A Home Away from Home

National Office Furniture’s new Chicago showroom illustrates the authenticity of the company and its brand.

01.03.2017
By Jenna Lippin

In its efforts to convey its reputation as a reliable, genuine company, National Office Furniture tapped Gensler Chicago to redesign its showroom in the Windy City, with design principal Todd Heiser spearheading the project. The company puts effort into making each of its five showrooms unique to their geographic locations while taking inspiration from the Jasper, Ind. headquarters. “I was compelled by the authenticity that permeates every part of National’s culture,” Heiser said. “When we found out they were going through a reinvention of the company to be much more customer-focused, we envisioned portraying that in the space. There is only one National, and they’ve always been true to that.”

Heiser and Gwen Gunselman, National Office Furniture’s Showroom and Events manager, guided i+s through a virtual tour of the showroom, which underwent a complete remodel that started in March 2016 and was ready by NeoCon in June of the same year.

The showroom features an open collaboration area that provides a space where visitors can put their ideas to work. At the same time, they can experience first-hand a range of offerings from National. “There is a comfort and level of detail that comes across in an effort to embrace the entire line,” Heiser explained. “We try to use the product in a more residential-like setting since that is the way offices work today.”

Upon entering National’s Chicago showroom, guests are immediately welcomed by a comfortable, relaxing environment that evokes a living room feel, the perfect ambiance for helping visitors feel at home. “The first impression when you walk in the door [in Chicago] is very different from the other space we had prior to construction,” Gunselman said. “It is very welcoming, inviting guests to come sit down, relax, and enjoy the space. This helps us to develop relationships with customers, too, and to get to know them on a personal level.”

When it’s time to step away from work, a kitchen area provides a social space that includes a record player, tall dining tables, and lounge furniture. “This is more about how you would live with product in a home rather than in an office,” Heiser noted. “It was important to portray the company this way, which may be different from how they’ve been seen in the past. The goal here is to make someone think about using their product in a different way.”

A central seating area shows a number of National selections working together, much like how employees are encouraged to work
collaboratively. “This might be adjacent to a work area in an office,” Heiser said. “The best thing about this section of the showroom is it illustrates how to live with product and what you can do with it. There are a lot of collaborative pieces, so this is about showing the range of a product and not just a piece of it.”

The workspaces of late have a more relaxed feel, presenting employees with the option to work and collaborate in comfortable settings rather than the traditional cubicle or windowless office. National Office Furniture offers an array of products to help facilitate these types of
settings in various sectors. In many showrooms this would mean separate vignettes for each application, but in this space Heiser and the Gensler team wanted to mix products to showcase how they can be used in totality. “This area shows how you can use all of National’s pieces in an office to create something more residentially inspired that encourages employees and guests to socialize.”

A glass-enclosed space within the showroom is meant to illustrate how products adapt to become more media inspired, lending to the “office
of the future.” While it is a conference room—though not in the traditional sense—with media within, it maintains a lounge feel and is comfortable, a mood National conveys throughout the showroom.

Photos courtesy of National Office Furniture