Clerkenwell Design Week 2018 review: Solving the modern workspace conundrum

posted on Tuesday, 29th May 2018 by Geny Caloisi

Workspace  Verco  Steelcase  Creatif 

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Interior, fabrics and furniture designers and manufacturers recently descended on Clerkenwell Design Week (CDW) for inspiration and networking opportunities. This year the independent annual design festival was celebrating its 9th edition. 

According to event organisers, Clerkenwell has become home to more creative businesses and architects per square mile than anywhere else on the planet, making it one of the most important design hubs in the world. We're not arguing. Inside ID has been a regular visitor, and every year we witness fresh innovations.

During CDW the triangle between the London tube stations of Farringdon, Barbican and Angel is dotted with exciting new ideas for home and office design. Over 90 resident design showrooms and pop-ups offered a stimulating programme of events including talks, workshops, parties and product launches. 

Silq

This year we focused our attention on workspace furniture, styles and trends. In the last 15 to 20 years the world of work has changed a lot. We have gone from one chair, one desk, one worker, to hot desking, moving from space to space, working on the road, and remote working. Offices need to offer a new ecosystem of solutions and areas so that whoever is working, training or having a meeting could find the right space at the right time for the right occasion. 

First up was Steelcase’s showroom in Farringdon Road. The company started designing metal office furniture in 1912 in Michigan, USA. Its first patent was for the manufacturing process developed to make a sturdy, durable, low-cost fireproof wastebasket – a significant innovation at that time.

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For the CDW, Steelcase was introducing its re-invention of the office chair: SLIQ (pictured above). Ergonomically design to move with the user, the chair only has one adjustment, the height.

To the naked eye it might just look like an ordinary seat with a beautiful sleek design, but once you come in contact with SILQ you know it is a category apart. Steelcase’s James Ludwig, Vice President, Global Design & Engineering worked with his creative team for two years to develop this chair design using high-performance polymer material that emulates the qualities of carbon fibre.

Carbon fibre provides a combination of lightness and stiffness that makes it ideal for aircraft, bikes and cars, but it has a very high price tag. Steelcase innovative team create a polymer material that matches the qualities at a more accessible price.

The design of the chair also took inspiration from Paralympic athlete’s prosthetic legs and how they can adapt to the movement of the sportsperson and provide almost superhuman performance.

The third critical element of this chair is the interior design adaptability. The range of fabrics it can be upholstered with is vast. 

Steelcase says that SILQ is a chair that behaves more like an organism than a machine – a new archetype in office seating. Retail priced at US$ 970, it’ll be available in Europe by the end of the summer.

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Next stop for Inside ID was Verco. Also founded in 1912, Verco is a proper British manufacturing company based in High Wycombe. We talked to Jonathan Rowe (pictured above), area sales manager who has been working with the company just for over a year. He proudly showed us the company’s full range of office furniture and highlighted the fact that Verco is a family-owned company.

Verco started with William Vere, a craftsman chair maker who made the classic Windsor chairs. His grandson, Derek Vere is the current MD of the company.  After Verco created great designs for the residential market all through the wars; Derek and his brother Roger lead Verco into the office furniture realm in the 60s.

Office chairs are still being designed with the best comfort for the user in mind, but the company has expanded into luxurious conference tables and sofas solutions that wouldn’t be out of place in a home environment. The combination of orange and chocolate brown on this settee and single chairs created a warrm inviting feeling.

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Following the trend of creating cocoon spaces for office workers to have some sound insulation, Verco has a few padded back sofa solutions, such as the Brix-up and the Jensen-shelter or full-on seclusion with the Jensen Hut.

The master boardroom-meeting table with chevron wood pattern is exquisite. Verco cares about the details. As the table design goes from a lighter wood tone into a darker one, so do its legs. In the middle, under baby pink cut outs all, you might need to connect your computer or projector.

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The last company we visited that had an attractive proposition was Creatif, whose tagline is ‘shaping perfect spaces’. In a phrase, Creatif makes flexible acoustic solution. From panels hidden behind pictures or art to sound (pictured below); insulating bookcases and hermetic booths.

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The products include: moving walls, which is the ‘Adaptif’ product family; booths on the ‘Acoustif’ product range, ‘Seclusif’ is the acoustic rooms; and ‘Effectif’ office furniture (with a twist, including hanging baskets chairs and fur bean bags - leading picture).

Clerkenwell Design Week always provides a stage for leading UK and international designers and brands across the board. It's clear that design concepts for new working spaces and what can be considered comfort and wellbeing at work have shifted significantly. It's thrilling to see furniture design adapting to today’s reality.

Geny Caloisi

Geny Caloisi is a technology and interiors journalist who has worked across a variety of industry publications.

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