. Pictured above are a pair of the Bluff Side Chairs, designed by Luft Tanaka.

sun at six

Sun at Six, a design studio located “on the border of Bed Stuy and Crown Heights,” according to Creative Director Antares Yee, uses classical Chinese joinery in their furniture. On display was the studio’s second collection, made in collaboration with artisans in Guangzhou, China.

grow house grow

Williamsburg-based designer Katie Deedy of Grow House Grow showed us some of their new tile and wallpaper designs. Inspired by Caravaggio and lightning bugs — among other influences — they feature ribbon-like patterns, florals, leaves and a strawberry print.

most modest

More orange could be found at Most Modest’s booth, which showed metal shelves and corrugated metal planters.

Ssen Studio

The fair had specialized sections dedicated to Dutch, Spanish and British designers. Some of our other favorites included sleek faucets and handles in many different finishes from longtime East New York maker Watermark, the handwoven pillows of Ssen Studio and sleekly minimal shelves from the Stille collection, designed by Standard Issue in Brooklyn and manufactured in Kalamazoo, Mich.

ssen studio

bend goods


flavor paper



Kast Concrete Basins

and light



flavor paper

[Photos by Susan De Vries unless otherwise noted]

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Continue reading What Caught Our Eye at ICFF 2019: Pops of Orange and Curvy Shapes


Fernando RodriguezFernando Rodriguez of Stewart Rodriguez and ASH Home shares his insights on best business practices for interior designers

Editor’s Note: Fernando Rodriguez, of Aaron Stewart Home (ASH) and Stewart Rodriguez is the newest blogger on Furniture, Lighting & Decor. Come along with him as he shares best practices for interior design businesses and home furnishings retail, sharing what he’s learned along his journey with partner Aaron Stewart. 

How It All Began

When we started our interior design business six years ago, I had no idea of the many competencies and skills it would require of me. Of course, there are the basic interior design skills we all have and acquire from design school or from personal experiences. But what about tenacity, resilience, persistence, analytical skills, organizational skills, management skills, selling skills to name a few.  

I wish I had a magic wand when we started to see the road ahead, or  someone to give me advice based on their own personal experience building a firm. The interior designer of 2019 is very different from the interior designer from 1960s or ‘70s. Why? Because our profession keeps evolving, progressing and growing. That is thrilling.  But it can also be daunting.

So Many Skills, So Little Time

It is impossible to be a master at so many skills, some more complex than others. In 2019, an entrepreneur requires a high level of discipline, vision and self-motivation.  Before Stewart Rodriguez was created, I lived in New York City and worked for a very well-known women’s fashion brand. One of the most valuable lessons I learned working for her was the importance of creating a “best in class” team and surrounding yourself with people who know more than you do. It is a humbling reality that we are not experts in every area of our business.

The ability to visualize a space or decide what furniture pieces go in a room might come naturally to you. How about managing the pressure we all feel about having the perfect Instagram board? I am always intrigued by how other designers manage their finances, a work day or the best way to manage a project from the inspiration boards to the installation.

How do you present and sell your services during a presentation to a prospective client? We are all not wired to be great speakers, yes you might be one of the lucky ones that can sell your passion for the project but what about the people that have a bit of anxiety presenting in front of big groups or board members? Are you charging enough for your services? I often wonder how other designers do it?  

Sometimes I wish I had a mentor or a colleague that I can reach out to for advice or direction. When I first spoke to Diane Falvey, Furniture, Lighting & Decor’s  Editor-in-Chief, about this blog, it was clear that there is an abundance of articles on trends, color stories and new product designers. But what about a place where we can all learn about the intricacies of the many business skills our jobs require. Our days are long, full of meetings with clients, and then there’s time spent visiting construction sites and calling vendors to get an estimated arrival time for a piece of furniture. Time is precious, and we don’t have too much left at the end of the day.  

Breaking Down Silos

Interior designers usually work in silos. That means people, teams or firms are working toward the same objective, often in close proximity, but not sharing information or addressing concerns about the challenges of others using your creative drive. This happens in every profession, but in ours it tends to be a big issue, especially in smaller markets.

I am always fascinated to learn how people stay on top of their game. How do you become successful at your craft?  How do you stay relevant? How do you keep learning and mastering all the diverse traits we need to succeed?

The objective of this blog is to share best practices and daily habits that have been helpful to me as a business owner.  After all, we all want to succeed and be the best we can be for our clients and our team. In this series, we will talk about different topics that are essential to the success of your business—from team management to the art of selling your services.

Feel free to send suggestions of topics you would like to read about in future blogs. My purpose is to create a safe platform to learn from each other and share as much as possible, because at the end of the day we all need mentors, industry friends, collaborators and experts to take you and your interior design business to the next level.

Fernando Rodriguez


How smart is your sofa?

The way technology is impacting the furniture industry and the manner in which we buy furniture

Until even a decade ago, no one thought AR-VR (augmented reality-virtual reality) would change the way the furniture business operated or the way we’d shop for a sofa.

“When our parents bought a bed that turned out to be too big for the room, they would probably arrange their lives around it,” says Ramakant Sharma, head of technology and operations and co-founder of Livspace, which offers end-to-end home interiors solutions. Livspace launched, what they claim is, the world’s first design automation platform, called Canvas. It allows home owners to design, decorate and furnish their homes virtually. “Today, consumers want to have good-looking homes. At the same time, there is a massive information asymmetry: if they are buying a piece of furniture at a particular price, they have no way of validating the price,” says Sharma.



Livspace solves this and other issues by allowing customers, who are assigned to a designer, to convey their ideas and have the designer realise their vision for them. The designer then uses the inbuilt software to take into account the right measurements of the space and choose items from the catalogue to design the home. This is done first in 2D, then in 3D, which is accessible on their website. Customers can walk into a virtual reality vision of their home (currently available at the Livspace centres in select cities including Bengaluru). Any changes can be incorporated.

The minute the customer places or changes an order, it goes all the way up to the factory and the warehouse. The time taken for delivery is a reflection of the product that takes the longest time to manufacture in the cart.

“The price point is a simple arithmetic summation of all the items used in the design. Technology is the key in the design tool. It plays three roles here, in customer relationship management, visualisation (which includes virtual reality and order tracking) and supply chain management. This way, the information asymmetry is also decreasing with time, as the customer knows why each item costs as much as it does,” says Sharma.

Urban Ladder is yet another tech-based furniture retailer which is taking on the challenge of integrating technology across four aspects: of customer experience, supply chain systems, visualisation through AR and VR and retail systems.

Look and feel

Urban Ladder began with their e-tail platform and application, and evolved to include AR. “We first built an app calling Living Spaces, which enabled customers to visualise sofas in their homes through AR. It allowed customers to understand how the sofa fits into the house and how it looks in their space, but not what it feels like. Obviously, tech has not solved the third question yet,” says Rajiv Srivatsa, co-founder.

The technology also allowed customers to change settings according to their preferences, with a 90% accuracy through AR. “Then in 2015, we expanded the technology to allow customers to see how wardrobes fit into their houses. And we have now taken the next big step, six months ago, by building a VR application in our physical stores that allows customers to experience, virtually, how a product would look in their home by simulating the space in the technology,” he says.

 Since VR is expected to take a few more years to become mainstream. Urban Ladder is hosting the device in their physical stores and the sofa is the first product they want to perfect. “But in the next few years, AR is going to become part of mobile phone technology, like it already is in the latest iPhone and Google Pixel variants. These phones can deduce the dimensions of physical places, so people can get a sense of how products fit into their homes, through their phones and through our app, which will be customised to AR,” says Srivatsa.

At the same time, they also plan to continue investing in applications that will optimise the supply chain and delivery side of things as well as data access for consultants. “This is hard to build because the entire ecosystem has to be aligned and built at one go. This means that there must not be loss of information between the designer and the consumer and the manufacturer,” says Sharma.

That’s why Livspace used a cloud-based system to align the ecosystem, cutting delivery time of the final product to just weeks. The technology is likely to be refined and deepened in the future, as design education seeks to impart more holistic insights into furniture design. Which is why it’s important to get design students on board with the idea.

Customers still like to touch and feel the furniture they are buying. “One of the projects that I ran in Srishti, which addressed the concept of online brands seeking to expand offline in order to offer a tactical experience, resulted in a unique idea. The student who came up with it suggested that brands could, instead of building a showroom, hire a few hotel suites curated by the brands, in order to offer the consumer a real-time experience,” explains Janak Mistry, design principal at the Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology.

 Because furniture is a high-cost venture, for both buyer and seller, the solution is to get everything right the first time. This is where technology helps, in ensuring the system is well connected, right from the visualisation to the supply-chain.

Technology in sustainable architecture

Architect Sampath Reddy, founder of Pop-Up Housing, and Program Manager, Built Environment at Selco Foundation, is currently working on micro-rack supported building using heavy-duty slotted angle frames and palette racks. Inspired by storage solutions in industrial warehouses, buildings as high as 20 floors can be built with this technology. Slotted angle frames can also be used to make everything fro mezzanine floors, modular units, furniture, and bunk beds.

These can then be combined with other materials such as wood or bamboo for the interiors. Sampath says he uses Google Maps extensively to look for underutilized spaces in the city where these housing solutions can be applied.

Sampath, who also works as a Program Manager, Built Environment at Selco Foundation, He is now working on using these new-age building materials for low-cost, sustainable construction, He is targeting the slums -dwelling communities and as well schools and health centres in rural areas, including medical centres, which and medical centres who need portable housing. Furniture is integrated into the construction.

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Continue reading How smart is your sofa?

A French Interior Designer Tries His Hand at Furniture

The renowned French interior designer Pierre Yovanovitch has launched his debut furniture collection and opened his first public exhibition in the United States under the name “Oops,” of all monikers. He explains that word was his response when the R & Company gallery in TriBeCa, asked him to temporarily take over their space this fall (in French, “oops” often expresses surprise or being caught off guard). “The idea had been to create an installation using the furniture there and maybe some of my pieces,” Yovanovitch says. “But it became mostly my furniture — made especially for this. And, in the process, I realized you say ‘oops’ a lot of times during the day.”

His atelier’s one-of-a-kind works are also whimsically titled. There’s the walnut-framed, low and boxy Woody chair, after Woody Allen (“for French people, he’s very New York,” Yovanovitch remarks); the handcast blown-glass Zou chandelier (“zou” is a slangy French term for “go”); the James and Marsha floor lamps, named for the president and first lady in the film “Mars Attacks!”; a circular Donut bench put together without any nails or glue; and the designer’s signature Bear Armchairs — in Papa, Mama and Baby sizes, rendered in sheepskin and oak for this occasion.

“In doing a show, there’s more freedom — and it’s energizing for me to be free,” Yovanovitch says. “It’s different from designing a home, where clients have to live year-round in what I do. This isn’t permanent, it’s lighter, and people have to easily understand it because I’m not well-known here, like I am in Paris.” Although that stands to change: Yovanovitch plans to set up an NYC office later this year.

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