The thought of buying refurbished office furniture for corporate client The Chefs’ Warehouse was at first off-putting to Julie Hardridge, owner/lead interior designer of Archetype Designs, a part of Redding, Conn.-based Architexture Group, Inc.
“I was a little put off by the thought of buying used furniture,” said Hardridge. “I thought it would be mismatched. This experience has really opened my eyes.”
Hired to design a new Chicago office space for The Chefs’ Warehouse with a significantly reduced budget over offices previously opened nationwide by the specialty food distributor, Hardridge resigned herself to exploring the repurposed furniture market
Hardridge contacted Green Clean Designs, of Kansas City, Mo., and soon learned that her client could save more than 50 percent over the cost of new office furniture while gaining the satisfaction of repurposing furniture pieces that might otherwise see fabric and plastic components sent to a landfill. (Metals in office furniture can be shredded and recycled.)
“Designers turn to us when their budgets have been cut or they’re focused on the sustainability aspects of repurposed furniture,” said Niki McDowell, partner, Green Clean Designs. “We can provide the custom look they want in a reclaimed way with savings ranging from 25 percent to 75 percent over new office furniture. … We put a fresh spin on used office furniture.”
Working with Green Clean Designs, Hardridge was able to customize the new Chefs’ Warehouse office space by updating used furniture with both new and old surface materials, including re-covering mobile storage units in new burlap fabric and incorporating reclaimed wood with used office panels to create an office reception desk. Additionally, she brightened the office space with digitally printed graphics.
Digital graphics of 10 palate-appealing food images were printed for installation on five double-sided customer-service workstations on FiberMate™ rigid print media manufactured by 3A Composites USA and supplied by the Kansas City, Mo., branch of Laird Plastics, Inc. FiberMate was selected not only for its strong ink adhesion properties but because it is a recyclable substrate befitting a sustainable office design.
FiberMate graphic display board is comprised of wood fiber that is manufactured into a high-density fiberboard and finished with Eco-Finish™ – a white water-based UV print coating on both sides. FiberMate’s Eco-Finish is designed to provide excellent ink and paint adhesion on both sides of this graphic display board, enabling double-sided printing and other double-sided finishing applications. FiberMate can be recycled in either “wood” or “paper” waste streams depending on local community resources and providing that printing inks and/or mounting or other finishing materials applied to the media also are recyclable. FiberMate with Eco-Finish is CARB (California Air Resource Board) compliant.
Green Clean Designs turned to Creative Printing Co., Inc., a high-quality commercial printing and finishing service based in Merriam, Kan., to test digital printing on FiberMate with an image of river rocks. The printed image was so lifelike that “it felt like you could reach out and touch the rocks,” said McDowell.
“We loved the way digitally printed graphics looked on FiberMate,” said Mike Malone, partner, Green Clean Designs, who recommended FiberMate when he learned that Hardridge loved using graphics in her office designs. “She thought it was a pity that we couldn’t do graphics in the telemarketing cubicles and keep the project green. I’m the used cube guy. I knew that FiberMate and its glossy white surface would work. Julie had the vision to see it.”
Creative Printing digitally utilized a Fujifilm Acuity Advance UV flatbed printer to digitally direct print The Chefs’ Warehouse food images onto 49-inch by 97-inch FiberMate sheets in the 3.2 mm thickness. The finished images were cut with a Zund digital flatbed cutter to a finished size of 27.25 inches by 46.5 inches.
“We wanted to make these pieces as eco-friendly as possible,” said Art Vargas, account manager, Creative Printing. “We also expected the quality of these images to meet the highest standards. FiberMate is eco-friendly and it’s made for digital printing. It was a perfect match.”
FiberMate’s white Eco-Finish surface allowed Creative Printing employees to skip laying down white ink, “removing a lot of variables,” according to Vargas.
“FiberMate produces the kind of quality images expected in the business arena in which we work directly with designers and photographers who are very passionate about their work,” said Vargas. “It met everyone’s expectations. We can safely say that it is a very stable material that we can lean on. We’re excited to see how far we can push it. FiberMate fits the likes and needs of a lot of clients looking for eco-friendly products.”
Green Clean Designs put The Chefs’ Warehouse Chicago office furniture in place in February, installing the FiberMate graphics on the back walls of the customer-service cubicles with 1.5-inch bolts that were screwed into the office furniture’s metal frames.
“The FiberMate printed with the digital graphics really makes the cube,” said Malone. “I’m confident we will do more graphics with FiberMate. … FiberMate is a fantastic material that is easy to work with. Everyone who’s seen it loves it.”
“With food companies, graphics are a big part of the design,” said Hardridge. “I liked the thinness of the FiberMate material; but, it also maintained its stability. The clarity of the images printed on FiberMate’s sleek surface was extremely crisp. It’s a great material for me. I’ll definitely use it again.”
Hardridge said the Chicago office designed with repurposed furniture exceeded the expectations of her Chefs’ Warehouse client.
“Everyone who has seen it can’t believe it’s a used system,” said Hardridge. “It really looks brand new. We got to be more creative in assembly, incorporating fabrics and the digital images on FiberMate. We saved a huge amount of money and got something extremely unique and special. … I’d encourage more people to use repurposed furniture.”
FiberMate is stocked in 49-inch by 97-inch sheets in both the 3.2mm thickness and the 5.5mm thickness. FiberMate is designed for creating medium-term point-of-purchase displays, interior signage and exhibits/kiosks and for long-term framing applications. It can be finished with mounted graphics, digital printing, screen printing, and painted designs. FiberMate can be cut with a saw and routs extremely well.
Photos by Jonathon Weber of Flash Forward Photography