3 Main Categories of Office Furniture Styles

Even with the thousands of options available when choosing office furniture, everything basically falls into three distinct categories:

  1. Traditional
  2. Transitional
  3. Contemporary

The traditional and contemporary styles fulfill the more extreme and defined needs to express one’s taste. But it is the transitional styles that have gained such widespread appeal in recent years. As a matter of fact we are finding that more than 50% of what we sell today falls within the “transitional” styles. The more blended design approach works with a wider variety of furnishings and is less likely to limit a company’s personality. And the furniture you choose defines who you are. Which style are you?


traditional furniture
Kimball Senator

Traditional furniture is exactly what it sounds like – traditional. Usually made of wood, with sometimes ornate accents, traditional furniture has been a staple in office environments for more than a century. There’s a certain beauty in the warmth and comfort that traditionally styled furniture can have. But it can also come off as antiquated or gaudy without careful consideration.



transitional furniture
Knoll Reff

Transitional furniture is less rigid by definition, but essentially marries traditional styling with modern aesthetics. Materials and styles vary widely but laminates are often used to provide a contrasted look of wood against metal, with glass sometimes used as an accent. With this style of furniture, the interior designer has a lot of flexibility to let  the environment dictate mood and atmosphere.


contemporary and modern furniture
Knoll Ross Lovegrove Collection

Contemporary furniture usually embraces minimalism in its quest for a sleek appearance. Metal, glass and composite materials are commonly used to achieve this. White and black are the most popular colors, sometimes using bright and bold colors for contrast. There’s a cleanliness to this look, often appearing futuristic in its execution. Critics claim this style can sometimes feel cold and uninviting, when taken to extremes.

“Contemporary” furniture is also considered “modern” by most standards. Yet, surprisingly, much of the furniture we classify as contemporary was designed in the 50’s and 60’s. Pioneers in this mid-century modern design such as Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe and Saarinen inspired many of the new designs being manufactured today including the chair below by Saarinen.

tulip chair by Eero Saa

What do you think? What’s your favorite style of furniture?


What Exactly Is Contract Office Furniture?

In short – it’s the good stuff.

Officially, contract furniture refers to office furniture that is held to higher standards as a result of adhering to stringent testing and certification processes and is sold exclusively through territorial dealerships.

Unlike furniture typically found in big box retailers, contract furniture manufacturers must submit their products for testing and certification to two main national testing organizations:
1)  ANSI – American National Standards Institute
2) BIFMA – Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer’s Association

These organizations ensure that approved products will support safe, healthy and sustainable environments. The result is greater furniture longevity and durability, increased productivity, and even fewer work-related injuries or accidents.

There are three areas in which contract furniture is a held to a higher standard:

Quality. Contract manufacturers build furniture that lasts. They build furniture that works. When you have hundreds of patients cycling through a lobby, or thousands of passengers cycling through a terminal, durability is a priority. High quality is also reflected in the cleaning and maintenance of the furniture.

Style. Contract furniture is the perfect example of function meeting form. It’s world-class design that is feature-rich and yet aesthetically beautiful. For example Knoll, one of our own contract manufacturers, has more than 30 products in the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent Design collection.

Value. Contract manufacturers build-to-order in massive quantities. It is this economy of scale that allows contract dealers to provide reasonable pricing to their clients to meet necessary budgets. Contract manufacturers also stand behind their products with robust warranties that ensure their survival and/or replacement if needed. The benefit of style and durability, coupled with judicious costs, make contract furniture a solid long-term investment.

Again, you will not typically find contract furniture in big box retail settings. Most of the prominent contract furniture manufacturers distribute their products through contract furniture dealerships to ensure quality control for delivery and customer service.

Each dealership is approved and then licensed by territory. Territories and exclusivity agreements vary somewhat per manufacturer. For example, while Business Interiors represents hundreds of manufacturers, we hold exclusive licensing rights to sell Knoll and Kimball International in Alabama and NW Florida.

Bottom line? Contract furniture is the better product and the economies of scale make it affordable. Purchasing it through a contract dealer simply brings confidence and assurance that you are going to find the right solution.

How do you view contract furniture?