Office furniture, like home decor, follows the swings of fashion, taste and society, but technology is the biggest agent of change in workplace furnishings.
For most employees, the bullpen was still the norm. In the executive suites, the sleek likes of mid-century modern ruled.
- Desks: Made of metal, desks were large enough to house office supplies. The lower side of the desk or shelf held the typewriter.
- The chair: Eames style EA217
- Desk accessories: Manual typewriter, PBX switchboard, file cabinet, in and out boxes, the secretary
- Break time: A cup of joe, Moon Pie, cigarette, martini (for the execs)
The colors were bold and bright with the exuberance of the disco era. The bullpen had relaxed into clusters of desks, but the decade also gave birth to the cubicle.
- Desks: The look was lighter and more often wood, or built into the cubicles, with file drawers on one side
- The chair: Olivetti’s Synthesis 45
- Desk accessories: IBM Selectric II typewriter, a phone with four lines, color file folders, disco nap
- Break time: Tab, Planters Peanuts, Fluffernutter sandwich, cigarette, Rob Roy cocktail (for execs)
The excesses of “Dynasty” and “Dallas,” and the burgeoning economy brought slick redecorating into the executive suites. It was the era of Corporate Chic. For employees, the cubicles remained.
- Desks: Word processes and computers meant desks needed to accommodate large monitors. The typewriter table disappeared.
- The chair: Dr. Congleton’s Neutral Posture Zero Gravity Chair
- Desk accessories: Your first computers, many floppy discs for storage
- Break time: Perrier, Pudding Pops, Mr. Goodbar; cigarettes outside, please
The recession put a damper on office re-dos, but cubicle walls started getting lower and you could suddenly see your co-worker.
- Desks: Still part of the cubicle, but now you needed room for a printer too
- The chair: The Aeron chair by Herman Miller
- Desk accessories: The computer, Zip drives, your first cellphone
- Break time: Latte, Pringles, Goldfish. Who smokes anymore?
Cubicles became pods, sometimes in wavy, organic shapes. Collaboration is encouraged. You are now a knowledge worker.
- Desks: It’s no longer a desk, it’s a workstation. And you share it.
- The chair: Liberty chair by Humanscale
- Desk Accessories: A computer with an Internet connection and plenty of storage, cellphone, a laptop for when you’re out of the office, stock options
- Break time: Americano with an extra shot, bottled water, sushi, rice cakes
The pods are disappearing. People float around an open space, plugging in their smartphone and laptop wherever there’s a charging station.
- Desks: There’s a table and chair available if you need one. Or you could try the conference room.
- The chair: Knoll Generation chair
- Desk accessories: Laptop, smartphone, cloud storage, charging station, a lack of desire for personal space
- Break time: Half-caf, nonfat frappe; organic trail mix; online shopping