WDM spoke with founder Lindsay Braun about the launch of Emblem, a company out to bring the online retail experience to the contract industry.
In the weeks post-NeoCon people are taking time to unwind and recharge after all the preparation, travel, long days of meetings and show exhaustion. As summer sets in, the vibe is slower and more relaxed. That may be true for many, but Emblem founder and CEO, Lindsay Braun has been in accelerated activity mode preparing for this week’s launch.
Designed to be different, Emblem is a digitally native, eCommerce contract furniture company. Emblem sells commercial-grade lounge furniture online, directly to business owners and design professionals. The launch collection includes 17 seating designs in seven velvet colorways and four metal finishes. All options ship out of California with an impressive three-week lead-time. We asked Lindsay our typical product profile questions, which she answered not only with the facts, but with the genuine enthusiasm and creativity she brings to her addition to the contract furniture industry.
Tell us about Emblem. Why did you decide to launch this company?
During the past few years, I noticed an increase in clients and designers shopping online for soft seating for commercial spaces. The contract furniture acquisition process has always been complicated, but it feels even more so now that the rest of our shopping and buying habits have evolved. And there are very few good options for buying contract furniture online. My previous business was focused on custom furniture design and manufacturing, so I saw all the levels of frustration firsthand. Sometimes we’d receive calls from a client asking about a timeline for completion on a project, but we hadn’t even received the purchase order yet. We felt helpless in our efforts to solve the problems that would pop up.
In 2017, CBRE and Contract Consulting Group (now ThinkLab) published findings from a yearlong study of the contract furniture acquisition process and that was a major moment for me. The CBRE Furniture Forum defined the same pain points that so many of my colleagues and clients had been discussing. These pain points included that pricing is confusing, the process is complicated and time-consuming, there is a general lack of communication between parties, an overwhelming number of options, and that clients don’t feel educated or empowered to make good decisions.
So, I started working on a new kind of company that could address these issues. I wanted to bring the ease of online shopping to the contract furniture acquisition process. And I wanted to offer furniture designs that addressed the new ways of working.
Life is too short to spend all your time worrying about furniture. I hope Emblem gives business owners and designers an option that inspires creativity, fuels growth, and causes zero headaches.
How will the product impact workplace design?
Inspiring workplaces need to be more attainable for companies of all sizes. Today, designers and businesses that want to source lounge seating for commercial spaces really have just two choices: contract furniture from a dealership or residential retail furniture. After working in the contract industry for over a decade, I wasn’t satisfied with either of these options.
Commercial design is changing so rapidly and more businesses than ever before are seeking collaborative, warm, home-like environments. Desks are no longer the star of the show. There is an enormous demand for soft seating.
Emblem removes the barriers between businesses and commercial-grade lounge furniture. I hope we can empower more businesses and designers to create beautiful, inviting, creative commercial spaces with a focus on soft seating.
Does the product contribute to how people want to work today in more flexible space?
Forward-thinking businesses of all sizes are exploring work-from-home hybrid models for their employees and testing “homing from work” designs that encourage a more casual approach to office hours. Because the focus is no longer just to provide desk space from 9 to 5, more professionals are looking to create collaborative, comfortable, experiential spaces that elevate brands and inspire employees.
I hope to help more businesses achieve this goal by making it easy to purchase furniture that will not only last in a busy high-use environment, but that will also inspire, motivate, and connect the people working around it.
Can you tell a story or give an example of how this product can be used in a project?
Emblem is a good fit for a larger workplace project that needs lounge pieces fast, or for a smaller project where the team isn’t engaged in the dealership model at all.
Before Emblem launched, I crossed paths with a business owner in New York who was about to open a new coworking café model. She was working with an interior designer on her new space, and they were both scouring the internet for furniture ideas. She only had a vague idea of what a dealership was. I told her the kind of company I was building, and she immediately bought a set of Bend Chairs for her lobby. Today, she says they are the most popular spot in her space.
This is exciting to me because that business owner felt empowered to make a confident design decision. One that has proven to be very successful for her.
What about the design team?
Emblems’ introductory line was designed as a collaboration between myself and my husband, Jeffrey Braun. Jeffrey is a uniquely talented furniture designer who is especially adept at capturing a residential aesthetic within a commercial-grade framework. If we are not with our two kids, Jeffrey and I are constantly talking furniture.
More than just eye candy, we both believe carefully designed soft seating is the key to successful collaborative work environments.
What was the inspiration for the design of this product?
We kept a close eye on residential furniture designs coming out of Europe. There’s a clean, Bauhaus-inspired undercurrent in much of our work, but it’s softened. We love to see interesting curves in seating designs. Curves are more interesting to the eye and more inviting than cold, sharp angles. Our designs have more residential “warmth” than most of the existing contract furniture on the market today.
What innovations in use of materials or fabrication are utilized in the manufacture of this product ?
We build all our furniture in California and we build each piece in three weeks or less. Our goal was to offer a balance between quick timeline and focused custom options. We will be adding other textiles to the current line of stocked velvet, but all selections will be over 100,000 double rubs and meet guidelines from the Association of Contract Textiles for high-use environments. We also offer a COM option through our trade program.
Where do you think the installation of this product will be most effective?
Emblem’s furniture is ideal in busy workplace environments, but it’s also the perfect fit for lobbies, cafes, and boutique hotels. We’ve also had interest from smaller niche businesses like event planning companies and photography studios that need durable furniture. There are so many audiences for commercial-grade furniture that have been historically under-served by the contract furniture industry.
As not only the owner, but as a designer with your husband Jeffrey, the products are very personal. Any favorites?
It’s difficult to pick my favorite design from our line, but I love the curved metal work of our Bend Sofa! The radiuses of each curve in the metal and the upholstered frame mimic and complement one another other.
I’m also a huge fan of our Shell Chair. When our team finished prototyping this design, Jeffrey felt it captured the natural complexity of a seashell and I instantly thought it looked like a spacecraft ready for launch. I love that we both experience the design differently and that it somehow captures both viewpoints.
When will the product be available?
We just launched and are fulfilling orders now. All our products ship three weeks after online order placement.
What is the expected cost of the product?
Our pricing model is quick, easy and transparent. The prices are all displayed online and we have a trade program that offers a small discount.
Lounge chairs range from $1500-$2200 while love seats and sofas cost between $1900-$2995. Shipping and delivery options include flat-rate curbside shipping or white glove delivery, and we include a five-year commercial warranty.
Anything else about the product we ought to know?
Emblem is designed and built for business. That doesn’t just mean it’s durable. Everything from the frame, foam and textiles to the seat depths and arm heights were thoughtfully chosen for commercial use.
This year at NeoCon I sat in some beautiful pieces of furniture that I practically fell out of while trying to stand back up! Some of the chairs being shown by established contract furniture companies were so low that a professional woman wearing a pencil skirt and heels would not have been able to sit in them.
Because Emblem is offering furniture to businesses that may or may not have the assistance of an interior designer, I feel it’s our obligation to sell furniture that does its job. It’s not only durable and beautiful, but also comfortable for a wide variety of people. We don’t do floppy arms or ultra-low seat depths, because these design elements are not beneficial or comfortable to most people.
What do you think our readers will love about the product?
I think people will love how simple we’ve made it to buy beautiful, unique commercial furniture. Our team has a passion for design and for business; I think that comes through.