Senator, the United Kingdom’s largest office furniture maker, has been in the North American market for a few years, steadily building a higher profile in the architecture and design community. A host of new products, all of which will be built at the company’s new office furniture plant in Ohio, should go a long way toward further boosting the iconic British brand.
The company launched seven new products at NeoCon, including a chair specifically designed for the U.S. market that put the brand in a position to make great headway in North America. The Senator Group is no stranger to the North American market. More than a decade ago, it led with its Allermuir brand, which has taken off here.
As the office shifted from more desk-based work to collaborative, lounge-based work, the Allermuir brand has grown and thrived in the North American market. If you were from the United Kingdom, that might seem a bit strange. There, the Allermuir brand is known as a part of Senator. In the U.K., Senator is the dominant brand. The company hopes its new Senator products will make that brand just as strong as Allermuir has become.
“If you talk to the architecture and design and even the dealer community, everybody knows Allermuir, but there is not as much recognition of the Senator brand,” says Peter Allen, who is working for Senator to build its brand in the North American market. “Over the last few months even, there has been a much higher recognition of Senator products here. It certainly seems to be that more and more people know Senator and the products it offers.”
Senator products are refreshing in a sea of sameness. The company’s new Orb is a circular desking system. The work surface is unique because it is circular instead of the typical rectangular shape. While it might seem a circle would make for messy office layouts, the opposite is true. Orb can be configured to weave around office obstacles like posts, and the curve of the circle gives the user a sense of personal space.
“The response we’ve had to Orb from the A&D community has been really phenomenal,” Allen says. “Benching has been around for 100 years, but ultimately, it always seems to go back to the standard rectangular systems. Companies are looking to get people who have been working from home back into the work environment.
Orb’s lines are less harsh, Allen says, and create an individual’s own working space instead of one where a worker seems to encroach on the person next to them.
The spine of Orb allows for electrical to run through it, which can be linked from one workstation to the next. Power and data management run through the core of the system to sockets available at the work surface.
Systems that don’t fit the cookie cutter grid have met with some resistance from designers, but Allen says Orb fits well with new work styles. “Does it take it off the grid? Absolutely, it does,” he says. “But there are designers out there that want to create a different vision for their client. They see Orb as the opportunity to do that.”
Orb works well when used to break up the monotony of a traditional rectangular-based office design. In addition to being able to use Orb as a workstation, it also can be used as a meeting table or in a touchdown area. Its use goes beyond the office as well, easily fitting into commercial, health care and educational settings.
“We’ve seen a lot of interest from tech companies,” Allen says. “These are the companies that want these cool, funky, collaboration areas. They are going for the more modern working environment.” The financial industry has even shown interest in Orb, he adds.
Senator is known for making quality seating products, and its new i-Workchair is one of the most advanced the company has ever built. Designed by Justus Kolberg, the i-Workchair is an executive task chair that works with the user and the technology they bring into the office.
Unlike most task chairs, the arm of the i-Workchair is attached to the body of the chair, not the seat. That makes it easier for users on tablets or other mobile devices to stay comfortable and in an ergonomic posture when seated. When the user reclines, the arm stays in the same position. The back of the chair uses 3-D foam and fabrics with excellent support to create a comfortable ride. “We think it is one of the most technically advanced chairs on the market,” Allen says.
The chair has four-dimensional arms, and even in the locked position it moves along with the user’s body. Kolberg says he wanted to design an office chair that works as well as a car seat that perfectly adjusts to the driver.
The Ousby chair is another new seating product from Senator, but one with a very different design. It is the first chair Senator has created specifically for the U.S. market. It is an organic design with a nice, soft sit to it and a ventilated, wishbone back design that gives it strength and ventilation. Ousby will be manufactured in Ohio with U.S. components, and it will be “priced incredibly competitively in a competitive market,” Allen said.
Freeflex is another chair from Senator. It was initially launched by Senator in 2014, but is making its way to the North American market. Freeflex does what its name implies. It moves with the user, bending and shaping as she moves. The design community likes Freeflex because it comes with the option of seven colors on the spine of the chair. Designers have used the colors to create work areas, with, for example, blue chairs for marketing, red for finance and silver for sales.
Jonny is Senator’s new stacking chair that starts at $220 and comes in a variety of colors. It works well in education, training and higher education, comes in three sizes, with or without arms, and the frame can be silver or black.
Circo is one of Senator’s best-selling chairs in North America. Also designed by Kolberg, Circo is good for light task use or board and conference room applications. “It fits just about anywhere,” Allen says.
All of Senator’s new products are available for order, with delivery starting in September. The products are backed up by Senator’s strong commitment to the U.S. market. About 95 percent of the chairs the company produces for the U.S. market are being built at its Maumee, Ohio, plant. “One thing that amazes me about Senator is that it puts its money where its mouth is,” Allen says. “We hold adequate stock in Ohio to fulfill any order that might come in. The customer always comes first, and it’s the kind of company that stays away from rows and rows of management structure. Things get done that need to get done.”
Senator is also taking its show on the road, loading up all of its new products and bringing them directly to the design community, making stops in Boston, New York, Washington D.C., Atlanta and Dallas, with additional stops planned for Chicago and two or three on the West Coast.