June 26, 2020

The human-centred principles of modern furniture design means that it adapts to whatever’s thrown at it. In a world that continues to struggle with COVID-19, it’s perfectly placed to offer and evolve solutions that address the new normal. It’s fit for purpose for how we live today and how we’re going to have to live in the future. Here’s why:

The rise and rise of the home office

Until COVID-19 is eradicated, the world must embrace new ways of working. For some, this will mean working from home and having to find the space quite space (difficult with kids!) to work effectively. Brands such as BDI and Herman Miller already offer narrow-footprint desks, clever storage and ergonomic seating.


bdi home office solutions

We predict that designers will respond fast to the need for dual-purpose desks, pack-away workstations and tuck-away screens for people working from smaller apartments. 


herman miller workspace solutions

Antimicrobial fabrics will also replace tradition coverings in an effort to further limit the spread of bacteria.

Informing the thinking behind new workplaces

Employees going back to their workplace need to feel that they’re going to be safe, and employers are quickly introducing safety measures such as physical distancing and barriers. Many employers are reorganizing their office layouts with what they already have - and those with modular workspaces are finding it a lot easier than those with traditional office furniture. 


Flexible offices

USM office workspace solutions


Adaptability and flexibility will be key for the workspaces of the future. USM’s Haller modular furniture and moveable storage, originally designed back in 1963, still works today for workplaces that need to reconfigure quickly.  Its privacy panels, created as funky resources for visual zoning, have the potential to be effective barriers if they evolve from the current material polyester fleece into something more washable. It’ll happen.


USM workspace office privacy panels



Post-COVID, workplaces must stand up to cleaning that’s more regular and more thorough. This means being thoughtful about which materials to use for workplace furniture like desks and doors. Non-porous surfaces that can cope with antiviral sprays and lots of scrubbing are the obvious choices. Modern design has always used or evolved new materials that adapt to new functionality as required. There will be more demand for modern design stalwarts such as metal, glass  and laminates, and less call for porous surfaces such as oiled wood and soft acrylics for functional surfaces.


herman miller polygon wire table

Herman Miller's Polygon Wire Table boasts a formcoat top and metal base.

One of the more obvious clues that you’re looking at something created by modern design principles are the clean, uncluttered lines and a streamlined visual flow.  There are no frilly useless bits, no fussy decorations, no unnecessary add-ons. This means no difficult-to-reach areas for bugs to lurk so it’s easier to keep clean and hygienic. 

Sustainable and built to last

Modern design has never signed up to the throwaway culture. And post-COVID, the throwaway culture is under scrutiny. We’re becoming more intentional about what we buy and what we value. The timelessness of modern design is caused by robustness of build and complete indifference to what’s trending. Your Knoll 1966 Double Rocker looks just as good today as it did over 50 years ago.  


Knoll 1966 Double Rocker

Knoll 1966 Double Rocker: stunning then, still stunning now.

Sustainability is fast becoming the norm and modern design is streets ahead. For instance, Emeco uses post-industrial and post-consumer waste to create its product line, including the  Broom collection of chairs, while Herman Miller’s cradle-to-cradle product strategy assesses how designs fit into the “nutrient cycle”.

Emeco Broom chair

Emeco Broom chair: not just sitting pretty, sustainable, too.

Going forward

As we gain clarity about how we are to live and work together post-COVID, modern design will be at the forefront of innovation. Innovation was part of design DNA one hundred years ago and it’s still alive and kicking today.

Louise Etheridge
Louise Etheridge

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