Meredith Vyn, Design Market Manager of Michigan for Haworth, and Erica Kimber, Director of Design for Airea, a premium Haworth dealer in Detroit, sit down with me to discuss the ins-and-outs of the furniture industry: what they think the future holds, and why it is so important to start engaging future emerging professionals now more than ever.
Announced this past Fall, LTU’s Interior Architecture program teamed up with these two powerhouses to run an industry-sponsored studio. The project? A collection of design proposals for a 4,500 sq. ft office suite for Buildtech Ltd in one of Detroit’s most stunning buildings, The Farwell of Capital Park. Developed by Capital Park Partnership and Karp + Associates, it’s the only building in the city to boast a lobby designed by Louis Tiffany (of the famed Tiffany Glass).
Christopher Stefani: We know the basic information on Haworth + Airea, and your roles in the furniture industry, but what don’t we know?
Meredith Vyn: The furniture industry provides way more than furniture, in fact we are considered the leading research body when it comes to the design industry. We do about 80% of it. Designers often find themselves needing metrics on particular vertical markets – what the latest trends are, how can I help my client’s ROI, how is distraction affecting the productivity, what does the office of the future look like etc. and we can help them with that. We can really engage at the onset with our partners and share resources for the most desirable outcome.
EK: Which I can say Haworth does a really great job at doing. They continue to share the research, statistics, and interactive tools designed to aid us in helping clients discover their organization’s business objectives in the framework of their work environments. These factors play a heavy hand in recognizing the scale of importance for their identified objectives such as; Human, Organizational, and Facility Performances. For us it is more than just furniture sales – but an enhancement of a work environment to improve the way in which we work.
CS: What’s missing from the industry?
MV: What’s missing? Time. Time is always working against us. Today is the first time I can remember where design really matters, or at least organizations are deciding they have to change in order to attract and retain new talent. It’s an exciting time for designers with a lot of opportunity to create change.
However, many organizations never allow themselves enough time in the design process to really understand the vital impacts that good, thoughtful design can have on their employees. The financial gain far exceeds the cost for the extra time spent, so why don’t organizations put a higher value on what is good for their people?
I heard a young co-worker once say when we toured a very large and very antiquated space, “No matter how much they paid me, I would never work in a place like this,” and I think that speaks volumes.
EK: Amen! Everyone needs everything yesterday and we need to take our time to work through the minutia in order to ensure we are solving problems and providing workspaces that positively affects human behavior. The functionality of space needs to support their business needs and help shape their work environments.
CS: Haworth – via Airea – decided to sponsor LTU’s Interior Architecture studio this year. Why? What value do you find in embedding yourself in academia?
EK: I personally remember being a student at CCS and learning how different of an experience it was to work on a sponsored project versus a class studio project. It instantly opened me up to the industry as well as the real world of opportunity. With that, I will encourage and support it to any Interior and/or architecture student because of how eye opening it was.
There was also a level for me back then of not fully understanding the importance that dealers play in the furniture manufacturing role. Having an experience such as a sponsored project, educated me in a number of ways—human factors, specifications, and real life design challenges, just to name a few.
MV: Haworth saw an amazing opportunity to engage with our dealer to support design education. It is interesting to see the talent that is out there and what students are thinking about. To be part of that process is truly a gift. We believe creating brand awareness in academia starts a dialogue that will continue to grow as their careers grow and we can support the students becoming successful when working with furniture.
CS: What are you looking for in future candidates entering into this industry [Interiors / FFE]?
MV: Can I be selfish for a moment? What I would like to see is more critical thinking, less Pinterest. Oh! And barn wood! It would be great to see more candidates that can answer the why behind the solution.
CS: What trends do you see emerging?
MV: I was once told “what is not trending” from our Head of Ideation. That sort of stuck with me. Try and think beyond the trends and you might discover something new. That will become the next trend, right?
One trend that’s compelling is the open office concept of moving to higher partitions, more barriers—offices. People do need to focus, have down time, recalibrate and get work done. It’s not a brush stroke across an organization, but people have treated open office like one office. And it’s failing. People are failing doing their minds’ best work because the space does not support their needs.
EK: There is this back and forth cadence from high partitions, to open office, back to high partitions like Meredith has mentioned. I think that next level, or innovation—if you will—is what will constantly surpass these ever-changing trends.
With that said, it does appear that flexibility of space is a consistent request. The concept of being multifunctional in a time where the real estate footprints are shrinking is advantageous. Being able to host different types of meetings in a room that can be reconfigured four or five different ways is highly desirable and extremely practical.
CS: What is the most exciting aspect of this partnership—Haworth / Airea + LTU—for you? What is your desired outcome?
EK: Participating in the educational growth of these students by helping them process and generate new ideas is an instant achievement. But also providing them with the tools and knowledge necessary to be successful in their future careers is an extraordinary thing to be a part of.
MV: Great question! If we can walk away knowing we helped them think about human behavior and the importance space has on our lives, it’s a victory.