Draft of 2007.09.24 ☛ 2015.04.02
So Barbara and I have been wrestling with furniture salespeople these last couple of weeks, trying to get the thing we envision for our offices at Vague Innovation. We frittered away a bit over a week with somebody from Michigan Office Interiors (no link deserved, because they really don’t rate very high on knowing trivial details like, oh, what they actually can and cannot build).
It’s not complicated. But it’s not fuzzy cubicle crap, and it’s not melamine, and it’s not that clichéd Eames-era ripoff stuff, and Herman Miller doesn’t sell it. So it’s nearly impossible to find, and damned difficult to arrange from off-the-shelf parts.
We’re even flexible about design vocabulary: it needs to match some other chairs we’ve ordered—where “match” is an aesthetic and design pattern operator, not a color thingie. It needs to look like it’s from the 1940s. But from an industrial center, a working engineering or lab firm, so it’ll either be graphite steel, or aged oak. Not aluminum, not plywood, not steelcase square-cornered Bauhaus crap, sure as hell not Ikea, not Industrial Midden, not particle-board Sauderware, not tubes, not plexiglass, not lateral files, not mesh, not green-and-orange, not Amish, not Craftsman, not Executive leatherette-and-mahogany.
If it’s steel, it will be gray sparkly office furniture colored, rounded, and heavy. Two 40-inch bookcases, facing out, supporting a fitted eight-foot long gray countertop with rounded edges, the same width as the cases. That’s it! If one wants to get fancy, then one of those bookcases could be a locking two-door storage cabinet, like from a lab.
If it’s oak, then it should look like pared-down efficient cheap but sturdy lab furniture. Like library tables, or the things you may recall from very old schools. Planked oak, with an apron. Same dimensions, same supports, although here they’d want to be oak bookcases, simple, square-cornered, succinct.
Every little nubbin of oak these days is the Wrong Color. Every little scrap of metal these days is the Wrong Color, or the Wrong Shape, or perhaps the Wrong Size.
And so we set out to work (Cf. above) with a “custom” office furniture place that could “do anything we wanted”… and we encountered seven (7) distinct cases of “Woops! We can’t get it in that shape/color/texture/finish….” The Formica we picked was discontinued; the bookcases came in only other finishes; the two end supports were one inch different in height; you can’t stick aluminum bases on those stools; you can’t have that fabric on the back… &c &c &c.
And everything, from everywhere in the fucking world, is exactly “three weeks” from being done.
And as it happens, that’s the thing that I hate most. I can shop. I’m good at shopping. I am a patient man, as many folks will tell you. But when everything is at least three weeks away, no matter what—including a piece of furniture (a chair I haven’t mentioned) from an actual furniture store, bought straight off the catalog page—is three weeks from being “ready”, that makes me think one thing: lean.
When everybody’s lean, and has no inventory, then everybody has to wait that minimum three weeks’ lead time for absolutely every thing in the world. Unless it’s weird stuff, of course; that takes extra.
Everybody’s lean, without being at all agile. They’re anorexic.
And that’s frustrating.