Stockholm Furniture & Light Fair 2017

February 16, 2017

See all my photographs from this year’s exhibition on our Pinterest page.


The 2m lampshade

One of the joys of this event is the diversity of products available in one location. Whether you are looking for domestic, workplace or hospitality applications, the variety is enormous and most of it comes with that extra ingredient of ‘Scandi Design’ flair.

Starting amongst the numerous lighting exhibitors, I was reminded of the dramatic progress in the development of low energy lamps, LEDs and their associated applications in recent years. The selection of lighting products for both domestic and commercial use was a delight. I was particularly impressed by the many designs merging traditional materials with the new technology. However, I was there to look at workplace furniture and, although it would be easy to spend my time creating a wishlist of products for my own home, there was work to be done!

nordic_deskInevitably, sit-stand desks are a mainstay of the workplace part of this event. The conspicuous difference from the UK is that they are no longer a novelty. This concept is over twenty years old in Scandinavia and, in Denmark, it is now mandatory to offer sit-stand desks to employees. In a mature market, every manufacturer’s portfolio includes sit-stand and differentiating themselves from competitors can be difficult. The current focus is therefore on aesthetics and many companies are hiding most of the essential steel components by encasing them in wood. I thought it was significant that I saw no evidence of the gimmicks such as illuminated desktops and hands-free height adjustment that are gaining ground in the USA. There is also no discussion about whether or not people use adjustable desks (a preoccupation in the UK): sit-stand is part of the regional culture.

Amongst the furniture manufacturers were several balance/wobble board variations to encourage exercise and movement whilst standing at the desk. These included everything from the most basic plastic device to an elaborate mini-surfboard. In the age of crowd-funding, even the most bizarre and unviable designs can at least get to pre-production stage if they have a funky health message and a clever video!

sofi_mesh2Scandinavia has been in the vanguard of workplace seating design for many years and the key regional manufacturers were all represented. Task chairs continue to evolve, offering greater comfort, more intuitive adjustment and improved aesthetics. A strong sustainability story is no longer topical since that too is now ‘business as usual’. As Aleksander Borgenhov, one of the designers, summed up the development process, the objective is to create ‘a beautiful object from something that is, in fact, a highly advanced machine’.

Beyond the task chairs, there was, as you would expect, lots of soft seating and other breakout furniture. These days, I believe the ranges available in the UK from our domestic manufacturers are as innovative, elegant and functional as any in the world. Some of the British manufacturers were also exhibiting and they certainly ‘hold their own’ in an international market. The line between workplace and hospitality products is now blurred to the point of extinction and it is easy to imagine products for offices in hotel lobbies or seating for canteens in bars and cafes.

sequesterAcoustics is one discipline where the design of decor and furniture merge. ‘Sound ergonomics’, as I like to think of it, is a fascinating topic. Many high back sofas, huddles and pods for varying work areas incorporate acoustic benefits into the design and its importance is now widely recognised as we grow to understand more about the links between wellbeing and productivity. One of my favourite furniture products addressing these issues is the cocoon-like Sequester (as it is known in the UK) which was being displayed by its Swedish designers.

Many acoustics specialists were also exhibiting. Acoustic panels and components continue to appear in a variety of shapes and sizes and using them as a design feature rather than burying them in partitions and behind images can be highly effective, especially since so many of them are very tactile.

In previous years, I have also spent time exploring the bathroom fittings and accessories, as well as other non-core activities, but there was no time this year and, in any case, such matters are probably of little interest to my audience!

In conclusion, it was an excellent event with lots to see. In terms of new products, I would say the theme was one of evolution rather than revolution. For me, such occasions are also a fabulous opportunity to catch up with old friends from around the world.

rebel_wallsMy favourite product? Actually my second favourite product (see below) but, completely randomly, I spotted the Rebel Walls stand when I stopped for sushi at lunch time. Their 3D trompe l’oeil wallpaper is stunning and the scope for bespoke designs is very clever. I shall be visiting their UK website when we move house later this year!

My one regret? The most exciting product I saw was not on show but in an exhibitor’s hotel room. It is still at the prototype stage and I am unable to tell you about it until later in the year! If you want to be one of the first to hear about it, you can subscribe to my monthly newsletter!

See all my photographs from this year’s exhibition on our Pinterest page

Sit-Stand Desks: What’s all the fuss about? And why now? (Part 1 of 2)

July 7, 2014

(Part 2 of this blog is available here)

Are sit-stand desks new?

SitStandDeskEarly20thCenturyThere is evidence of implementations dating back over a century, but height-adjustable sit-stand desks as we now know them have been available from Scandinavian manufacturers for about 20 years. We have been using electronically-adjustable models throughout our office for over 10 years.

More recently, products manufactured in the Far East (but often marketed as Scandinavian or European designs) have brought the price down significantly. In 2000, a Danish-manufactured 1600mm x 800mm (63 x 31.5 inch) sit-stand desk retailed at £1200 + VAT. Today the UK retail price (before discounts) is less than £700 + VAT. There are also after-market adaptors for existing sitting desks (see Part 2 of this blog).

So is “getting up” a new thing?

Dynamic sitting, movement and changes of posture have been a mantra since before the birth of ergonomics as a discipline. However, the “sitting is bad for you” message is quite recent (but probably not as recent as people think).

The “Sitting Disease”

Type 2 DiabetesAs long ago as November 2007, the Daily Mail published this article in the UK headed “Sitting at a desk all day is as bad for health as smoking”. There were probably many similar articles at the time.

The basis of the research (from the University of Missouri-Columbia) was that prolonged sitting increased the likelihood of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and obesity. These outcomes drew the parallel with smoking (also a cause of these three disabling conditions) and this prompted the “sitting is the new smoking” catchphrase.

Recent publicity, in the UK especially, comes as a result of a Leicester study providing a meta-analysis of 18 studies and published in August 2012. This arrived at a similar conclusion.

Alongside this research, other evidence suggested that even regular exercise or gym workouts would be insufficient to counteract the damage being done by sedentary lifestyles amongst western office workers.

As a result of the publicity surrounding these findings, the catalogue of potential health woes apparently brought about by a sedentary lifestyle have been collectively dubbed the Sitting Disease.

Seeing the wood for the trees

There is no doubt that, properly implemented and used, sit-stand desks are healthy and beneficial to employees. They can increase calorie consumption, encourage movement, reduce sedentary postures and increase productivity.

But they may not!

Much of the recent purchase activity of sit-stand desks has been as a knee-jerk reaction to employee demand. In the US in particular, many retrofit sit-stand desk projects have proved harder to implement than expected. Blue chip employers are now installing successful sit-stand-only desking in new build projects but this is a very different situation from partial implementations in existing facilities.

Culture and training

In the same way that a well-designed chair will not help back problems unless the user is trained to set it up and adjust it, a sit-stand desk may just replace poor sitting postures with poor standing postures. It is also essential that users recognise the importance of mixing activities and remember not to stand or sit for too long at any one time. Taking the chair away and standing all day may solve some problems but will almost certainly create others.

It is therefore important to find a desk supplier who understands the cultural and psycho-social issues of using these products, rather than a retailer who can simply assemble it and plug it in.  It is also naïve to assume that the simple act of providing users with sit-stand desks will be the panacea for all posture issues, instantly eradicating the “Sitting Disease” and increasing productivity!

Users need to understand how to adjust the desk, why they should be doing so, how long they should use the different postures and what “a good set-up” looks and feels like. Otherwise there is a strong chance that the varied use will be abandoned and it will soon revert to an unnecessarily expensive sitting desk.

It is even possible to link the desk controls to the user’s computer and adopt a scientific approach to posture change. For example, SitStandCOACH is a software/hardware combination that prompts users to change posture at appropriate intervals (linked to activity and not just to time).

So what are my options?
What are my options?My next blog will explore product options and provide ideas for implementation, as well as offering some warnings about pitfalls. In the meantime, in no particular order, here are several research links relating to sit-stand workstations. I shall leave you to draw your own conclusions about the veracity of each item!

  • Useful blog article with several research links –
  • University of Leicester, 2012: Sitting for protracted periods increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease and death –
  • Ebara et al, 2008: Effects of adjustable sit-stand VDT workstations on workers’ musculoskeletal discomfort, alertness and performance –
  • University of Sydney/National Heart Foundation of Australia Case Study, 2013: Do sit-stand workstations reduce employees’ sitting time –  (further references in the back of this publication)
  • Choi, 2010: Ergonomic Evaluation of Electrically Adjustable Table in VDU Work –
  • Grunseit et al, 2013: “Thinking on your feet”: A qualitative evaluation of sit-stand desks in an Australian workplace –
  • Hedge, 2004: Effects of an electrically height-adjustable work surface on self-assessed musculo-skeletal discomfort and productivity in computer workers –
  • American Institute for Cancer Research, 2011: Getting Up From Your Desk Can Put the “Breaks” on Cancer –
  • Extensive BBC Article, April 2014:

(Part 2 of this blog is available here)

Active desks – a step too far?

April 10, 2013

LakeDistrictViewApple crumble & custard. Morecambe & Wise. Long walks & the Lake District. Some combinations just work well together.

Other pairings may be worthy individually but less so when united. I would put driving & texting, Rachel & Joey, walking & typing, and cycling & mousing into the latter category.

Treadmill DeskRecent discussions and headline-grabbing stories about the adverse effects of long-term sitting have brought “active desks” back into the limelight. (Active desks provide the user with facilities to walk, cycle or even use a recumbent elliptical trainer when working at an appropriate height desk). I first saw these at an exhibition in the US several years ago and, despite the plausible sales pitch, I was sceptical from the outset.

My issue with these products is that, like physio balls and kneeling chairs before them, their application in the workplace can be misunderstood and, as a result, misapplied.

Walking and other forms of exercise are obviously “a good thing” but how can you combine this effectively with computer work (which is what the majority of us do at our desk most of the time)?

Passive audio/video activities (webinars, podcasts) are viable with an active workstation – after all, we can watch TV whilst exercising  in the gym. By contrast, typing and mousing require a level of accuracy best accomplished when the upper body is stationary. Productivity will therefore decline significantly. For example, users report dramatic increases in typing errors.

Like physio balls, which are highly effective in their proper context (to strengthen core stability muscles through a proper exercise programme), use in the workplace can be counter-productive or even injury-inducing.

In my view, traditional sit-stand workstations, in combination with other exercise methods, are a better solution (and not just because we sell them!). Not only are they cheaper, they also give the user the opportunity to enjoy a mix of sitting and standing activities throughout the day.  This should always be combined with training and education about other simple activities like stretching breaks, walking meetings, using the stairs, parking at the opposite end of the car park and the many other ways that individuals can improve their health and their productivity without any cost to themselves or their employer.

Car ParkPerhaps my subject should be “Active desks – What’s the point?”

I hope I can look forward to some heated debate about this topic – either online or in person!

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