With over 40 years of wood craftsmanship and hand selecting veneers, one of the first things Tom mentioned was how much he enjoys learning what’s new in the world of veneer. When you talk with those around Tom, you will hear about how incredibly knowledgeable he is.
“I sometimes wonder how we will replace the knowledge Tom possesses. He seems to know more about the veneer business than there is information available to learn,” David Lubbehusen, Director of Design Solutions.
Tom’s humbleness and pursuit to never stop learning speaks directly to the company’s core values. He lives them through the care he takes to ensure the customer gets an exceptionally crafted piece of wood furniture.
“Often the veneer samples come to me at our Veneer Studio for review. When I know we have a project and at times in general, I still like to go to the yard and see the bundle of flitches firsthand so there are no surprises and we get the consistency the customer deserves,” adds Tom.
Tom elaborated that looking at veneers at the yard is similar to discovering that great find like “pickers” do. “During my last visit, I saw this cherry flitch with a unique figure in it. I wasn’t sure what we would create with it, but I knew I needed to buy it. It sold immediately. That customer truly received a one-of-a-kind piece of art. We won’t see that figure again in a piece of wood. That’s the beauty of natural materials.” adds Tom.
“Tom has forgotten more about veneer than most of us can learn in a lifetime. He has the eye of an artist and the hand of a creator. He has a unique ability to see the beauty of the end piece of furniture while selecting veneer in its rawest state,” comments Phil Englert, Director of Sales Operations and Training.
Tom likes to remind our tour groups that trees are exactly like humans. There are no two trees alike in the forest. It’s all Mother Nature and the environment that gives each tree its fingerprint.
“Think about someone with freckles. That’s genetic. They’re unique and add character. That’s exactly what birdseye maple is, freckles on the tree. Or the rarity and beauty of burl wood, too. This prized wood grain is the result of a tree being under stress or a malignancy. It’s simply nature doing what it does.”
Tom honestly admitted that sometimes he can’t identify the species of a tree by its leaves or bark like many people can. “My neighbors and I were discussing what type of tree we had in the backyard that needed to be removed last year. Oak, maple, hickory...we went round and round. Finally I said, ‘Let’s cut this thing down so I can tell you guys what species it is. I just need to see it from the inside.”
I would say that Tom’s perspective on trees goes right along with the adage, “It’s what’s on the inside that counts.
As the door squeaks slightly when entering the seating development area, Rick Rademacher’s head pops up from his computer for a moment. Tommy Owens is over at the table with a rolling cutter, chalk lines meandering with effortless precision as he works on upholstery patterns that will ultimately be cut by a machine. But like all good things, they start by hand.
Rick is a seating engineer, and Tommy is an upholsterer: simple titles for a daily jigsaw puzzle of responsibilities. Yet the puzzle always looks like the pristine image on the front of the box. Rick and Tommy bounce ideas back and forth in the same way an engineered form of mixed materials needs foam and fabric to bring it to life.
This is the start of the game. How can Tommy make the process and patterns consistent and repeatable, so the 1,000th chair that is ordered and produced in the plant mirrors what is sitting on the table in development? That’s the thought process...below are thoughts shared while reviewing samples.
“That area gets a lot activity. Let’s use a double stitch for extra durability and a more tailored look. A customer may not notice, but we know...we can do better.”
“It was a love affair,” said Hank Menke, President and CEO of OFS Brands, about his parents’ commitment to taking worn out, scrubby and eroded land and refurbishing it into thriving forestland. He went on to say, “We did a lot of planting. We did a lot of tree planting. I did more holding in and stubbing in with my foot than most would care to. It was enjoyable, though. It was rewarding to see what we did while reflecting on what it had looked like before.”
I recently had the opportunity to talk to Hank about a seemingly simple subject - wood. My goal: to show how the material is at the core of OFS Brands; to show the important role wood has played in the history of the company and how OFS Brands has championed the use of this versatile and renewable material. My result: a perspective on how this structural material was used to build the intangible framework of a culture.
“Today you can see the pines we planted and the hardwoods that are re-emerging because of those efforts. There were mistakes made, but you know what? The fact that we were out there planting, that we were managing the land, that’s why we have more today than we did 20 to 30 years ago,” he said.
Hank talks often about how OFS Brands is a relationship-driven company. “Of course, you have to have the right product at the right price, but for us it’s much more about the relationships that we create. What you make people feel is as important as what you make,” he said. I’d heard this before, but I gave it some extra thought this time. Hank continued, “When I think of wood, I think of the forests. That makes me think of family, and I’m not just talking about my family. I’m talking about this family, OFS Brands. Wood has always been what we have done. Wood is in our roots, but ultimately it is about family. It is about this group of people.”
Read this and more in the OFS Brands 2016 Magazine!
Notes and inspirations from Roger Webb; designer of the Genus Series by Highmark.
The anatomical form of the human back is complex, and when it comes to the design of chairs it poses a particular challenge. I have always been a great advocate of chair back shapes having a form into which the back can snuggly fit, holding it in the correct position with both lumbar and pelvic support, yet allowing for movement, ventilation and blood circulation. If the human body was the same size this would make the design of the back considerably easier, but body shapes come in a variety of sizes and forms. Chair backs often are relatively flat with foam and upholstery allowing for the human back to sink into its softness...not beneficial for healthy, long-term sitting in working conditions.
In designing the Genus elastomer back, the form of the back had to include positive back supporting curvature. The original Genus Mesh has this designed into it, while the flexibility of the mesh also absorbs and responds to a variety of body types. Transferring the comfort of this back to a polymer skin, a different design language needed to be considered. The material itself has a small amount of elasticity, but by looking at expandable packaging, that takes the form of anything it encapsulates, and the design of free form architectural structures where complex shapes can be produced through a series of linear contoured lines, the Genus elastomer back evolved.
This enabled us to build into it more elasticity, utilizing the concepts of architecture and free formed shapes, providing support, firmness or flexibility in zones where it is required. The Genus Elastomer back not only gives the sensation of suppleness, the elasticity in the structure responds to the body's movement giving it the feeling of softness, but more importantly support and ventilation for longer-term, healthy sitting. Like a honeycomb, the Genus Elastomer provides immense structural performance with the minimum use of material.
FORESTRY PRACTICES & HABITAT RESTORATION
OFS Brands founder, Bob Menke, created a culture of environmental consciousness dating back to the 50’s, years before most people were concerned about protecting our natural resources. He and his wife Phyllis—inspired by their love for Audubon Camps, moved by the writings and lectures of Rachel Carson—are widely recognized for their contributions to preserving natural areas and encouraging multi‑purpose forestry. Bob was intrinsic in establishing Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs, and lectured on campus at the first Earth Day in 1970.
Throughout Bob’s life his writings on forestry management and wildlife preservation were widely published. He believed we must preserve and learn from natural systems, minimize the impact of chemicals, and consider the potential for human activity to disrupt ecosystems, all at a time when most were scared to speak these thoughts.
Bob and Phyllis’ views on land stewardship and restoration continued into the next generations. From stories of Hank recruiting college friends to plant trees on worn out agricultural lands, to donated time and resources for community and industry education on the importance of ecosystem health, we continue to see the fruits of this labor.
Located in the PacMutual building in Downtown Los Angeles, the newest OFS Brands showroom speaks to both the history of the built environment as well as the culture and heritage of the brand. A collaboration with Pam Light; pL-D Studio and Klawiter and Associates allowed this truly refined aesthetic to be achieved through preservation of existing architectural elements and thoughtful selection of interior finishes. To schedule a tour and experience it in person, contact us at 310.453.0212.
Photography: MOD Agency
We've recently refreshed our New York City showroom. Opened in 2013 and located in Midtown Manhattan, this OFS Brands showroom displays 10,000-square-feet of the latest in office furniture. The space features views of the city's architecture spanning from the Empire State Building to the Hudson River. Contact us at 212.337.9676 to schedule a tour.
OFS Brands, a leading manufacturer of furniture for workplace, healthcare, and education environments announced today that the company's contract furniture products received an Interior Design Magazine Best of Year Award and Best of Year Honoree Designation. Held recently at Frank Gehry’s IAC Building in New York City, this year's Best of Year Awards celebration marked Interior Design’s 10th Anniversary of the preeminent design competition recognizing superior design in both products and projects.
Riff by OFS won the Best of Year Award in the contract tables category while Rein+ by Carolina was a finalist and Best of Year Honoree in the healthcare furniture category.
In the ten year history of the Best of Year competition, OFS Brands has won ten Best of Year awards and ten Best of Year honoree designations. Qualified interior designers and architects selected product design finalists during a two-week period in October via an online vote, and category winners were determined by a jury of leading architects and designers. According to Interior Design Magazine officials, there were more than 1,800 entries in 142 categories, and nearly 60,000 votes were cast for products by the A+D industry.
OFS Brands is comprised of five distinct brands – OFS, First Office, Loewenstein, Carolina and Highmark – that provide furniture to a wide range of contract interior environments. OFS and FirstOffice offer furniture and accessories for the workplace, from technology-savvy mixed-use collections to casegoods to modern lounge pieces. Loewenstein is leading the emerging third space market with stylish, innovation solutions that redefine function and purpose to allow flexibility and mobility. Healthcare market leader Carolina delivers forward-thinking solutions that positively impact the healing experience for caregivers, patients, and their families. Specializing in ergonomic task, conference, executive, guest and multipurpose seating, Highmark delivers stylish, functional solutions to all contract markets. Based in Huntingburg, IN, OFS Brands is a family-owned corporation.