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Office design trends

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Business owners are looking for pieces that allow multiple uses

by Jan K. Allen

SBJ Contributing Writer

In the last five years, organization of office space has changed dramatically, primarily due to the widespread use of electronics in business, according to local office suppliers.

Business owners are wanting mobility and furnishings that allow multiple uses, stated Mark Aldridge, vice president and sales manager for Today's Office.

Companies are adding tables that can be moved, shared, used as separate units or put together to handle large meetings and conferences, Aldridge said.

Panel walls, which are used more and more in place of permanent interior walls, are generally thicker today 3 34 inches to 4 inches, according to Aldridge.

They are designed to give a more architectural look than their predecessors. Another functional reason for using thicker panels is to accommodate fiber-optic cables and wiring for the variety of electronic equipment used in business today.

"Many older buildings, even ones only twenty years old, can't handle the wiring needed for today's electronic equipment," Aldridge said. "Panels are often used to house and hide the cabling."

Aldridge has also seen an increase in home offices. In response to this trend, Today's Office stocks a variety of office furnishings, such as computer desks, that can blend with the home atmosphere and be functional.

Jerry Henderson, owner of The Office Place, said many businesses are updating to accommodate electronic equipment, and the industry is answering the need by designing more computer-friendly furnishings.

People still use desks and office chairs, but generally business owners are buying a better grade of furniture that is more functional, Henderson said.

For example, they want chairs with more adjustments, which can be used in different settings and by different people.

Modular furniture and movable walls are in demand because they make it easier to change work spaces and allow for expansion. The systems are designed to make it easy to add on as needed, Henderson said.

Home office furniture is growing in popularity, with more people having a second, or even a primary, office at home. It is also changing in design to accommodate high-tech equipment. Nearly everybody has a computer these days, Henderson said.

"The trends today have started within the last five years, and I think they will continue," Henderson said.

Electronic equipment is here to stay, and office furnishings have changed to meet the resulting demand.

Space planning with panels is a sign of the times in the '90s, according to Charlotte Headley, owner of G&M Office Products Inc. Businesses can start with the basics and keep adding on, Headley stated.

"Our sales on interior dividers have increased by at least one-half in the last few years, mostly because of computers," Headley said.

In some cases, modular furniture, instead of desk and credenza, are installed, although the traditional secretary desk is still being used. The design has been changed to accommodate electronic equipment, however.

Some CEOs still prefer the traditional look in their private offices, although smaller desks are more the norm today, according to Headley.

It was once not unusual for an executive to have a 44-by-96-inch desk. Now the 36-by-72-inch size is more common. The credenza has been modified to a knee-hole version to allow for computer workspace.

G&M uses a computer aided design (CAD) system to provide a three-dimensional model of the proposed space arrangement when designing an office interior.

This allows the business owner to make instantaneous changes before the actual work begins.

"Some people can't visualize, so the 3-D version helps," Headley said.

INSET CAPTION:

Modular furniture and movable walls are in demand because they make it easier to

change work spaces and allow for expansion.

PHOTO CAPTION:

Mark Aldridge, vice president and sales manager of Today's Office, said his company is seeing a trend toward furnishings that allow multiple uses.[[In-content Ad]]

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