West Elm Workspace’s Retail Advantage

The workplace design pioneers who are featuring products that blur the lines between work and home.

WDM recently spoke with Cheryl Carpenter, vice president of West Elm Workspace, an early adopters of providing products that meet the changing needs of workplace designMany companies today are adopting flexible spaces and schedules, as more people are able to work anytime, and anywhere. Companies have realized that it’s equally important to have a physical space where people have the option to work together. This is where West Elm Workspace found their niche.

The company was actually created out of the immediate need to furnish West Elm’s corporate offices when they took new space in Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood in 2016. The office is in a restored 1880’s era, former coffee roasting facility, which emphasizes the company’s innovative and unique designs. Cheryl and her team at West Elm Workspace have continued to seek out design resources that give their brand its distinctive vibe, with considerable attention to materials and details that differentiate their product line from more traditional contract resources.

west elm office
West Elm’s corporate office is housed in a historical, re-purposed industrial building in Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood. Photo by Garrett Rowland.

How has West Elm utilized the crossover from their retail offerings?

While the design aesthetic is complementary to the traditional West Elm products, the contract line meets BIFMA standards, has extended warranties, and designed to meet the demands of product that is to be installed in more commercial spaces. The cross-over happens with the insertion of additional retail product to round out the overall look and feel of the areas where the ‘Workspace’ product is installed. The critical feature is the flexibility of the product line to meet multiple needs within a workplace setting. Cheryl mentioned that this comes from their experience as a residential brand and deeper understanding and connection with their retail customer base.

Which items are most popular?

The industrial collection gets the most attention from designers. That product runs contrary to more traditional office furniture designs, seems to be what resonates most with their customers. Building on that product line, they are adding more design elements, finish options and other details that provide more opportunities in price points. Other products moving out the door include the Conover Sectional and the Slope Guest Chair.

Conover sectional
The Conover sectional is specified for more informal work area settings. Photo courtesy of West Elm Workspace.

As a relatively new line, and product offering, West Elm has been focusing on how to best cross the boundaries of contract and residential lines – they work hard to help their dealers build their business and customize marketing material to work in the A&D market. They wanted to ensure that the brand and the aesthetics would not be lost in translation and lose the original look and feel of West Elm.

activity based workspace
The design aesthetic in West Elm’s corporate office emphasizes the activity-based work concept. Photo by Garrett Rowland.

What’s Next?

Thinking about the future and looking ahead to what may be coming down the line we asked Cheryl to speculate on what she thought the next wave of workspace evolution might look like and how that would inform their design development efforts. Expect that West Elm will be presenting new products that will be used in projects with a focus on well-being and employee engagement. Products that work well in activity-based settings are also on the horizon. Research on acoustics and lighting is being conducted as these elements are becoming increasingly important. West Elm believes that the workspaces of the future will transform into not just a place to get the job done, but will also become a space that promotes physical, emotional, and psychological well-being.

What does West Elm Workspace plan to introduce at NeoCon?

We were curious to find out what the plans were for Neocon 2018 but will have to wait as the new designs are revealed closer to the event. We’re looking forward to seeing their new, more extensive showroom that will feature an expanded textile line (in partnership with DesignTex), and a more robust offering of occasional, and meeting tables. West Elm is also continuing their product design partnership with Gensler.

We expect West Elm Workspace to continue the exploration of using more natural materials and incorporation of residential style elements into the Workspace offerings. Photo by Garrett Rowland.

Innovation in workplace design is where West Elm is looking to be a leader in pushing the envelope in new design direction. By exploring the use of materials and interpreting new ways of working they are looking to provide products that will work in multiple settings as designers work to support how companies are looking to alter and improve the spaces they provide for their employees.


Article published in cooperation with West Elm.

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