Hollander Design Group's BKM project: Designer Forum - Aug/Sep 16

By Viveca Bissonnette

Place matters: that belief lies at the core of BKM OfficeWorks’ company culture and served as a driving principle when Hollander Design Group created a new corporate headquarters and showroom for the San Diego, California based workspace-solution dealer.

The successful design of BKM relied significantly on flexible flooring solutions that enable the space to act as a mutable backdrop upon which the company can highlight its offerings. 

BKM and Hollander Design Group have a long shared history. As the largest Steelcase dealer in San Diego, BKM is a powerful force in the area’s corporate design world, and Hollander, which focuses in workplace design, is frequently a BKM client—meaning that the provider-client relationship is typically flipped. With this long and well-established rapport, design programming for BKM’s new space was both simpler and more collaborative than is typical. Hollander already had a strong understanding of BKM’s culture, and as an office expert, BKM has a strong understanding of design. 

BKM’s much smaller original headquarters was divided into two primary zones, a showroom and staff space. In the initial stages of planning the new location, Hollander led many conversations, asking: Is this a showroom or a workplace? How has work changed since the last location was designed, and what is the best way to tell the story of BKM to its clients?

Ultimately, BKM moved into a significantly larger, 24,000- square-foot location, within which the staff area acts simultaneously as its working showroom. The design team arrived at this unique concept not only by considering BKM’s needs, but also by stepping back and considering its own needs as a client of BKM, looking at how designers would use the space and like it to look and function. Workplace designers don’t typically have the opportunity to use the spaces that they create, so this proved to be a compelling and illuminating exercise. 

Across the workspace, Hollander created an intentional path that tells the story of community and the changing workplace. This is not a path delineated visually but by concept. The path begins at a sunken “mosh pit” space, which features minimal furnishings at the lower end of the cost spectrum, such as benching options rather than full-panel workstations. From there, the path moves to mid-priced traditional workstations and paneling, then on to higher end options, such as wood panels and private offices. BKM employees and visiting designers can walk clients through the story to display the diversity of offerings or take them directly to the specific solutions that they seek.

While BKM frequently finds itself in the position of explaining workplace change to its clients, it has not, until now, had a powerful, tactile means of showcasing that change. However, the new office space allows it to do just that. 

Flexibility is a key concept in contemporary workplace culture. Today’s businesses want spaces that can grow with them, and for a company whose office acts as its showroom for the latest-and-greatest in office furnishings, the ability to adapt the space to accommodate new concepts is critical, both with regard to design and utilities. 

To offer BKM ultimate flexibility, the design team crafted a large stage in the space, utilizing raised access flooring by ASM, a product that BKM sells. The stage allows the company to configure its space easily and as needed over the course of its lease. The stage space is comprised of both communal workspace and workstations, which have movable walls. 

The selection of flooring for the stage was, of course, critical to the achieving true flexibility. In the case that BKM needed to reconfigure its systems access or rearrange stage workstations, for instance, it needed something that could be moved with ease and replaced elsewhere as required. For this purpose, Hollander specified Porcelanosa’s L’Antic Colonial Mini Eden hardwood in the color Marengo for the stage surface and steps. The hardwood can simply be popped out of the frame in which it sits, with no damage to either material. 

To assist with acoustics in stage workspaces, the design team specified Interface Flor carpet tile, held together with the company’s glue-free installation system called TacTiles, to form area rugs. As with the hardwood, the rugs can be moved or replaced as color trends change. In addition, they can be taken apart and reassembled into smaller or larger area rugs to accommodate other spaces.

This approach allowed Hollander to provide BKM with a solution that is both flexible and cost-effective. The ability to essentially disassemble and reassemble an office, rather than demolish and rebuild, is of great benefit to the lifecycle bottom line and a sustainable use of material, time and energy resources.

Over 30% of BKM’s total square footage is dedicated to amenity space—including the café and the lounge—which is on trend with what Hollander sees across progressive office cultures. Individual workspaces are reducing in size as corporations develop a growing preference for “we” space on the job as opposed to “me” space. Today’s employees value shared spaces in which they work, socialize and relax. 

Because BKM uses in-house community events as a means of building business, the company requested that the design firm also incorporate a large, communal space into its office design. At the same time, however, it didn’t want that space to sit vacant when it was not entertaining. To fulfill this request, Hollander combined work and amenity space to create a work-change area that can accommodate a large number of visitors as needed using meeting and quiet rooms with removable walls that are adjacent to the communal space. 

For these amenity and community areas, existing concrete was polished and left uncovered to create a lively atmosphere, while meeting rooms and quiet rooms feature floating carpet tile area rugs similar to those found in the stage workspaces. 

The off-stage area of the office also contains open workstation areas, for which the designers specified Shaw Contract’s Openwork Bias tile in the color Galena as a field carpet. As with the architecture and permanent fixtures of the space, this flooring was kept intentionally neutral to act as a backdrop upon which BKM can highlight new products or colors as time changes. Overall, the majority of color in the space is confined to furniture, pillows and removable carpet; therefore, the space can be transformed based on trend colors. 

Because BKM uses its workspace as a showroom, the design team knew the flooring would see considerable foot traffic, so wear and tear was a significant concern. For this reason, all the flooring is bulletproof and easy to care for, and the specified field carpet is a dark shade of grey. 

BKM’s office space includes two significant art pieces: a chair wall and a caster wall related directly to BKM’s culture and products. For the work café, a collage of 3” 3D-printed chairs provides a backdrop in the space. These are models of the Steelcase Think chair, which is the most popular design sold by BKM. Hollander used this concept to both highlight the product as well as the idea of technology in the office space. The chairs serve as art but also tell a story about who BKM is and what it does.

The chair caster wall, which extends onto the ceiling as well, is featured at the office’s presentation stage. The design team asked themselves, what is the most ubiquitous furniture item? There are four casters on every office chair, regardless of the style or the manufacturer, so that seemed the perfect trope. The display is a loose map of the San Diego area with the casters serving to represent BKM’s clients. The piece, which essentially immerses viewers in the company’s culture of connecting the workplace to business objectives and goals, contains about 5,000 casters, which were installed by hand.

Having now spent one year in the new office, BKM has found that place matters even more than it previously realized, reporting that its culture and organization have solidified in a palpable way and that revenues have increased significantly and unexpectedly. What’s more, instead of simply pontificating to its clients about the importance of place, BKM now operates as a thriving example of how the right space can positively impact outcomes and profitability. 

BKM’s headquarters is located in a multi-tenant building. Previously, entry to the space was through a shared lobby. However, the design team chose to use what was formerly a side entrance as the main entry to the BKM space. This creates the feeling that the building belongs to the business exclusively and offers it greater visibility from the main road. 

Copyright 2016 Floor Focus 

Related Topics:Shaw Industries Group, Inc., Interface