By Bryant Rice
The development of products follows the elusive search for the future consumer. In the corporate furniture industry we are seeing the blending of traditional markets creating new items that combine functions and technologies from a number of sources. This is not new. Really creative designers have long prided themselves on the search for innovative products sourced from unlikely sources. This has yielded such time tested winners as the casket carrier table, the block and tackle side table, the cowboy boot lamp, and the antler chandelier. Eclecticism has always been an option in the sophisticated interior, whether inspired by Sir John Soane, or Elsie deWolfe.

This year, I ran into a number of hybrids at Chicago’s NeoCon. The increased focus on healthcare and the aging consumer has created the monster chair. This is a “barcalounger” that has been set up with audio-visual technology, biometrics monitoring and medication delivery while delivering an almost infinite combination of seating/table settings. If you are going to spend 6 hours in an oncology clinic, you want one of these.

Education meets technology in another series of products. These store, program, recharge, and distribute mobile tools such as ipods, cell phones, laptops, or ipads for teachers who are responsible for the functionality of such devices in their classrooms. They are complemented by lecterns and tableted chairs (old fashioned terms) that support this equipment during use.

Finally, the corporate work place met the college dorm with a product that supports “benching” but also a couch. Meanwhile it stores your skateboard collection, backpacks and bicycles while providing a stash for water bottles and Red Bull.

It’s the copier/fax/printer/scanner concept taken to the furniture scale. Will they have a similar lifespan?

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