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Home office builds on adaptable pieces

Heath E. Combs -- Furniture Today, August 13, 2013

This Four Hands IrondaleThis Four Hands Irondale bookcase is a good example of a stylish crossover piece. It offers functional storage for books and a surface extended by 12 inches that helps it serve as a desk.
LAS VEGAS - Home office can be tricky these days.
     Suppliers here reported that success in the category depended on offering a versatile mix of pieces with either function, fashion or size to help them adapt to rooms not designated solely for a home office.
     Anna Ogden Coots, creative director at Four Hands, said the idea of home office is becoming less rigid - sideboards and sofa tables are being merchandised or used as desks.
     Take the company's popular Irondale bookcase. The piece has a 12-inch-long extension on one shelf that allows it to serve double duty as a home office piece.
     Ogden Coots said Four Hands began noticing office picking up about five years ago and started to address it with an open-minded approach. At the Las Vegas Market, she said, the company's mix of contemporary styles allowed retailers to see how it can be shown in unexpected ways.
     "We're trying to appeal to the less conventional side. People want something less predictable," she said.
     She added that Four Hands has about 50 office items in its line, most of which are crossover SKUs that can have other uses besides just a desk.
     Business was good here, she said, adding that Four Hands continues to get requests from retailers to develop lifestyle galleries based on the look and feel of the its showroom at market - down to the music playing.
     Companies like Classic Home were responding at market to the need for stylish multifunctional office pieces. Robert Soussana, vice president of furniture design, pointed to a long narrow dining table that he said can lose the dining chairs, pick up a big funky chair and become a home office piece.
     Or a curio can become a bookcase - making a statement in a room, he said.
     "It's not what you'd expect in home office, but it's more a reflection of yourself than a predetermined idea," Soussana said. "Making home office into what it could be is up to the individual."
     In the category, finishes including dry rub, lime wash, rustic pine and aged oak have done well recently at retail, Soussana said.
     Classic Home officials reported a busy market. The company also reports continued success with a 3,000- square-foot lifestyle boutique concept for retailers. The boutique aims to give retailers an easy grasp of how to show in stock goods. Dealers can order sidewalls to help separate the displays, Soussana said.
     Twin-Star's Tresanti line scored a hit with a concept inspired by the Murphy bed - the classic bed that folds up into a wall to add more space to a room. The Murphy desk has an upper door on pistons that eases down to make a desk.
     A hidden drawer and built-in power strip sit behind the pull-down door, creating added storage. The piece comes with two three-prong outlets and two USB charging ports. Its bottom storage cabinet features a slide-out shelf for printers and a file drawer with metal rack.
     The front scale of the piece is narrow and its silhouette is reminiscent of a home entertainment pier.
     Retailers were looking for multi-functional space-saving pieces like the Murphy, officials said. The unconventional desk got the best response, according to Brian Brigham, Twin-Star's director of marketing and public relations.
     Brigham added that another popular feature in home office pieces was the melamine top, many of which are now so realistic that they are sometimes mistaken for real wood.
     Walker Edison reported success here with drop-shippable goods, especially in the rustic reclaimed wood style. The style translates well to online consumers since it offers a fresh look at a promotional price point, according to Lance Ferguson, eastern regional sales manager.
     Walker Edison showed about five new home office pieces to help refresh its offerings in the category, Ferguson said. The company continued to have success reaching retailers wanting to enter online sales and who need suppliers with a breadth of experience in the category.

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