OFS Brands featured in Timber Design and Technology Magazine

Our 2016 OFS Brands Magazine featured an article by Jarod Brames on our history and passion for wood and the natural world. This passion inspired the popular log-cut graphic that framed our showroom entry this year. The article and imagery was picked up by Timber Design & Technology and featured their latest magazine. Timber Design & Technology is the first dedicated platform for the wood industry in the Middle East offering news, analysis and in-depth features examining all aspects of the regional timber industry. 
Mar 30, 2017 BLOG/Design

OFS Brands Announces New CEU: OFS - Well Building Certification

OFS Brands is pleased to announce that we have been approved for CEU-IDCEC credits for the OFS - Well Building Certification presentation.
Led by OFS Brand’s VP of Development and Wellbeing, Paul Anderson WELL AP, the presentation ties directly to the exploration and pursuit of the International WELL Building Institute and The Well Building Standard.  It outlines the criteria supporting certification in which 100 performance metrics, design strategies, and policies work harmoniously with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). 
The framework of this innovative and extremely relevant standard encompasses seven concepts of wellness: Air, Water, Nourishment, Light, Fitness, Comfort and Mind.   It’s often a slight adjustment or just a focus on a specific concept that can make a tremendous difference to employee health and wellbeing.
“This CEU reinforces OFS Brands' commitment to offer the most current and relevant education to our partners, and supports our continued investment in delivering experiences that focus on people,” says Anderson, WELL AP.


Mar 24, 2017 BLOG/Design

The New Musical Chairs

3rd spaces answer how many seats per person as the music plays.
Written by Nick Blessinger

Think about the last time you played musical chairs. Count the participants, then gather one less chair than the number of persons. The music stops, and the person standing is out. Take away a chair and do it again. In today’s world, the music never stops. Individuals just keep going, tackling their day through meetings, tasks and general interaction. When the music does pause, where are you sitting? Is that space conducive towards the activity at-hand?

Many conversations today revolve around how many seats per person are needed in today’s workplace. Is it one? Maybe three? It depends on the organization, department and the type of work needed to get done; however, when you think about primary, secondary and social spaces at minimum, what is truly needed are choices.

Technically, 1st Place is home and 2nd Place is work. 3rd Place was originally described as places outside of home and work, designations such as cafés, coffee shops and local gathering places. This approach as a community is thoroughly covered by urban sociologist, Ray Oldendburg, author of “The Great Good Place” (1991). Just like there have always been makers (i.e. blacksmiths, cobblers) but now we’re in a maker movement, there have always been third places (i.e. libraries, parks, general stores), and we’re in a third place movement. Today, similar to maker spaces, third spaces benefit in popularity from greater awareness of a connected world and a shift towards right-brained appreciation. And, even more so, the evolution of these movements simply resonates with boomers to digital natives without effort.

Starbucks and establishments of their ilk benefited greatly from the onset of third place. Then, third place, generally reserved outside of home and office, became the “3rd Space” and was planted internally among organizations to benefit from the great atmosphere and interaction these spaces generated. Casual collisions, the bump factor, all became rooted in the reasons to dedicate prime real estate to informal spaces that accommodate individuals and small-to-medium-to-large groups with various levels of public and private applications. Why are organizations doing this? Because it works.

“Clients ask me, ‘what’s this space over here you planned with nobody’s name on it?’ I respond with ‘that is where the most work will get done.’ We purposely plan in 30 to 40% of third space because the research and our experience shows how important it is to productivity and overall culture. They reply, ‘what’s third space?,’” Pam Light, Senior Vice President, HOK Los Angeles, relates.

What is 3rd space? It’s that inviting lounge chair next to a window with tablet and power and some seclusion where you can knock out 45 minutes of work before your next meeting. It’s the small round table with three chairs where your project team can meet for an impromptu meeting. It’s a highback lounge configuration that replaces four walls, yet has all the privacy four colleagues need. Now, add LinkedIn-type networking to an external third space with cool amenities and charge for access...say hello to co-working, another movement that fits the generational blend and evolution of work/home/play.

Technology, more so the untethering of it, combined with transient workforces spawned third space activity as designers recognized that individuals needed only a percent of time in the office or at a dedicated or primary space.

“We coach our clients through a deep-dive assessment of dedicated space. What’s the run-rate on daily office capacity? How mobile is your workforce? The allocation of primary, secondary and third spaces is a measurement. Then, the proximity of the third space is just as important as recognizing that it is needed,” adds Pam Light.

What’s more, just like musical chairs, third spaces create movement and flow by being a destination, just like that last open chair. Individuals remove their bodies from statue-like positions and walk to a new space to work. Movement is well-being. Interaction is well-being. Third spaces done properly will be just like the kitchen at a house’s where everyone ends up.

So, let’s play the new version of musical chairs where everyone has a couple of seats to choose from, depending on what’s playing on the day’s to-do list. The new musical chairs isn’t reserved just for the workplace. Education and healthcare environments dance right along to this tune too!
Mar 13, 2017 BLOG/Design

An Interview with Linda Porter Bishop

Changes in the landscape and confusion in today's furniture market.

Linda has been a registered interior designer in Texas for 19 years. She is a professional member of ASID and IIDA and has her LEED-AP certification. She is one of 50 Founding Members of AAHID (2004). She has designed several furniture collections. Along with interior designer Iris Dates, Linda designed the award-winning Embrace Collection for Carolina. She has won local ASID, state IIDA and national and international design awards. She has been part of the editorial review board for HERD Journal since its beginning, one of two interior designers out of 30 worldwide reviewers.
What have you been up to since designing the Embrace collection for Carolina?
In 2008, I jumped into an amazing opportunity to live and work in Doha, Qatar. I sold my home, my car, left my grown children (who were wonderfully supportive!) and worked briefly for a U.S. firm there. Then my client, the government-owned healthcare system, hired me. I worked in The Center for Healthcare Improvement at Hamad Medical Center. It was my dream job, and I worked with a wonderful group of people from all over the world.
While in Doha, I was asked to design a healthcare product line for the Asia Pacific division of a U.S. furniture company, and I moved to Shanghai in 2012. Another dream job! My commission evolved to overseeing the product development, branding and marketing strategies for the line. As that neared completion, I started consulting with Robarts Spaces in Beijing on their hospital and senior living projects; beautiful work and beautiful people!
In 2015, I decided it was time to come home. Air pollution and daily challenges with the Internet just became too much to handle; and I missed family!
While you were working overseas, how would you describe the general state of Healthcare to be in those countries?
Qatar and the Middle East are very different from China, and both are very different from the U.S.
Qatar is an interesting study of contrasts: they’ve leapfrogged ahead with technology and are slowly developing the infrastructure to support it. It is with the very best of intentions that they build the most modern healthcare facilities. Their challenge is bringing their citizens through the systems to support the facilities without the help of expert oversight.
In China, it is another but different contrast: there’s the beautiful tradition of TCM, or Traditional Chinese Medicine, that has sustained the citizens for thousands of years. At the same time, there’s the drive to be recognized globally as a world leader, so there’s been a rush to construct these massive healthcare centers with the latest technology. But as in Qatar, the infrastructure hasn’t caught up, and often the technology is plentiful but unused.
How is (or isn’t) that different than Healthcare in the US?
Everything is different.
There are very basic things for designers, like learning to convert our Imperial dimensions into metric. The design process is also very different. In Qatar, owners wanted a final rendering at the first meeting, and there was no consideration for any user input. In China, you were required to present “inspiration photos” for your design, and there was no appreciation of creativity.
On the positive side, both countries invested in many tours to the U.S. to tour our well-known facilities. In the case of Qatar, they actively seek partnerships with leading facilities to bring their knowledge and expertise back to Qatar.
As far as healthcare furniture, there’s nothing available around the world that is similar to U.S. healthcare furniture. There’s also no appreciation for it; it is often beautiful but totally inappropriate high-end contemporary pieces. There are lots of opportunities for education regarding infection control and patient safety.
What do you see as the biggest issues facing Interior Designers in the US that are designing Healthcare spaces?
Technology and Evidence-based Design has changed everything.
It’s incumbent on each of us to keep up with the latest research and not to rely on our intuition or what we did on our last project. You have to spend time reading and understanding the implications of the data to your projects.
You have to spend time with all segments of the population and observe them in a healthcare setting: what do patients need and then solve the puzzles when designing the environment and when specifying appropriate products.
Where do you see Healthcare Interior Design in 10 years?
First, I think we need to think about our work as Health and Care Design. It addresses the unique needs of hospitals and clinics as “care” environments.

From a branding and marketing perspective, it’s only a short hop to senior living — or what I call “healthcare-lite.” That opens up a new market.
With this huge wave of retiring Baby Boomers, we have an opportunity to redefine what those environments will look like. Most of us don’t live in a Chippendale-inspired environment; I’m eagerly awaiting a senior living provider who gets this concept.
As each generation of designers enter the market, their preferences have taken over the market and the preferences of the older generation has been phased out. But we have so many people living and working longer, and we need to find a respect for each and a recognition of their individual tastes with our design solutions.

View complete interview here.
Sep 16, 2016 BLOG/Design


A MAKER - There are people who love what they do so unconditionally that they bring depth to topics that seem flat. They strike a curiosity in people they meet that opens up an entirely new world of beauty and perspective. They list fact after fact and tell story after story of their history with their passion.

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.

Jun 23, 2016 BLOG/Design


A MAKER - There are people who love what they do so unconditionally that they bring depth to topics that seem flat. They strike a curiosity in people they meet that opens up an entirely new world of beauty and perspective. They list fact after fact and tell story after story of their history with their passion.

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.
“I think the team is going to need an extra pull here to keep this corner taut. Rick, let’s add another Christmas tree (fastener term) along the seam to keep that line consistent.”

“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.”
Tommy takes out his tape measure and makes some notes. He disappears through double doors to the manufacturing floor and returns with some foam and fabric. He rolls out the fabric and gets to work with chalk, straight edges, protractors and the rolling cutter in hand. He jumps over to the sewing machine where he taps his foot like a drummer and spindles of yarn unravel like he’s trying to land a blue marlin. He’s a sewing machine (pun intended). Then he raises the spinning/lift table to ergonomic height, and the popcorn starts popping, aka the stapler gun. Pop, pop, pop, it’s taking shape. Like a great friendship, frame, foam and fabric (and few hundred staples) become something greater together than apart.
This whole process can be simplified into a few sentences thanks to the meticulousness, creativity and experience that Tommy draws upon to deliver our core values to our customers through his job. There’s an inherent pride that takes shape as well that is never spoken, but is seen in the form of a finely tailored chair. And, Tommy would be the first one to tell you that it is a team effort.
“Tommy is our ‘go-to’ when it comes to converting high level design into shop floor productivity. It’s amazing how he has turned countless napkin sketches into functional, beautiful pieces of furniture,” said Jeff Eckert, VP of Manufacturing.
Tommy is definitely an artist...a maker.
Jun 21, 2016 BLOG/Design

OFS Brands 2016 Magazine Hits the Streets at NeoCon!

Enjoy an excerpt of a featured article - AT THE CORE - with our President and CEO, Hank Menke, talking about the important role wood has played in our history. AT THE CORE was written by Jarod Brames.

“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!
Jun 07, 2016 BLOG/Design

Buildings, Origami and Packaging Inspire Genus Elastomer Design

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.

You can experience the Genus Elastomer by Highmark at NeoCon 2016!
Roger Webb Associates Website

Jun 02, 2016 BLOG/Design

Creating a Foundation for Future Designers

In today’s world, the rate at which new information comes to us can be overwhelming and it is critical that we find new ways to capture the relevant and disregard the noise. I struggle to imagine a reality where we are worse off by knowing more, so being passionately curious and constantly learning are imperatives to connecting the tangible and intangible dots for a better tomorrow. This challenge doesn’t discriminate by age, but the tenured certainly have an advantage due to experience.
Simply put, we can never afford or allow ourselves to stop learning. With this notion, it is our responsibility to provide future leaders and decision-makers in our industry, today’s student designers, every opportunity to experience the persistence and understanding that it takes to be successful in the design world.
That’s why we are extremely excited about IIDA’s announcement that OFS Brands is the 2016 partner for their Future of Design program which includes:
IIDA Student Design Competition
IIDA Student of the Year
Campus Center Awards
IIDA Career Bootcamp
IIDA Student Roundtable
“We are pleased to be partnering with OFS Brands on IIDA’s student programs and competitions, and look forward to working with them to foster and support up-and-coming designers who will lead the Interior Design industry into the future,” said IIDA Executive Vice President and CEO Cheryl S. Durst, Hon. FIIDA, LEED AP. “OFS Brands is known for its high quality, innovative and creative designs, as well as their commitment to sustainability, which is such an important element for the future of design. They are the ideal partner for our student events and competitions.”  
“This partnership is the perfect fit for OFS Brands as it goes hand-in-hand with our mission to be at the forefront of the design industry and within the community,” said Doug Shapiro, Director A+D, OFS Brands. “There is an unprecedented amount of talent and creativity in student design programs across the world, and our partnership with IIDA will allow OFS Brands to not only work with future designers, but also to increase our focus as a company on students and emerging professionals.”
Students can invigorate their surroundings with their energy, wide open-eyed views and spirited ambition. Last fall, we experienced this with a group of Kansas State University students on a product design project. They took full advantage of this industry experience and networking potential as they have all found promising careers in major A&D firms across the country. We both learned a great deal from one another during our time together and we look forward to more of the same with this year’s class. 
Let’s go forward and create learning opportunities so we can all grow together. The foundation of knowledge and experience will serve us all well as the industry blazes new trails and looks across generations to bring meaningful, human-centered design to life. We’re all students on this journey and we cannot ever stop learning.  Who knows?  It may be your idea that creates incremental change that can evolve into the big change the world needs.
All the best,
Oct 15, 2015 BLOG/Design

IIDA Desk Talk with Hillarie Martorell

Aug 29, 2015
Meet Hillarie Martorell! She is San Diego’s local OFS District Sales Manager and our Co-Chair “Pro-D” (Professional Development) for IIDA for San Diego City Center.
Hillarie was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia and in her words “with a southern draw and a love of boiled peanuts”. She studied Art & Design at Brenau University where she received her Bachelor’s Degree in Interior Design. An up & coming firm composed of a handful of Atlanta’s finest veterans in the industry had just opened their doors and took Hillarie in to do “a little bit of everything”, she says. She shares that it was a blast getting into a firm like that at the ground level and helping it grow for the 5 years she stayed on board.
Hillarie then had a calling to go into the sales side of our industry and worked the next 10 years in sales at the furniture dealership level. “It was to me, the perfect balance of being creative with a competitive edge I craved from playing sports my entire life”
We are happy you found the balance that makes you happy Hillarie!
Hillarie later met her husband “and fell in love with my amazing husband, who inspired me to embark on a new adventure with him a year and a half ago; moved across the US to start a life in San Diego! We packed up our cars and our dogs and drove for 5 days across the US, stopping in amazing cities along the way”
– sounds like fun Hillarie, kudos for being adventurous!
Once in San Diego, OFS was looking for a sales rep, it just happened that OFS is Hillarie’s favorite manufacturer to work with in both roles she already played in this industry. “Lucky me” – Hillarie
“Every day I meet someone new, and San Diego is full of the MOST unique people I have met in a while. This sense of community that pours out of everybody has to be why I feel so at home here! Pretty sure I am staying put for a while” – Hillarie
Hillarie has done an amazing job in San Diego, if you have met her, you know what an amazing and bright person she is! She recently helped run with San Diego’s Panel Discussion, “A Creative Mind Never Shuts Down” – this event was a fun and successful experience. Thank you Hillarie!
Did I mention she’s so much FUN too?
Here are a couple more fun fact about Hillarie:
Q: What is your favorite California destination?
A: Right now ALL of it. I can honestly tell you that I still say “MAN I feel like I am on vacation!” at least once a day since moving to California! My husband & I have had a blast doing our weekend explorations. Probably the most unique was staying in a Yurt up in Big Sur, at this charming little place we found called “Treebones”. Highly recommend this place for a weekend get away!
Q: Where would we find you on the weekend?
A: playing Beach Volleyball at Mission Beach!
Q: What does your typical day look like?
A: Since I am technically what you would consider a “Corporate Nomad” each day is pretty different from the day before. When I need that feel of an office environment I set up shop at some of our San Diego furniture dealer showrooms. On days I need to focus, you can find me at a local coffee shop or in my favorite room of my house, the sun room, which I call my “home office”.
On my favorite days I am popping around to local businesses & design firms around San Diego. I am always at my best when I get to be around different people & feed off of their energy! I try and keep my Professional Affiliations to 2 evenings per week, between Co-Charing IIDA “Pro-D” and serving as a Developing Leader with NAIOP. That way I can still make time for my workouts, hubby and 2 dogs!
Q: What is your go to outfit?
A: Anyone who knows me knows my signature color is yellow. If color had a personality, yellow would be identical to mine! The key in San Diego I have discovered is to wear layers. My go to would be colored jeans with a flowy colorful top and my favorite yellow pearls.
Q: Beer OR Wine?
A: Before moving to San Diego, wine. Since living in San Diego for the last 1.5 years, beer. DUH!
Thank you for sharing Hillarie, so much fun learning more about you. I believe I speak for most if not everyone when I say we love having your bright smile and colorful outfit around! …and we get it, San Diego does have the best breweries.
Tanya Villalpando, IIDA, Gensler
Source: IIDA Blog
Sep 23, 2015 BLOG/Design