At the hay booth at Orgatec, an almost incognito Konstantin Grcic picked up a chair from atop a table, turned it over to check out its construction and pushed on its flexible back. It wasn’t his own model the German designer was testing but part of Erwan and Ronan Bouroullec’s Copenhague collection of classroom and office furniture. “It’s nice, he remarked. “I just didn’t want to sit on it and break the prototype.”
One great designer (who also debuted a smart-looking classroom chair, the Pro for Flötotto) admiring the work of others seemed to embody what this all-encompassing, biennial contract furniture fair is all about: innovation and inspiration. At the enormous and exhilarating Vitra stand, groups of showgoers wearing headsets followed along as company reps described the latest products, and men in suits made phone calls at desks concealed behind sound-absorbing Workbays, another standout product by the Bouroullec brothers. The main thrust at Vitra was intimate nooks, whether in supersized versions, such as the giant enclosures used as display cases for the brand’s accessories; or in miniature ones, like Antonio Citterio’s latest iteration of task chairs with all manner of felted hoods. The idea that the workplace could provide a respite from work itself was also expressed at Carpet Concept’s New Silence exhibit, where you could don a pair of headphones and listen to waves crashing against a shore. At Haworth, three women crowded into the CalmSpace sleep capsule, to experience its soothing light and sound emanations.
These privacy-boosting systems were conveyed in vibrant colours, as were many new seating options. Walter Knoll and Tecno had perhaps the most beautiful seats on offer: the former’s curvaceous Seating Stones, and the latter’s low-slung Archipelago.
Many idiosyncratic systems were also on display, from Prooff’s SideSeat, by Studio Makkink & Bey, to Unifor’s retro writing stations by Fernando Urquijo and the ultra-minimal LessLess by Jean Nouvel. Clearly, manufacturers of high-end design are focusing on ways to make the office a pleasure.
Simon Pengelly cooked up Dim Sum for Montis, in the form of a rocking chair for modern contract spaces. Padded in polyurethane foam, with walnut or oak runners, it comes clad in leather or fabric.
Tecno presented vibrant seating and an update of its Beta desk system. The latter’s main element is a 120-centimetre-long backbone module that doubles as storage. When plugged into it, work surfaces, screens and accessories create multiple configurations.
Taking privacy out of the box, BuzziSpace and Couvreur.Devos launched BuzziWings, felt partitions suspended from the ceiling – with an integrated light source – that frame work or casual areas.
Jehs + Laub designed the A chair for Brunner with the ability to mix and match its material components: a frame in die-cast aluminum or plastic and a wooden shell.
The undeniable star at the Hay stand was the Bouroullecs’ Copenhague collection of tables and chairs, originally designed for the University of Copenhagen. Supported by a trestle frame, the wooden pieces are flexible and elegant.
Designer Robert Bronwasser came up with the Pillow wall panel for Cascando. Available in a multitude of colours, it’s both decorative and versatile, as a sound-dampening
device, a magazine rack or a garment hanger.
UNStudio continues to devise surprising designs for Walter Knoll. The latest: the shapely Seating Stones, made with a steel frame and polyurethane foam, upholstered in vibrant duotone fabrics suggestive of Incan textiles.
U-Turn, a charming lamp by Michel Charlot for Belux, has a magnetic die-cast aluminum LED head, which enables you to position the light directly or indirectly. Available in pendant, tabletop and clip-on versions.
Wilkhahn’s handsome Graph conference chair, designed by Jehs + Laub and launched in early 2012, now has a matching table. It features cast aluminum legs, and a veneered MDF top in 10‑millimetre-thick reinforced glass.
Part of Kinnasand’s exuberant Unfold 2013 collection, Dragon unfurls a multi-tone digital print on Trevira. Meant for contract environments, the drapery is best suited for daring spaces.
With LessLess, Jean Nouvel updates a desk and storage system he created for Fondation Cartier in 1994. Manufactured by Unifor, the current series includes new storage towers, and finishes in anodized aluminum.
A witty Dutch take on the classroom desk and seat combo, SideSeat, by Studio Makkink & Bey for Prooff, integrates a desk, a cupboard, and a spring-loaded seat that adjusts to individual body weight.
Züco, part of Dauphin’s HumanDesign Group, devised Cocone as an “oasis of well-being.” Defined by a curved one-piece wooden shell, it’s available in one-, two- or three-seaters, with an optional built-in lamp.
Under its Workspirit banner, Vitra rolled out a number of new ideas. The most prominent, the intimate Workbay meeting space, comes in two heights and several work surface and seating combinations.
A box module forms the namesake structure of Framework 2.0, by Fantoni. A built-in desk extends from this unit, which can be left open or fitted with storage compartments. The components are made of recycled chipboard.
Haworth takes the trend of the private nook to its logical extreme with CalmSpace. This sleep capsule, outfitted with a slim foam mattress, can be programmed with a sound and light show that runs for a 10- to 20‑minute power nap.
Liquid Lounge, by Studio Cibidi for Castelli, shows another approach to private seating. The modular system includes a range of accessories, from occasional tables to lighting integrated into the backrest.
In a range of shapes and sizes, the tabletops of Fly, by Lievore Altherr Molina for Sellex, seem light as air and incredibly versatile. They are made with injection-moulded aluminum legs and MDF tops.
LaPalma presented Link, a new chair in curved wood, by Hee Welling. The seat, with legs or a swivel base, comes in ash, blanched oak or Canaletto walnut, and in white and black stains.
The sinuous Pro, by Konstantin Grcic for Flötotto, represents the latest evolution of the classroom chair. Grcic emphasizes the flexibility of his plastic chair, with its round seat, slim backrest and multiple base options.