Sustainable Design on Display

Oct. 1, 2008

Buildings Interiors® Design Citation of Excellence: The HON Company, Chicago Showroom 2007, Chicago, IL

By Maureen Orsborn 


These days, it seems like everyone is thinking green. The HON Company, however, has been using recycled materials in its furniture for more than 60 years. In this era of environmental consciousness, the company decided that now is the right time to put a spotlight on its efforts and show the public that green is keen. The Muscatine, IA-based furniture manufacturer's redesigned Chicago showroom in The Merchandise Mart is flexible and sustainable.

The entrance to the showroom immediately grabs visitors' attention. Upon entering, visitors encounter a large architectural feature finished entirely with HON's Nature Core™. This substrate is part of the company's Initiate system (Nature Core replaces fiber glass in the system-furniture panels). While this sustainable material makes its first appearance at the showroom entrance (where stacked layers form a wide column between doors), Nature Core is used creatively throughout the space, including at the reception desk.

Simple and bold graphics in the showroom communicate HON's dedication to providing environmentally friendly, durable, and flexible furniture that has an innovative, timeless design. In the storefront, chairs are suspended from the ceiling at varying heights. Visitors marvel at these floating chairs, never realizing the conundrum that surfaced when the weight of the chairs proved to be too heavy for the standard ceiling to withstand. A palette of contrasting colors (dark, rich neutrals on a white-on-white architectural background) makes an equally dramatic statement that creates visual interest.

To add space to the showroom, an existing conference room was removed, allowing for flexible meeting, training, and product-display areas. Natural light penetrates into the showroom now, and visitors are drawn through the space to windows that overlook the Chicago River.

The showroom's ceiling and existing lighting features presented the biggest challenge during the redesign. Due to budget constraints, designers chose to work with existing ceiling elements in such a way that they fit right into the design concept. Existing glass doors were also reused in the showroom, but repositioning them onto new tracks turned out to be a bigger challenge than simply installing a new system—heavy engineering was necessary. Having overcome many challenges, this showroom is now a real showpiece for The HON Company.

Judges' Comments

"The layout of the showroom clearly dem-onstrates the company's commitment to environmental principles. Seeing the designer's original sketches translated into reality, without losing anything in translation, is the mark of a good construction team." 

Maureen Orsborn is a contributing editor at Buildings magazine.


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