NeoCon 2016

neocon-2016-1This past month, three of our designers as well as our Manager of Interior Design traveled to Chicago to take part in NeoCon 2016, the premier commercial interior design conference. This conference allows our designers to see the newest commercial interiors products and trends so they can gain inspiration for upcoming projects.

Our staff came back to campus with fresh ideas to implement in University spaces. They noticed a trend for more organic shapes in furniture – fewer hard corners and more rounded, soft edges. Lighter woods were popular as were glass surfacesneocon-2016-2 which reinforce the organic nature of the furniture.

Another trend our designers picked up on was the strong move away from panel supported work surfaces. Most of the open or shared office spaces were filled with free-standing workstations. This is in line with the big trend of last year’s conference – collaborative workspaces.

The Furnishings and Design department is dedicated to keeping up with the latest developments in the commercial design industry in order to provide our campus with well-developed spaces.


Why do I have to give a budget?

For the Furnishings and Design department, budget information is essential to providing our clients with the highest quality of service. Furniture projects, upholstery projects, and Chair Lab appointments all benefit from having client-provided budget information. When a client has a figure in mind, the designer knows which furniture or fabric manufacturers to choose from to stay within the appropriate budget. Likewise, Chair Lab appointments require a budget so that clients can choose from seating in their price range. You don’t want to shop among high-end manufacturers if your department has only allocated enough money for a more budget-friendly solution!

The Furnishings and Design department strives to exceed customer satisfaction, especially when it comes to staying within budgets, and we appreciate our clients working with us and providing that vital budget information. If you have any budget questions or concerns, please contact Sarah Robinson, F&D Manager of Business Processes.

Office Chairs

Why can’t I just go to an office supply store and purchase a new chair for my office? They’re so much cheaper!

This is the most frequently asked question we hear regarding the chair lab. As part of Procurement Services, our department is certainly mindful of how the University’s money is spent. But to do that, we must consider the bigger picture. Instead of looking at individual purchases, we must consider that there are over 6,200 employees campus-wide who may, at some point, need a new task chair. With that “big picture” in mind, we have created the chair lab to serve the University’s need for ergonomically designed task chairs for its employees.

The chairs you see in the big box stores are considered residential furniture – meaning, they are not intended for long-term use. Commercial furniture must undergo stability and durability testing in order to meet commercial grade standards. They are designed to last for many years in a work environment without obvious signs of wear and tear. The chairs we offer in the lab meet these high-quality standards and are considered some of the best task chairs available nationwide.

All of our chairs also come with a warranty. Should you have any trouble with a chair you have purchased, our department will coordinate a repair with the contract vendor and file a warranty claim. Even if the particular issue is not covered under warranty, we will work with the contract vendor to provide a quote for the repair. This reduces the need to buy a new chair when an existing one becomes damaged.

Lastly, with all things considered, purchasing a chair from an office supply store is not necessarily “cheaper”. The chairs offered in our lab are all under the UA furniture contract as negotiated by the Purchasing Department. Those contract prices typically reduce the cost of your chair by 40-70%.  While the price may seem higher than what you can find at an office supply store, the combination of the University’s discount and the ability to use the commercial grade chair for a longer period of time provides greater value over a longer period of time.

If you’re ready for a new task chair and would like to visit the lab, please fill out the Chair Lab Request Form on our website or call Katie Ball at 348-8433.

Trash to Treasure

Before image of chair

After image of chairWe’re sure you’ve heard of the line, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Recently, one of our designers and upholsterers had the opportunity to bring to life that famous cliché. A discarded executive-style chair was found in surplus and given new life for a client who greatly desired a beautiful new chair.

Designer Leah Shepherd found the chair for her client and worked with Upholsterer Janice Burrell to come up with a design. The chair was in really rough shape. The arms were scratched, the fabric was worn and stained, and the metal nailheads were dull. After sending it to the cabinet shop to have the arms and base refinished, Janice recovered the chair in a durable vinyl. She added decorative tufting to the back and piping around the edges of the chair. She also changed out the lackluster nailheads with new ones.  And in just a few days’ time, what one department considered trash is now another department’s treasure!

Houser Hall

Jessica Owens of Furnishings and Design has been hard at work, completing the renovation of Houser Hall. Originally built in 1949, Houser Hall is the former home of the College of Engineering’s Computer Science and Electrical and Computer Engineering departments.  The building now houses the Office of Disability Services, Testing Services, and the Office of Veteran and Military Affairs. The Office of Disability Services provides academic accommodations for University of Alabama students with disabilities. Testing Services administers both undergraduate and graduate admissions tests, GED, CLEP, and UA Placement exams. The Office of Veteran and Military Affairs is aimed at providing programs and services to meet the needs of service members and their families in order to ease their transition to college life.

Houser Hall is keeping with UA’s trend towards using terrazzo flooring in high traffic areas. The beautiful custom design of the terrazzo can be seen in the first floor. A design element that makes Houser slightly different than some of the other UA buildings is its use of store front style glass walls. This allows natural light to flood the building.


NeoCon 2015

neocon-2A group of Furnishings and Design’s designers visited Chicago, IL in June to attend NeoCon, the premier interior design conference where new commercial interiors products and trends are displayed for attending designers to gain inspiration for upcoming projects. NeoCon describes itself as “the commercial interiors industry’s most important annual event – bringing together the right people, the best products, and the most innovative ideas.”

At the conference, our design staff learned how to incorporate current interior finishes and furniture trends into strategies for maintaining or updating facilities across campus. NeoCon provided the design team the opportunity to co
llaborate with industry experts and see an in-depth look at commercial interior design solutions for current campus needs.

One trend our designers found to be a continuing theme in design is creating a more collaborative environment. Instead of designating rooms for groups to meet in, we have seen a trend towards creating a meeting space within a larger space. Items such as mobile furniture strategically placed in an open area provide for more impromptu meetings among coworkers.

This can be anything from a touch down space for quick discussions to a student work station that allows more flexibility to work alongside professionals in their chosen career.

Year End Furniture and Fabric Orders

Furniture and fabric must be ordered prior to year end deadlines to secure FY2015 funds. Due to the high volume of requests, priority will be given to Design Requests submitted by Friday, August 14th. Project requests received later will be handled as time permits. For new projects with furniture or upholstery needs and year end budget requirements, please email the completed Design Request Form toLeah McCool, F&D Office Associate II.

Many faculty and staff are also considering purchasing a new task chair with year end funds. To secure these funds, Chair Lab Request forms must be also received byFriday, August 14th. Due to the high volume of Chair Lab requests prior to year end, the Chair Lab does not provide sample chairs to be tested in employee offices during the month of September. Please contact Katie Ball, F&D Assistant, with questions regarding chair lab appointments.

Website Renovation

Much of the basic information departments often need from our office can be found on our website. We recently updated the site with the help of Procurement Training Manager, Jennifer Clark, to make this information more easily accessible to you, our clients. The first major change was to give the page an easy to remember web We also updated our Chair Lab Request Form and will be making changes to the Design Request Form in the near future.

To continue the website renovation, we are updating our design and upholstery portfolios. If your department recently had a project completed through our office, you may be contacted by Leah McCool to take pictures of your newly designed space or reupholstered furniture. Be sure to check in to our website frequently to see these new and exciting changes!

Starting a Renovation Project

There are two separate forms used to initiate a renovation project, so how do you know which one is appropriate for your department’s needs?

Generally speaking, the Design Request Form (DRF) is for those smaller renovation projects and the Project Initiation Request (PIR) is for larger renovation projects.

Design Request Form

The DRF is used in-house by the Furnishings and Design staff to initiate a renovation project under $5,000.  It involves no more than two trades and does not significantly change the structure of the building.  Upholstery projects, selection of new furniture, and updating paint colors are just a few examples of projects you would start using a DRF.

Project Initiation Request

The PIR is for those larger, more complex renovation projects which are over $5,000 and/or involve three or more trades, and/or make significant changes to the structure of the building.  The PIR first goes to the Construction Administration department for review before making it to our office.

For more information on these forms, please visit the Forms page as well as the FAQ page on our website.

Extra Help for Upholstery Shop

Each month, the Upholstery Shop completes over a dozen projects. Some of these are simple fixes that only take an hour or two to finish, while others are a part of much larger projects that require hundreds of hours of work over many weeks. This keeps our two upholsterers very busy in order to meet the needs of our growing campus. We are happy to welcome a third upholsterer to our staff. Her name is Stephanie Lewis, and she comes to UA with nine years of experience.

Now that our available work hours have increased by over 50%, we expect our turnaround time to diminish greatly over the coming months. This will be especially beneficial as we head into the summer, which happens to be the Upholstery Shop’s busiest season. If your department has furniture in need of repair, please fill out a Design Request Form and we will be happy to work on your project!