The Evolution of Office Furniture

The Evolution of Office Furniture- 01

Office furniture, like home decor, follows the swings of fashion, taste and society, but technology is the biggest agent of change in workplace furnishings.



The Evolution of Office Furniture- 02

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 Evolution of Office Furniture- 03

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 Evolution of Office Furniture- 04

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 Evolution of Office Furniture- 05

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?

The Evolution of Office Furniture- 06

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 Evolution of Office Furniture- 07

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

The Evolution of Office Furniture- 08

All content provided herein is for educational purposes only. It is provided “as is” and neither the author, publisher nor Triad Digital Media, LLC d/b/a Triad Retail Media warrant the accuracy of the information provided, nor do they assume any responsibility for errors, omissions or contrary interpretation of the subject matter herein.

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