Whether you are opening your first office or you’re an established business, one thing remains a constant in your workflow – office furniture. For many office workers, the things we set our computers atop, the seats we put our butts in, the conference tables we gather around…are all things we tend not to think twice about. These things have always been there, and we assume they always will be. Furniture is a concrete part of what makes an office an office. What many workers are not exposed to are the complexities of the office furniture buying process.
Here we’ll give simplified answers and abridged explanations of several components that make up the office furniture buying process, which includes:
- Defining contract furniture
- Purchasing: Working with a furniture dealer
- Design process
Defining Contract Furniture
We all know what contracts are, but how did the terms contract and furniture enter the same phrase? Well, this answer tends to be a little ambiguous, so we’ll go ahead and simplify: the words “contract” and “commercial” are used interchangeably in the context of office furniture. An aspect of what differentiates contract/commercial office furniture from office furniture you’d buy from a department store, lies in the transaction process. You can purchase with the help of a commercial furniture dealer, or buy from a retailer. When you go to your big box office supply store, you may find a conference room chair you can purchase on the spot – but what you see is what you get, and commercial-grade quality isn’t always a guarantee. When dealing with commercial furniture through a dealer, you are presented with many customizable options in the way of configuration of that conference room chair; such as fixed versus adjustable arms, colors, base types, etc. You’re in full control of the details, and manufacturer warranties are unparalleled. A couple big things to note are that this customization, along with higher quality standards, can come with a wide range of costs and timelines. Utilizing individuals well-versed in all this will make a world of a difference for your experience.
Purchasing: Working With A Furniture Dealer
Working with a furniture dealer will help in properly setting your expectations for each step of the office furniture buying process. Setting proper expectations is crucial, as lead times for new office furniture can reach upwards of 12 weeks, and costs are oftentimes ambivalent. That being said, it is never too early to begin this buying process. Let’s repeat that, shall we? It is never too early to begin this buying process. Before your order can be placed, there are a number of things that need to happen and several things that need establishing; namely, budget and timeline. Your furniture dealer will want to have an open discussion to establish a budget for your purchase. This conversation will inevitably lead to deeper questions, as expectations you have of what commercial furniture costs can be blighted by actual costs. Most furniture dealers are acquainted with this scenario and are prepared to make sense of this newfound information. Your projected “butts in seats” date will have great impact on what types of furniture (and finishes) you are able to include as options in order to meet your move-in deadline. Once these two pieces are confirmed, your furniture dealer may ask for a CAD file of your office, which is important to understand the space’s exact dimensions against what types of furniture will appropriately fit. This will also aid in narrowing down the furniture you’ll need to accommodate the functionality of each area within your office. Sometimes you may find your furniture dealer will want to review the CAD file with you first; to go through each space and discuss what will be put in each area, which will then allow them to give you approximation ranges for the kinds of costs you can expect to budget for. This then leads us into the design process.
That 12 week lead time mentioned in the section above…is a manufacturer lead time. Meaning that’s how long the furniture takes to be made, shipped, and received. The design process leading up to the furniture being made takes additional time. This process can move quickly or take a slower pace; it’s all dependent on how decisive the decision-makers are during this phase. Red or blue fabric? Dark or light laminate? Casters or no casters? Integrated technology/cable management? Height adjustable or not? Two or three drawers? Think about the design process as if you are eating at a restaurant for the first time. You’ll peruse the menu as a whole, narrow your choice down by what sticks out in each section, narrow that choice down based on what you think will be best, then you’ll decide and place that order with your server. Now imagine you’re looking to get a new office set up for an employee. You’ll need a desk or workstation, a chair, and maybe some sort of storage piece. Remember how you perused that restaurant’s menu and gradually narrowed down your options until finally selecting what you wanted? Well, you’ll have many more options to narrow down between that desk, chair, and storage unit…which brings us back to the point made in the previous section of this article – It is never too early to begin this buying process. Once your budget is established, you’ll select your office furniture, work through configurations of the furniture, select colors, fabrics and finishes for each piece, and ensure you stay on top of your budget and timeline. This part of the furniture buying process is the tedious, detail-oriented part. So have a little fun and be excited about bringing your office vision to life!
Let Us Help Create Your Space
If you’re coming up on the end of your current lease, already working with a broker to scope your next office, want to reconfigure your current space, or just want to know more about how the office furniture buying process works, reach out to us here at Interior Solutions. From space planning through to installation, we’re here to guide and support your decisions in creating your space. To speak with someone at our offices in Salt Lake City or Phoenix, click here.