Every year, Haworth holds a Dealer Day on the Sunday before NeoCon to celebrate their dealer network with workshops, a cocktail party and a tour of the Chicago Showroom. While the party and tour are a great opportunity to network and meet other dealers from around the world and see the new NeoCon spaces, it’s really the workshops that stand out to me.

As a marketer, I often find myself interested in the creative aspects of the interiors industry like design, architecture, art. One of the workshops this year merged these creative concepts and explained what furniture dealers and manufacturers can do to leverage their skills to successfully create what not only beautiful spaces, but functional ones as well. Will Bruder, President of Will Bruder Architects based in Phoenix, took the time in the workshop to share some of his successes, as well as lessons learned in creating spaces throughout his career. The talk, titled “From Head To Hear To Hand: Architecture In the Digital Age”, motivated the audience to take what we do to the next level when providing furniture.

Will started the conversation with a phrase that stuck with me, that we have the “power to make a place” – a profound statement that I’ve never really considered. When consulting, designing, providing, and installing furniture, we can sometimes forget the importance and impact of what we are really doing. We are a part of a process that is creating an environment where people are spending a majority of their time, providing products and services to their clients, and earning a living for themselves and their families. He reinforced a concept close to our hearts here: the need to be great listeners to our clients and the users in a space. The first step is listening – something that should be so intrinsically simple but can get difficult at times. Remembering that the person actually using a desk is not the person picking it out is also key. Because of this, we need to know what is important in terms of functionality for that user while they are sitting at that desk. Will called this “pragmatism and poetry” in making spaces functional and beautiful.

Another great piece of the conversation was the topic of materiality. Will spoke at length about how we commonly lose the “physical reality” of buildings and their materials in many modern spaces. He shared that his process is to create buildings in context of place and materials – to ensure that the space itself mirrors and borrows features from the surrounding environment. In his design at Phoenix’s Burton Barr Central Library, Will used skylights and pillars to create sundials on the top floor’s reading room. The design of the building and room allow for a show during summer solstice, when light floods the room and creates “candles” on top of each of the pillars (as seen above). It’s this type of incorporation of the unique features of the building’s physical location that sets the building apart from others.

In wrapping up the conversation, Will provided the dealers with advice when we are consulting on what furniture should be in a space. “Build places for people to discover great tomorrows in,” he said, encouraging us to picture ourselves living in the spaces we are working on. “We can’t believe anything except in experiencing a place yourself.” After the talk was over, I felt inspired with the sentiments that we could create a sense of community just with the design and choice of furniture. It’s an impactful thought, and one I am excited for.