Taking A Custom Approach To The New Workplace

WDM connects with Allison Stegich of Icon Modern and Lindsay Braun of Emblem for some great insight on how custom furniture is playing an increasingly important role in the new workplace.

Work Design Magazine advocates for innovation and creativity in our industry. It can be found in all aspects of how our readers look for solutions for their specific project requirements. We are fortunate to be able to work with providers in all realms of workplace design, but we especially love to work with those furniture manufacturers that are pushing the envelope to provide unique products, and make a project stand out to reach a higher level of design.

The Shell Chair from Emblem

We reached out to some of our favorite manufacturers to learn more about why their custom capabilities are a great resource for the design community. Our query to Allison Stegich, Marketing Director at Icon Modern and Lindsay Braun, Founder, Emblem gave us some great insight on how they are tackling the challenges of the past year and their forward thinking on how custom products play an increasingly important role in the reconfigured and refreshed workplaces that are being planned and implemented.

From Allison:

Now that we are getting past the ‘plexiglass’ phase of the pandemic, designers and their clients are thoughtfully exploring what the purpose and function is of the office and how it can best serve its employees. And while we don’t have all the answers yet, our custom furniture and architectural elements offer designers the creative freedom to explore different ideas that are not bound to standard products or materials. We can help bring to life a solution that doesn’t necessarily exist yet or be very specific in size and shape to accommodate existing structures. Custom pieces like collaborative work pods and tables, room dividers, planters and outdoor furniture also play a newly important role.

Icon Modern offers designers’ custom solutions, incorporating authentically sustainable materials for the next workplace, like this custom community table made from walnut trees that would otherwise end up in landfill. Design: Unispace, Photo: Hall + Merrick Photographers.

And in the past, working with a custom manufacturer has been intimidating, time consuming and expensive. We are challenging this notion by making the process easier for designers, bringing convenience and flexibility to the custom process unlike any other contract manufacturer. We take on the task of detailed design and engineering while also coordinating custom projects through from start to finish. Our team of architects and designers offer a collaborative work style that removes many of the barriers of traditional custom work, making custom projects more easily accessible to designers and their clients. Find out more about how we do this here.

Icon Modern’s team takes care of the entire custom process, from design and engineering to delivery and installation, removing many of the barriers traditionally associated with custom work.

 Accessibility was never made more apparent than during the pandemic, when global supply chains were brought to a halt. We were forced to reckon with how and where products are sourced, including their impact on our environment. Designers had to find alternative solutions, often looking to more local companies. As a Chicago-based manufacturer who sources sustainable materials within a 100-mile radius of our fabrication shops, we were able to assist designers nationwide with their contract furniture needs during a time of extensive uncertainty.

And as we come out on the other side, there is a renewed sense of responsibility and passion for sourcing sustainable, American-made contract furniture; furniture that has a backstory and a purpose beyond its function. And that is at the heart of the Icon Modern brand: custom furniture with a story and a mission.

This piece illustrates the range of Icon Modern’s custom capabilities with a steel tube grid frame, planter boxes and base that functions as both a space divider and biophilic element. Plants: Variegated Designs, Design: Charlie Greene Design, Photo: Chelsea Ross.

Lindsay weighed in with her thoughtful comments:

When I launched Emblem in 2019, I was focused on short lead times and easy, online shopping paired with narrow custom options. My husband, furniture designer Jeffrey Braun, was working at a large dealership in LA and we both saw this enormous need for commercial-grade, quick, residential-inspired soft seating.

The pandemic changed everything. Suddenly, no one was in a hurry, and we realized that once workplaces and public spaces started re-opening, the one-size-fits all approach was not going to meet the challenges of the new normal.

Emblem’s custom capabilities give designers options to create furniture solutions specifically to meet their client’s reimagined workplace.

Our early expectations are starting to become reality. More people than ever are working from home. We’ve all discovered there is a great deal we can accomplish when we are not in a traditional office setting.

None of us want to go to a workplace with rows of desks and cubicles to do work that we could easily accomplish at home. Instead, the workplace needs to become a place where people come together to facilitate community, creativity, and culture. And that requires a custom approach to furniture.

A stadium seating solution for a tech client – Emblem can custom create alternative meeting solutions.

During 2020, we started flipping our priorities at Emblem. Instead of simply offering a line of lounge furniture with custom options, we became a true furniture design and manufacturing studio. Jeffrey joined me at Emblem full-time as our director of design. With his leadership, we were able to take on larger, more complex custom projects and build out more custom options for our standard line. He spends a great deal of time at our factories on the West Coast, overseeing production and prototypes.

We will be expanding our line of furniture this year, adding more seating designs, tables and even outdoor furniture. And we’re building out a broader variety of options for ultra-easy customization, including an expanded line of commercial-grade textiles.

Today, well over half our projects are entirely custom. We’ve worked on a wide variety of custom projects, but we specialize in chairs and sofas, sectionals, banquettes, and unique stadium and island seating. We also offer corporate standards programs, so reorders of customized, brand-specific furniture are a breeze.

While the design and engineering side of a new custom furniture project can be quite complex, we take a simplified approach to the communication process. On any project, first, we ask about priorities and how the furniture will be used.

We don’t quote furniture that we know won’t work in its intended space, so we by-pass a lot of the usual early back-and-forth. This requires a great deal of mutual trust, but for us, it is the easiest, most effective, and frankly, the most fun way to work and the results have been fantastic.

The Emblem Collection for seating solutions that stand out in the crowd.

Designing and building custom furniture is equal parts art and science. It’s a magical feeling when everything on a project comes together in an entirely unique way. We love bringing a sense of delight into spaces and we want the entire custom process to feel that way, too.

We encourage our readers to reach out to Icon Modern and Emblem as they look to specify great furniture options for upcoming projects.

Connect with Icon Modern:

Instagram | Facebook | Pinterest

Connect with Emblem:

Instagram | Facebook


This article was written in partnership with Icon Modern and Emblem.

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