Design & Decision-Making: How Architects & Interior Designers Ease The Custom Furniture Process

During the month of April, we at Marshall Furniture decided to hone our focus on all things architectural. Although we focus a lot on our products’ ability to accommodate a wide range of technology, we also strive to make sure each build is a beautiful, one-of-a-kind piece. Even our Quick Ship line, developed as a low-cost alternative to our custom builds, elicits a high-quality feel. During the last thirty plus years of business, our furniture has evolved partly in response to customer, consultant and architect/designer feedback. As a whole, architects and interior designers in particular play an important role in the aesthetics of the custom furniture process. They have experience with what design elements work and are constantly keeping up with the latest design trends. Their ability to translate customer ideas into an architectural illustration acts as a concise framework for a furniture vendor.

Trends change, as we all know, and it’s a designer’s job to keep up with these trends. From the latest sustainable resources to what traditional aspects retain the most value year after year, designers are tasked with consistently updating their knowledge. So, regardless of whether a project needs a modern redesign or a unique incorporation of existing room architecture into a furniture build, a lot of insight can be gained from architects and interior design companies.

In addition to specifying hardware to match your piece, locks to keep your items secure and inlays to accent the surrounding space, the material is another important aspect of an architect’s job.  Recently, many spaces are pressing for sustainable resources throughout their project builds. Ensuring that the wood materials are properly sourced has become just as important as picking between brass or chrome knobs. This focus on responsible forestry is grounded not only in moral concerns but also as an incentive for tax breaks on the customer’s behalf.

Architects will specify specific materials, suppliers or offer a range of suggestions to the furniture vendor to ensure the customer’s piece is utilizing environmentally friendly sources. When it comes to veneer specifically, designers may ask that it be FSC certified. FSC stands for the Forest Stewardship Council, an organization that promotes responsible forestry and offers transparency of the supply process through services like chain of custody. Companies, like Marshall Furniture, who hold certification with FSC would then bring in the properly-sourced material to complete the project. Adding this extra layer of insight to a design build propels a customer’s space into the highly popular realm of “green” living.

As a whole, investing in a professional design team provides a multitude of benefits for both clients and furniture vendors. An architect or interior designer can contribute supplementary design knowledge previously unconsidered by a user. This may move the design forward into a new realm or amplify the existing ideas on the table. For a vendor, this detailed information is a convenient starting point as it allows for a quicker design process and prevents misunderstandings between customer and vendor concerning design concept. Also, since architects and designers often work in-depth with the client to develop their vision, a part of their responsibility includes mediating and interpreting customer/vendor concerns. Their knowledgeable background in construction, materials and design allow them to easily translate the vendor’s questions or construction suggestions to the client.

Whether a project requires a small furniture build or a complete building re-configuration, an architectural firm or interior design company can offer clients valuable knowledge to complete their project successfully. Their presence provides custom furniture suppliers with a clear and concise communication of the customer’s vision, easing the design process on both ends.

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2016 Year In Review

Every January, our team at Marshall Furniture looks for new ways to continue our success and growth throughout the new year. To do this, we often look back at the previous year to evaluate our accomplishments and to determine our upcoming product and marketing focuses. Looking back at 2016, however, had a two-fold purpose for us. Last year, we were lucky enough to celebrate our 30th year in business. We celebrated in a variety of ways, like giveaways and prizes, but also by showing off our high-quality custom craftsmanship skills at trade shows like Infocomm. What we discovered when we discussed last year’s sales was that 2016 was filled with a variety of interesting and creative projects. Our design team each had their favorites so we felt it was only appropriate that we give those designs the attention they deserve. With 2016 still fresh in our minds, we’d like to take the opportunity to share, in detail, aspects of our most memorable projects.

Customer: (university name withheld)
Dealer: (dealer name withheld)
Product: MLP-39.125 ADA Lectern
MFI Sales Engineer: Joyce Nemenyi

A private, ivy-league university contacted Marshall Furniture looking for a lectern that could accommodate users with disabilities and fit a large amount of racked equipment. After discussing possible options with Joyce Nemenyi, she suggested that they implement height adjust and a pullout surface into their piece as these would incorporate elements essential to meet the Americans with Disabilities Act. In addition, to create a compact, fully-racked unit, a full standard-width bay of rack was coupled with a half-bay of vertical rack to save space.

“After several revisions, it came to light that the customer did not have enough room for a pullout surface. This created an issue as this option is essential for ADA compatibility since it allows seated presenters equal access to equipment, incorporates proper reach ranges and allows for adequate knee space,” explains Joyce. “It became necessary to re-evaluate our traditional ADA lectern design.” Several alternatives were presented to the client but ultimately, they settled on a re-engineered design that allowed the surface to articulate to the side rather than forward. “This new design forced us to really flex our creative design muscles. Rather than focusing on drafting a lectern for a seated user, we were now contending with space issues. We really had to re-think the way we approached our traditional ADA lectern layout,” she says.

It was at this point that another ADA issue presented itself. The customer raised concerns that several users with limited hand mobility may have trouble properly grasping or pulling the t-handle that unlocks the pullout surface. Therefore, it was decided that the surface should be put on a linear actuator instead. This was controlled by a rocker switch, which allowed users to simply lean their hand or am against part of the switch to activate the pullout surface. “It’s typical, in our design process, for changes like this to come up. We often have to think on our toes since customization is the name of the game,” says Joyce. “Coming up with a solution to this particular customer concern required us to really put our heads together but ultimately, the alterations to the standard layout worked out fantastically.”

Customer: Calhoun Community College
Dealer: Howard Technology Solutions
Product: SCM-240 and SCM-640 Desks
MFI Sales Engineer: Matt Wulfekuhle

During early summer 2016, Calhoun Community College was working on a 30 classroom build for a new facility. It was during this time that Tyler Johnson, Classroom Technology Integration Specialist from CCC, got in touch with our Sales Engineer, Matt Wulfekuhle, after a direct recommendation from Kelly Turner at Howard Technology Solutions. CCC had a timeline for their furniture build-out that had to be met before classes could begin. In addition, the school was interested in laser-burned logos for each of their 30 pieces, which presented another challenge. “Although [their] design was simplistic, pulling off 30 laser engraved panels within a couple [of] weeks was interesting. It was long hours and required the aid of all involved, but seeing them put together made it all worth it,” says Matt.

Each desk was specified to include racked equipment, cable passage and touch panels for room control. Each style of desk was based on products originally from our Quick Ship line: the SCM-240 and SCM-640. Both finished desks were customized to the school’s direct needs and the set-up of each room.

As August began, the desks were split into two shipments in order to meet CCC’s deadline and Howard Technology Solutions time-frame for equipment integration. On handling a project such as this, Matt says, “This project was my first experience with a large order that required some design savvy. Attempting to fit all of the needed components and adhere to our Quick Ship designs presented a challenge, but with great patience and even greater colleagues, we were able to pull off the AV furniture requirements.”

After each desk found its home, the remainder of the room build was completed and the classrooms set-up for use by the time classes started. “The desks turned out beautifully; I have heard many great comments on them,” says Tyler Johnson. “It was a great experience working with Howard and Calhoun to make this project happen,” says Matt.

Customer: School of Music (university name withheld)
Dealer: All Pro Sound
Consultant: Jaffe Holden
Product: Various Studio Furniture
MFI Sales Engineer: Ariel Blaha

After their School of Music was destroyed by flooding in 2008, the school sought to furnish (5) of the re-built control rooms and production offices in 2013. Consultant Jaffee Holden prepared bid documents that called out for different L-shaped configurations to support rack equipment and mixing boards. Sales Engineer, Ariel Blaha, worked on interpreting the university’s needs and the consultant’s design.

Since the building consisted of entirely new construction, production of the furniture did not begin until May 2016. The three-year span during which bids were presented, prepared, won and ultimately designed with Marshall Furniture called for attentiveness to detail and flexibility in design around the integrated technology. “Tailoring the designs to meet the different studio requirements presented a fun challenge. Coordinating the details on projects of this nature is an important step to assure things turn out as planned. A lot can change when it comes to AV equipment over a period of 3 years!” says Ariel.

Each of the (5) pieces were designed around each room’s equipment requirements and the available space. For example, some of the units had rack in the cabinet bodies while others had patch racks on the work surface. Some had both configurations. All of the furniture pieces were designed and built with a solid wood edge profile to match the edge of the mixer, which created a fully custom and integrated appearance. Ben Bausher, Senior Consultant at Jaffee Holden, says he was particularly pleased with the design process saying, “I definitely appreciate your team’s willingness to work with the rest of the design team and contractors…The users were very pleased with the build quality of the furniture.”

Customer: Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas
Dealer: GL Seaman & Company
Product: MLP-34 & MLCS-32 Lecterns
MFI Sales Engineer: Joyce Nemenyi

This project began when Marshall Furniture’s Sales Engineer, Joyce Nemenyi, received architectural specifications from the customer for several high-end, AV-heavy contemporary lecterns. The customer wanted to incorporate options such as height adjust, internal storage, a recessed LCD, microphone, light, clock timer, power outlets and several grommets for cable passage while maintaining a sleek overall style to the body of the pieces. “FRB of Dallas was very set on creating a modern feel for their podiums. They wanted to ensure that the pieces were not only functional, but visually appealing,” says Joyce. Part of that stylistic vision was an interest in incorporating a two-tone finish, which was ultimately accomplished by utilizing two different veneers, Cherry and Walnut, custom matched to two Wilsonart laminate finishes.

“Every aspect of the lecterns were dissected, discussed and designed to ensure a completely unique architectural piece, right down the finish and metal of the locks and pulls,” Joyce explains. In addition, Marshall Furniture made accommodation for a logo that the customer indicated they would like to order and adhere at a later time. To allow easy installation in the field, small, pre-drilled holes were included on the face of the lecterns in anticipation of a 12″ metal medallion. Hidden hardware was included so that the user could easily secure the logo pins with wing nuts from the inside of the front panel. This method of attachment created a more seamless look.

Because the lecterns were meant to be minimalistic in size, the customer raised concerns over the amount of usable surface space during the design phase. “To create room for user laptops or paperwork, we manufactured a hinged panel to cover the recessed LCD monitor when it was not in use,” says Joyce. The panel was finished in the same manner as the rest of the work surface to create uniformity whenever the monitor was covered. “I was very glad to have been given a chance to work with the customer. I feel like we were able to successfully implement all their stylistic and equipment needs.”

Customer: DGSOM at UCLA – Geffen Hall, Teaching Lab
Dealer: AVI-SPL
Product: VST-40 x 60 x 90 Tables
MFI Sales Engineer: Ariel Blaha

Marshall Furniture had the privilege of providing a variety of furniture for UCLA’s new Geffen Hall Medical Education Building. Our Sales Engineer, Ariel Blaha, was contacted to facilitate a design for several tapered collaboration tables for a flipped classroom teaching space in their Teaching Lab. “The layout of the space and the concept of such a large scale collaborative classroom was intriguing to me from the day the customer brought the project to us to fashion a design,” says Ariel.

On the work surface of each table, dual monitors were specified to allow the instructor to display content on one screen while students’ content was channeled to the second. “The school’s design originally included monitor lift cabinets at the head of each table that would have concealed the displays when not in use. As the project developed, this option was replaced with the stationary monitors which simplified things quite a bit,” says Ariel. As a way to keep sight lines clear within the room, especially due to the surface-mounted monitors, some tables were made at standard height while others were fashioned at bar height. Specifically, students seated in the center of the room sat lower than those around the perimeter of the space.

AMX boxes were integrated by AVI-SPL to provide the collaborative connectivity. Custom speakers manufactured by Brown Innovations were installed in the table edge to create a personal sound zone for each student. Below, a credenza base was implemented to provide ample storage space for the rack, whose components ran the entire set-up. As for stylistic elements, Ariel states, “The finish combination selected by the architect resulted in a very linear, modern feel to the tables.”

After being delivered and set-up within the teaching space, the room presented a high-end collaborative learning environment. “Working with Ariel Blaha and the Marshall Furniture team is always a pleasure,” says Neil Bornn-Gilman, Manager of Audiovisual Services at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “The design process for these pieces lasted many months, with numerous updates and modifications as the overall system designs evolved,” he says. “The success of the end-product was a direct result of communication and teamwork between the university and Marshall Furniture,” Neil explains. “This sort of truly collaborative design process, along with Marshall’s deep understanding of what it takes to make furniture that can adequately accommodate the power, ventilation, cable pathway and other equipment needs of today’s cutting edge AV systems makes Marshall my preferred custom AV furniture vendor.”

Customer: (college name withheld)
Dealer: (dealer name withheld)
Product: Custom ELCO ADA Workstation
MFI Sales Engineer: Michelle Wille

Over the course of 2-years, Michelle Wille worked one-on-one with a community college to develop a model suited to their specific AV and ADA needs. After many design revisions and a slurry of collaboration efforts, the customer’s standard design became a reality. The equipment inside the piece consisted of 18 spaces of rack equipment, an Extron Cable Cubby 700 with six Retractors and adequate wheelchair space. “Although accommodating for AV equipment is a standard aspect of our design work, finding space to house the cable box and Retractors alongside our ADA options was tricky,” says Michelle. “After multiple discussions, we were able to effectively fit this equipment in an angled wedge on the top surface, which did not impede on the pullout work surface or equipment below.”

In order to maintain all ADA aspects of the custom workstation, the Cable Cubby, touch panel and monitors were each positioned at a distance that met proper reach ranges. In addition, the pullout surface option had to be designed to meet height, width and depth guidelines for wheelchair users. Ensuring that the rack equipment within the piece fit properly and did not complicate any of these ADA aspects was also imperative.

In the end, the customer’s piece was stylish, compact and technology-rich with the ability to adapt to their learning space. “The college was not looking for something off-the-shelf,” explains Michelle. “Our willingness and ability to engineer a custom design in-house allowed all of their factors to seamlessly come together. Collectively, we created a hybrid piece that will hopefully become a staple on their campus.”

Customer: (university name withheld)
Dealer: (dealer name withheld)
Product: MDW-106.375 Desk
MFI Sales Engineer: Joyce Nemenyi

A long-time customer of Marshall Furniture contacted Joyce Nemenyi as they were in need of an update to their traditional angled desk/lectern hybrid design. The customer specified a few changes to the equipment cut outs and overall lectern size but the usual components in the piece, like racked equipment, monitor arms and cable pass, stayed the same. All the options were encompassed in a L-shaped design in which the lectern was double-wide for a one-person desk to sit perpendicular to it. “At first, it seemed like the project was going to be a straightforward build similar to what we have seen in the past with this customer. It was only once we were in the final approval stages that the furniture design did a complete 180,” explains Joyce.

The customer discovered that their traditional angled desk build would not work in the space that they were trying to fill. “The room was set-up differently and it would not have fit or allowed users to interact with the piece correctly,” says Joyce. After some internal discussions, the customer opted to angle small desks on either side of a lectern located in the middle to create a 3-piece wedge-shaped ensemble that still allowed integration of a storage rack and monitor arms. The entire unit was designed with cable pass and ease of access throughout. The legs had large cut outs and the lectern had notches on the outside panels and the interior partitions.

Of the project overall, Joyce had to say this: “I think this new furniture design was a successful alternative that nicely complemented the customer’s space and technology needs. I’m glad we were able to accommodate the university’s design change at the last second to create a beautiful, high-end desk for their faculty.”

Customer: Providence College
Dealer: HB Communications
Product: MRP-40 Lectern
MFI Sales Engineer: Tom Feldkamp

Tom Feldkamp was contacted by Mike Bohan at HB Communications early in the summer. Mike had spoken with Providence College and had recently attended Infocomm 2016 where he had seen Marshall Furniture’s booth. He explained that he was very impressed with our work and wanted to specify our product for Providence’s president, who was looking for a high-end lectern. The customer specifically wanted to have height adjust and mobility, since it was going to be used in multiple venues where the president of the college would be speaking.

During the initial design phase, Marshall’s MLP-36 lectern was proposed. After many conference calls, the piece was ultimately changed to our highly-ornate and traditional Raised Panel style. The finished lectern called for height adjust, flush reading lights, dual microphones, a clock timer power, adjustable shelves for equipment storage and cable pass from the left and right sides. Aesthetically, the customer and Tom came up with a very original design that implemented a laser burn of the Providence College torches on the top sides of the lectern, solid wood profiles throughout and notched flutes on the corners. The audience side was shipped with two access panels, both with different laser burned logos of the school’s insignia.

“PC [Providence College] had some specific needs,” says HB Communications. “We went through a few revisions and tweaks very smoothly with a conf[erence] call each time. I think making the client part of those conversations was key, instead of my interpretations or probably a missed detail.” Because of the open communication that took place between all parties, small details, including the artwork bearing aspects of the school’s image, were able to be implanted into the final design. After the piece shipped, the school reached out to say that they were very happy with the end result.

Customer: University of South Carolina Law
Dealer: Clark Powell
Product: MLP-36 Lecterns
MFI Sales Engineer: Ariel Blaha

For over 10 years, Marshall Furniture has been working with and providing Integration-Friendly® furniture for the University of South Carolina. USC’s School of Law needed a lectern that was a variation of their standardized design and worked with Sales Engineer, Ariel Blaha, to set their plans into motion. To start, Marshall Furniture provided the school with a prototype so that they could physically review all design aspects prior to purchasing the 20 pieces they needed for their upcoming space. The prototype also allowed USC’s faculty the opportunity to review available furniture options and request tweaks to the design for their sake before the project hit the production floor. “Working with the group at USC is always a great experience! In this case, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to fly in and meet with everyone to discuss the design,” says Ariel.

The finished piece incorporated dual flip up shelves to create an immense work surface, programmable height adjust and space for 12 RU of equipment. Both levelers and casters were installed with a non-standard caster clearance to create the ability to extend the levelers and lift the cabinet off of its wheels once it was in place. Each lectern had the School of Law logo etched onto the front. Three custom color matches were provided from control samples supplied by the architect. 18 lecterns were finished in one color and the other two in different matches.

“Although there were some last-minute adjustments, the overall design came together at the very end, ” Ariel explains. “The functionality of the design offers adjustment to the users based on their work surface layout and height preferences.” Marshall Furniture was delighted to be able to provide a long-time customer, USC, with a design that met every aspect of their needs.

Marshall Furniture was able to be a part of so many fantastic, original and interesting design projects last year, these being only a select few of our team’s favorites. We are honored to be entering our 31st year in business and know that none of our successes are possible without our dedicated dealers and customers. We are anxious and excited for the fun and creative designs that await us and look forward to working with you and your team. Contact us today if you’d like to share your designs or would like more information to complete your upcoming project.

Catching Up

Happy holiday season everyone!

We apologize for being away for so long. Our monthly post goal went a little off track for a few months while we all clamored to catch up with the influx of business we’ve been getting lately. It’s been a busy time for us and we couldn’t be happier! Therefore, we thought it best that our first blog back from our hiatus should be an update on what we’ve been up to since we last spoke.

First things first – new products
Our Quick Ship line has been ever expanding over the last few years but especially so lately. Since we debuted our traditional-style ELCO line at Infocomm 2014 over the summer, we’ve been brainstorming and designing new additions to offer customers more flexibility and budget-friendly options.

Recently, we posted a video to our newly-created YouTube channel debuting the ELCO-ADA-40 and will have a video up shortly on our ELCO-ADA-49 desk as well (check out our video on the ELCO-ADA-40 here). These units have an electric height adjust with 12″ range and optional under-surface vertical rack box. Both can be machined for small surface cut outs or fitted with an optional mount box for any touch panel or cable box needs. These desks differ from our usual ADA quick ship option, the SCM-640L, by offering users a smaller, more simplistic style for a lower price point.

Also new in our Quick Ship line is an optional 1″ radius aluminum corner and 3/8″ square aluminum corner, which can be added to any MRTA-style piece and our ELCO traditional style lecterns. We developed the aluminum corner option as a way to introduce further customization and variability in our budget-friendly pieces, especially for clients that are looking for more modernity in their furniture.

If you flip to the ELCO lectern section in our 2014/2015 Idea Book, you’ll see a handful of new options previously not available on our Quick-Ship pieces, including an LCD well and pullout drawer in lieu of a keyboard shelf. Users can choose whether they’d like a hidden access panel or one with hardware showing. All our AC outlets now come with USB connection, larger ELCO lecterns can have asymmetric and/or vented doors and all sizes of ELCO lecterns can include a full-width monitor well.

In conjunction with new products and options, we recently added six new melamine colors to provide customers more variability in their budget-friendly furniture. Modern, solid colors consist of Silver Frost, a light silver color, White and Slate Gray, a blue-toned dark gray. Wood-grained melamine additions include a dark brown color called Cocobala, Wild Cherry, which is a slightly darker, red-toned version of our regular Cherry melamine, and Asian Sun, meant to represent bamboo.

Upgrades & Additions
We’ve recently made updates to several aspects of our work shop and its grounds. Specifically, we had our parking lot paved, an endeavor requested for several years now. Before paving began, we suffered through several bouts of flooding and had gotten used to avoiding mud puddles scattered throughout the lot. After finalizing plans, we began parking lot renovations around late September. We’ve still got some ways to go before the lot is complete, but we’re (literally!) half way there.

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A new addition to our sales team also happened around September. We had the pleasure of welcoming Lola – she specializes in giving kisses and begging for cookies! Yes, you read that right. Though, if you haven’t guessed by now, our new addition is a canine co-worker! She has seamlessly blended in with and befriended our other doggie companions here and has gotten used to prancing from office to office for attention.

Lola

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A few months back we acquired another addition to our team – a Marshall Furniture van! We primarily wanted to invest in a vehicle that we could easily load small furniture into for local road trips to dealers and customers. More often than not, it’s so much easier to describe us and what we do visually and we wanted to find a way to bring our product to the masses.

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Normally, we’re accustomed to doing trade shows throughout the year. During down time though, we thought it would be nice to be able to visit current and potential clients to introduce new products and present information about ourselves to those who might not already be familiar with our company.

If you’re in the Midwest or in a state near Illinois, please give us a ring or shoot us an email to inquire about having some of our staff come out to your location in our trusty new van. We’d be more than happy to schedule a time to present materials, products and answer any questions you and your associates may have.

Moving forward
There you have it – a quick synopsis of what we’ve been up to these past few months. As the new year approaches, we hope you will keep us in mind for any upcoming projects. We hope you enjoy the Holidays and enjoy a successful 2015!

See you next year!

Solid Wood Versus Veneer

We’re about to cannonball right into a topic that has been discussed and argued many times over.

Why? Well, there’s plenty of preconceived notions and opinions out there that advocate for one method of construction or the other. Interestingly enough, people are still divided on this front with strong advocacy and exclusivity for one side or the other. In our own experience, we’ve come across plenty of instances where a client has asked us to build using their preferred method.

For us though, there’s one method that takes precedence in our products over the other – veneer. We prefer veneer so we can ensure our products are long lasting and can hold up to each customer’s setting. Take note, we don’t completely throw solid wood out the window, as it’s often used for molding, table edging and framing. However, our choice to invest in a veneer construction is essential to our core standards and done for a variety of reasons. Which, you guessed it, we will list below.

What’s the difference anyway?
Let’s start with the basics.

You’ve got solid wood, which is pretty self explanatory. It’s a piece of lumber cut and sanded to make individual parts that make up a piece of furniture. Solid wood furniture has a consistent grain that runs all the way through each piece and can, for the most part, stand the test of time. This is why solid wood furnishings are often referred to as “heirloom furniture.”

Veneer, on the other hand, is considered an engineered product. Thin slices are cut from a log in the same manner that the deli guy at the grocery store would cut your salami. Veneer gives cabinet makers (and ultimately customers) more variety in their grain pattern because veneer can be cut from logs that were separated from the tree at different angles, producing options such as rift cut, quarter sawn or flat cut. Afterward, these slices are adhered to a substrate and assembled to make the final piece.

Both seem legit – why one over the other?
Well, as with anything, you’ve got your advantages and disadvantages.
But let’s start with a little background.

For some reason, veneer has gotten a bad rap. Many have suggested that’s thanks to the mass-market, low budget furniture that’s out there. You know, the kind you can get just about anywhere? Well, a lot of these products are made with veneer that is so paper-thin, it might as well not be there. This, combined with a low-quality substrate, produces a time bomb waiting to fall apart at any moment. Thus, the idea that veneer equals bad.

However, what many fail to realize is the lack of quality that is at these products’ core. Veneer, when done properly, should hold up just as well as a piece made from solid wood. Quality material and construction is everything. If you want something that doesn’t blow over in the wind, you’ve got to ensure that veneer is A) thicker than cellophane (ours is about the thickness of a business card) and B) applied to medium density fiberboard or plywood. If you’ve got both, you’re good to go.

So, why not just bypass all that headache and construct using ‘ol tried and true solid wood? Well, solid wood has got its pitfalls too, many of which are detrimental to the type of products we specifically manufacture.

1. Warping & Bowing
Wood is a natural product and as such, is inclined to act according to its environment. Year round, trees continually expand and contract, reacting to moisture and temperature. Since we ship all over the country, it wouldn’t be the best idea to build from solid wood because you can bet a cabinet is going to expand if it goes from dry, cool air to somewhere warm and humid. You’d be left with doors that may not close properly anymore, flat sides that bow and areas that could crack. None of which is exactly welcome.

That’s where veneer and substrate come into play. Our products are built using medium density fiberboard (MDF) at its core. MDF is a great choice because it is strong, high quality and best of all, resists expanding and contracting. When you’ve got numerous pieces that make up the entirety of a lectern, the last think you want is one of those pieces moving out of place and messing the whole thing up. Plus, we’ve got equipment going in our pieces. If we make a hole for a touch panel, we don’t want it to be too big or too small once it arrives on-site for install. That just messes everyone’s day up.

2. Price & Waste
Let’s jump right into an analogy, shall we? If you buy a loaf of bread, you could chomp right into the sucker or cut it in half lengthwise to make a massive PB&J. But common sense would tell you to cut it into slices so you get a longer shelf life out of it. Instead of one, unnecessarily large sandwich, you could have lunch for a week or more.

That rather hunger-inducing illustration is meant as a precursor to our next point. If you cut a tree down and separate it into a few sections of solid wood pieces to build a table, it’s more expensive and wasteful than taking that same log and slicing it numerous times into smaller fitches of veneer that can be used to make several pieces of furniture. As a planetary rule, being eco-friendly is a priority, but especially more so when you’re using a natural source as the backbone of your company. By using veneer, we are saving money and resources by squeezing as much material as we can from one source. By using MDF, we’re actively recycling, as MDF is essentially sawdust glued together to make a board. The last thing we want is our prices to go up and the environment to suffer simply because we’re using up more lumber than we need to.

3. Variety
Every customer is different in their view of how their furniture should look, which is why we, as a custom furniture company, prefer to work with veneer to ensure each client need is met. What do we mean? Well, there are a variety of options out there that simply won’t work with solid wood. For example, if a client wants to see different cuts of grain arranged to form a pattern for artistic purposes, veneer is really the only way to go. Got someone who wants to see something other than Maple or Cherry? Some exotic wood choices can only be produced in veneer form. If you’re trying to eliminate defects to produce a uniform look, using veneer is a more precise and less wasteful way to get away with it. All in all, solid wood construction can be very restricting.

Okay, here’s the obligatory conclusion:
We’ve taken this blogging opportunity to put forth a multitude of reasons why we prefer to use a veneer construction. All that being said, we’d like to take a moment to make a small side note here. Solid wood is not bad. Solid wood is not sub-par. Solid wood has its benefits too: it’s sturdy, long lasting and is easier to repair from minimal damage. Solid wood just doesn’t work for what we’re trying to do. Instead, we prefer to use it side-by-side with veneer, specifically on edges to protect from bumps and scrapes or aesthetically, as is the case with raised paneling. In fact, most furniture is done this way, where a combo of both solid wood and veneer is utilized. The point here is rather than dismissing one option entirely, it’s better to understand and utilize their strong points instead to ensure success.

We’re on YouTube!

Happy Monday, everyone!
Well, that’s an oxymoron, isn’t it?

We’d like to jump back into your daily lives to inform you that we’ve taken on a new venture – YouTube! As a custom furniture company, we find it’s sometimes easier to demonstrate our products through in-person interaction. Since that’s not possible most of the time, we thought it best to take this opportunity to present our audience with video presentations of our most news-worthy and interesting pieces.

Click the photo below to check out our first video. It’s a quick explanation and demo of our new ELCO-ADA-40. Remember to like and please subscribe to see all our future posts.

Here’s the link. Click and enjoy!

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Customizable, Budget-Friendly Furniture – Myth or Reality?

We’re faced-paced and materialistic – nothing you haven’t already heard. It’s universally known that as a society, we’re constantly looking for the best deal now, now, now but let’s be honest, it’s hard not to be this way. On a daily basis, we’re constantly bombarded with deals left and right for a can’t-miss savings or get-it-while -it-lasts offer. It’s therefore unsurprising that just the word “custom” can cause a physical recoil. Why? Through experience, most people come to find, more often than not, that you get what you pay for – if it’s cheap in cost, it’s cheap in design and if it’s custom, it must cost a fortune. For that reason, it’s naturally quite hard to find a worthwhile deal, especially when it comes to commercial furnishings.

One universal problem with budget-friendly commercial furniture is that consumers often find themselves buying something that fits their finances but crumbles to pieces within a year. Typically, because there’s a lot that goes into product cost (materials, labor, the manufacturing process, profit, shipping, etc.) it’s predictable that a lot of variables are sacrificed as a way to reduce delivered price. Not much of a deal though if your furniture is in shambles. And frankly, it’s simply not fair to ask smaller businesses and institutions to compromise on quality simply because they don’t have a fortune to spend re-vamping their offices, conference rooms and classrooms.

The other ever-present issue at hand is that of customization. Customers want what customers want and a manufacturer’s responsibility is to try and meet their needs but it’s difficult with budget-friendly furniture. As we mentioned before, it’s typical that consumers are left with little to no ability to tailor their commercial furniture to their needs without paying a pretty penny. And who wants to shell out money for a unit that isn’t even close to what they want?

That’s where we (and this blog post) come in. We’re aware that we might not be everyone’s first choice for economy furniture- it’s often assumed that due to our high-quality work, we couldn’t possibly offer a custom, cost-effective unit. After all, from the information we just gave, you’re probably thinking: does such an item even exist? Well, as you’ve probably guessed by now, the introduction you just read was all a precursor to our resounding answer of “yes.” We aim to prove that, unlike others, at Marshall Furniture, you can get what you want, you can get a quality, long-lasting piece of furniture and you can get it in your price range.

Allow us to elaborate:
If you peruse around our webpage or through our Idea Book, you’ll see we offer an widespread line of furniture called “Quick Ship.” We developed this line as an answer to a long standing need from consumers . They were drawn to our customization abilities but required a lower base price for their furniture.

With our Quick Ship pieces, we give you the opportunity to choose from a variety of standard sizes and finishes with options that accommodate your existing technology. We’ve got a variety of low-cost lecterns, workstations, monitor carts, credenzas, tables, rack cabinets, rack boxes, wall cabinets, desks and desktop lecterns. Depending on model type and size, you can incorporate LCD mounts, small touch panels and cable reservoirs, microphones, lighting, rack railing for equipment storage, drop leaf shelves and document camera drawers. Some units we construct with melamine, a low-pressure laminate, and others we manufacture like our custom lecterns using the same fine veneers.

That’s nice, but what makes you so special?
Okay, we expect you’re wondering what sets us apart from others who also claim to offer economy furniture. The answer is multi-faceted but simple. We apply quality craftsmanship to our Quick Ship pieces in the same way we do our custom products while consistently offering more customization options than others at a relatively competitive price. Plus, with Marshall Furniture, you’re getting a piece of furniture that is covered by our generous 10-year warranty, is made in America and has options that comply with guidelines set by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Okay, so how much customization can I get?
Unlike some other manufacturers, our Quick Ship products are not meant to be a one-size-fits-all solution. Imagine you’ve got a client who doesn’t require much but still wants a quality piece of furniture for their application. Or, the job requires the complete opposite: a rather large desk with hydraulic lift for ADA purposes, rack rails for equipment, and cut outs and accommodations for touch panels and monitors atop the surface. With our Quick Ship line, we’ve got you covered either way.

The main element of “customization” that our Quick Ship line offers is options. We give you size options, finish options, add-on options, mobility options, work surface options, and much more. We offer the ability to machine the top surface on any of our Quick Ship products for small cut outs (touch panels, microphones, cable reservoirs, etc.) for no charge. Some of our models offer standard 270 degree hinge doors while others have doors that pocket inside the unit. We offer round or square add-on corners that can be specified as either black or aluminum. We’ve got wall cabinets that are low profile, have adequate ventilation elements and offer the ability to hold between 1-6 rack units. Not to mention, our Quick Ship lecterns accommodate most custom logo types and can incorporate additional cable pass and ventilation as required per customer.

Also, unlike most economy furniture, we make an effort to give you a product that reflects the high-quality look and construction of custom pieces. We want to give end users a custom feel without the custom price. For example, take a glance at our ELCO and EXEC pieces – they are modeled to represent the aesthetic of our most popular custom style: Prairie. Our MRTA? Reminiscent of our Radius style and the ELCO-T bears resemblance to our Traditional style custom lectern.

Wait – you mentioned ADA, what’s that all about?
The Americans with Disabilities Act sets guidelines for facilities to follow when it comes to components such as furniture. For us, this means we must ensure the furniture has adequate knee space and hydraulic lift so both seated and standing presenters can use the unit comfortably. Further, ADA compatible units must ensure equal access to controls by ensuring all components on the surface are easily within reach.

To satisfy these guidelines, we offer several units, one of them being our SCM-640L desk. As a standard, this desk has height adjust, rack railing for equipment storage, pocket door to eliminate interference, side drop leaf shelf for additional work surface space, and the ability to include an articulating monitor arm or electric lifting monitor mount. Cut outs for touch panels and cable wells are also available.
If your space requires a somewhat simpler and less option-filled unit, you might consider our ELCO-ADA-40 desk. This desk has an open knee space with 12″ of height adjust. The top surface can also be machined to accept any necessary equipment .

Great, anything else?
Well, as we mentioned before, all our products are made in the U.S.A. To some, this may not seem like much of a selling point, but we’re proud we can claim such a statement.

Country of origin can dictate cost as well all know. Sometimes, customers buy something strictly based on the price tag but have no clue where their product is coming from or who made it. This is never the case with us. At Marshall Furniture, you are familiar with the name of your designer, can work with them personally through email and phone and you can feel comfortable knowing that each piece of furniture was made in one place that you can point to on a map.

Additionally, being the small company that we are, the intimacy of such a small setting ensures that each piece of furniture we build, even our economy units, are made with care by individual cabinet makers who take the time to pay attention to details and build using only the highest-quality materials. As a member of the Architectural Woodwork Institute (AWI), our melamine units and wood veneer products are built to better than industry standards and can withstand shock loads, twisting, side loads and the abrasion of constant use. All of our veneer panels use the highest grade of veneer possible. To that end, we can guarantee all our Quick Ship products under our generously-long 10-year warranty.

Another thing that’s nice about our Quick Ship line? It’s ever expanding. Every year, we are looking to improve, add or modify our economy products to better suit our customers’ requests. We are always trying to keep price low by looking into new construction methods and we consistently try to introduce more and more options as our expertise increases.

Need more info?
Give us a ring. Send us an email. Request a catalog. Or, simply check out our website. Any of these avenues will provide you with images and information about our Quick Ship line. As you already know, we’ll produce design drawings to ensure your approval of each unit we build and we’ll make sure that you understand all your available options. Most importantly, we’ll work with your budget. Let us know what you’re looking to spend and we’ll develop a design that won’t empty out your wallet.

We don’t think you should have to compromise quality for price. So don’t believe the hype – customizable, budget-friendly is not a myth. At least, not at Marshall Furniture.

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The Hills Are Alive With The Sound Of Tradeshow Season

Are you a part of a living, breathing and functioning business? Then you’ve probably heard the word “tradeshow.” Are you looking to advance and promote that living, breathing and functioning business? Then you’ve probably also heard that tradeshows are one of the most effective marketing ploys you can take advantage of to further your company and garner leads. But other than perhaps the obvious “brand awareness” they offer, are there any other advantages to tradeshows?

Being a big proponent of tradeshows ourselves, we’ll be the first to say, “yes.” Plenty of statistics out there will tell you the same. But why do tradeshows matter? We know you’re probably thinking, “this is going to be a post all about the great wide world of networking, isn’t it?” We’re here to tell you, you’re half right. Actually, more like three quarters right. Nonetheless, regardless of whether you’re walking a show floor or showcasing your business in a booth, you’re not just furthering your own name and generating leads, you’re also getting feedback. Sure, you get the opportunity to wave your hands so others pay attention to your company. That’s obvious. But in addition to that, you’ve got a plethora of incoming info to apply to your business itself. What do we mean? Allow us to explain.

Tell me what you think:

As an exhibitor, your products show others not only what you can do, but also function as an investigative tool. Depending on customer reaction, you may decide to scrap a new product, modify it or advertise it to bits. Showcasing standard products you’re known and remembered for begs the question, “are people still interested?” The tradeshow arena can answer these questions unobtrusively from a rather large group of people, highlighting potential areas of improvement.

Even as an attendee, you’re still gathering valuable information to boost your company’s bankability. Tradeshows are a hub for knowledge – from them, you can evaluate your competition and see what they’re up to while taking notes on all the shiny, new advancements around you.

Okay, now we’re going to talk about networking:

Let’s be clear. Networking is important. Networking will get your name out there. But how you network is what matters. We all know your basic objective at a tradeshow is to say, “here I am, this is what I do, let’s work together.” You may have business cards, an informational catalog and possibly even coupons as an extra incentive. But don’t be fooled – these aren’t necessarily the most important tools to utilize in order to garner leads. Albeit a bit cliché, the best tool is you. Yes, tradeshow attendance provides you a rather large pool of client potentiality, but more importantly, it also includes the wonderful advantage of face-to-face interaction.

Your mere presence at a tradeshow presents a benefit in and of itself. You’ve got the opportunity at a tradeshow to present not only your brand, but put a face to it. At tradeshows, you’re not just an email or a voicemail. You’re a face with a smile (at least, we hope you’re smiling). Personal interaction builds a rapport with others and leaves more of a lasting impression on your potential leads. Introductions lead to familiarity and soon, after bumping into others at tradeshow after tradeshow (or other social events), you’ve got a dedicated audience acclimated with your company and your mission, directing fresh faces to you through word of mouth.

In addition, consider of the audience you’ve got to work with. The larger tradeshows often host clients from around the world, providing you with the possibility to build your business internationally. Let’s think about cross-cultural interaction for a minute. Isn’t it easier to communicate with others physically, whether they are from the same country as you or not? On your side, you’ve got non-verbal signals, visual aids and an engaging personal presence to get your message across. Much more beneficial in our opinion than a stale email.

Convinced? Good. Come see us.

Okay, so now that you’re armed with a slew of reasons why tradeshows are in your company’s best interest, we’d like to invite you to come visit us at the shows we’ll be exhibiting at this year. We’ll arm you with plenty of goodies and information about Marshall Furniture and will have plenty of knowledgeable salespeople on hand to answer any questions you may have. Our booth will also be filled with plenty of products to help you visualize your next project. So stop by and say hello!

2014 Marshall Furniture Tradeshow Schedule:

• Whitlock Dallas Convergence
Dallas, Texas
May 20, 2014
Booth # TBD

• NeoCon
Chicago, Illinois
June 9, 2014 – June 11, 2014
Booth #7-1118

• UB Tech
Las Vegas, Nevada
June 16, 2014 – June 18, 2014
Booth #421

• Infocomm
Las Vegas, Nevada
June 18, 2014 – June 20, 2014
Booth #C10136

• Educause
Orlando, Florida
September 29, 2014 – October 4, 2014
Booth #1074

• Infocomm Connections
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
October 22, 2014 – October 23, 2014
Booth # TBD

• Rocky Mountain Audio Video Expo
Denver, Colorado
October 29, 2014 – October 30, 2014
Booth #606

Handshakes & Hellos

First, a little self-promotion:
Hello all and welcome to Marshall Furniture’s new blog! Here, we endeavor to discuss a variety of topics related to custom AV furniture, from the nature of custom furniture and wood construction to tradeshow basics and trending AV products. Our goal is to post monthly, so follow us to keep up-to-date with our blog. Please also check out our Facebook page, Pinterest page, Twitter feed and LinkedIn profile as we routinely post interesting and note-worthy news about MFI. We will also be sure to inform viewers on these social media platforms whenever there is a new post here.

Now, to us and who we are:
If you’re not familiar with Marshall Furniture, please allow us to give you a basic introduction to our background and the work that we do.

We are a custom furniture shop located in Northern Illinois. At our warehouse, we coordinate all details of each furniture design through our office sales team and build the actual furniture on-site within our 26,000 square foot facility.

What does “custom” really mean, you ask? Manufacturing custom furniture for us means that we design and build our pieces around each customer’s functionality requirements, material specifications and their stipulations regarding size and appearance. Our pieces are built for a variety of commercial applications and typically include lecterns, workstations, desks, tables, cabinets and frames. What about the “integration-friendly” part? Well, all our furniture is also built to accommodate whatever each customer’s audiovisual system requires, such as monitors, touch panels, rack-mounted equipment, cable cubbies and microphones.

So, now that you’re intrigued and perhaps looking to get a furniture piece of your own, what now? Well, Marshall Furniture sells exclusively through AV integrators and contract furnishing dealers worldwide. Our dealers routinely work as an intermediary between us and the customer. They not only ensure each customer is utilizing the correct equipment for their space, but also inform us of the specified technology so we can establish fit and function within every piece of furniture. Our dealers act as a support system to facilitate any necessary modifications or repairs to the furniture and ultimately bring us business for future endeavors.

“But how will I know I’m getting exactly what I want?” Well, at Marshall Furniture, we provide design services that are free to customers, dealers, architects and consultants. Our design/sales team generate 2D and 3D drawings based on discussions about the desired piece. On our drawings, we will call out the equipment to be provided by the dealer, furniture dimensions, amenities provided by Marshall Furniture and material, if known. We’ll revise and revise and revise some more until what you see is what you want.

Still unsure how to proceed? Give us a ring to talk to any one of our five designers. We’ll answer any questions you may have and help you get your project started.

Speaking of, let’s get to some introductions please:
For those of you familiar with us, you’ve probably talked and worked with one or more of the people listed below.

Our sales/design team:

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Joyce Nemenyi, Michelle Wille, Tom Feldkamp, Adam Fischer and Ariel Hammond

Our designers are the main line of communication when it comes to every aspect of your furniture design. You can check out our website to contact any of them directly or just go the old-fashioned route and phone us. We’ll be here, patiently awaiting your call.

Let’s get a little off-subject for a moment:
Here’s another tidbit about Marshall Furniture: We’ve got some non-human employees too.

One quick glance at our Facebook page and you’ll know that Marshall Furniture is dog-friendly. Currently, a full house for us is six dogs roaming the office and shop. Needless to say, there’s never a dull moment around here! Unfortunately though, unlike above, we can’t claim as much help with your furniture design from our non-human employees. But they’re really more interested in chasing after a ball anyway.

At the moment, we have two sets of furry siblings and a full spectrum of ages.

Our canine employees:

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Hana, Cooper, Pearl, Sophie, Rose and Julie

So, as they say, in conclusion:
We hope you’ve gotten to know us a little better.

Keep us in mind for any of your custom AV furniture needs. We’ve been at this for over 20 years and we consider ourselves one of the best in the business. Our commitment to providing our customers with quality-crafted furniture is what drives us forward. Marshall Furniture is here to help bring your project to life!