Office Furniture History

Office Furniture History

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Office Furniture History

Furniture was grudgingly bought to support the equipment needed for workers to produce whatever their job was. Also, it show the status of managers, executives, and company presidents. Let’s walk through some office furniture design history. Some things have not changed, ego is still very big and the evolution of office furniture continues.

Main Drivers for Purchasing

What drove the invention of office furniture was the equipment and business machines that it supported. The study of ergonomics, body mechanics, OSHA laws, all-day computer use, and insurance claims gave the monetary justification to improve furniture for the office worker. Things have kept going up in price, the computer worker has become more valuable and so the importance of great ergonomic chairs to support them. Humanscale has a deep history in the development of ergonomic office chairs, thanks to the work of Niels Diffrient. The equipment has become more valuable, and complex and requires more power/data support. The Dot Com $$$ and the coolness of geek-dome gave rise to some high-end Silicon Valley Style furniture. Cubicle life- fat bundles of data cables, heavy power requirements sent cubicle panels from 1″ to sometimes 4″+ and taking up more real estate than ever. More coffee shop style, with collaborative areas to work on a lounge chair or sectional sofa.

High Tech leads to Small Tech

The tech changed work-life again with smaller lighter and lighter equipment than IBM could ever imagine. Laptops, I-phones. I-Pads and mobile mobile mobile. Many people lost their dedicated cubicles or office. Touchdown stations became available when they got to an office. Maybe not ever their office, maybe a coffee shop or co-working space. The Dot-Com bust, the bean counters were having fits, work still needed to get done and Dilbert was even out of a job.


In 2000 we moved east to The Central Valley and were selling old metal desks again. In 2005, for health reasons, we moved to Salt Lake Utah, and back to selling modern office furniture again. New product prices came down and the electrical height adjustable table/desk became the “must-have” to attract new talent. The financial controllers in Silicon Valley adjusted to the new equipment needs and implemented the “open plan” workspace. The history of the desk came to an end. This drove down the size of each employee’s work space and drove even more people to work remotely. Think about the gym, how not everyone can be there at once and people figure out when it is not crowded. You may have realized that the open-plan office was like working in a cafeteria. High headcount, high distraction, low personal space, and poor air quality. The tech workers were younger, more expensive, and needed more “toys” at work and on playgrounds. Work Furniture adapted again.

Office Furniture History marches on.

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