- Office furniture company, Bureau, aims to solve the office set up conundrums faced by workspace operators and small business occupiers.
- The company offers an agile approach to furnishing and takes care of the end-to-end process, from space planning to haul away.
- Allwork.Space spoke with the founders of Bureau to find out how their service is living up to its promise of ‘easy, affordable and flexible’.
Taking the pain out of furnishing offices for small businesses, startups and flexible workplaces is the aim of Bureau, a new contract furniture concept launched in New York City.
With a direct-to-consumer platform, pricing transparency, and concierge services ranging from space planning to haul away, the company aims to solve the small office set up conundrum from the front to the back end.
Inspired by the success of Casper, a limited product offering initially sold only online, combined with a millennial sensibility about sustainability, Bureau presents a highly curated assemblage of desks, chairs and file cabinets.
A single product per category is offered, and most items are available in no more than two or three finishes and colors.
Desks, chairs and file cabinets are of comparable quality but priced at a fraction of the cost of major office manufacturers, with the elimination of middlemen.
Ergonomically approved chairs sell for $350 and desks start at $450. Full office workstations (chair, desk, file cabinet) are priced at $1,000.
Consumers can order direct from the ecommerce platform or at the showroom in New York City (more are planned nationwide). Delivery is included to continental U.S.
“There are three pillars to what we’re doing,” explains co-founder Greg Hayes. “The pillars are easy, affordable and flexible. And surprisingly, those things just haven’t really existed in this industry.
While managing the real estate for flexible space provider Breather, which involved procuring furniture for some 500 locations, Hayes discovered a gap in the marketplace.
“I was exposed to this situation that exists in the world of office furniture, where you can either get really beautiful expensive furniture, or really cheap, quick furniture, but nothing really exists in the middle,” he recalled.
“What we were trying to do is provide a standing desk, ergonomic chair and file cabinet for the same price as you’re going to pay for just a chair at Herman Miller, Steelcase or Knoll,” explained Hayes.
All products are BIFMA-certified, backed by a 10-year warranty and stocked for quick ship.
In the course of spending several months researching the marketplace and sources, mutual friends connected Hayes with the two other founders. Sib Mahapatra has a tech-focused real estate background and Verity Sylvester is, like Hayes, a Toronto native with a commercial real estate background.
The team recognized that as the flexible workplace market was exploding, the time was ripe for a new approach, especially for companies with 25 to 100 people.
“Our wedge market is startups growing up. As a growing business you might be turning over into a new space in two or three years and furniture really becomes an issue,” said Mahapatra.
Bureau offers many services traditionally supplied by dealers and designers in the higher end office furniture marketplace, but not available to budget customers, including complimentary space planning, product specification, delivery and setup.
The limited kit-of-parts approach provides added flexibility and streamlined decision-making for users as well as an opportunity for a second-life for the product.
Pickup and haul away was identified as a severe pain point for both landlords and occupiers of all sizes, particularly as leases get shorter and shorter.
“With the speed of business today, companies growing, folding, moving or being acquired, furniture becomes a problem,” explains Sylvester.
“When companies move out, they can’t just walk away. They’re responsible for disposing their furniture,” she explained. “We not only handle removal of the furniture, but give back a purchase credit to the owner, depending on the age and condition.”
Used furniture is housed in the firm’s warehouse, and a resale operation is planned for the future.
Not only does the disposal eliminate a cumbersome task for landlords and occupiers, it avoids adding to the 9 million tons of office furniture that fill landfills annually, according to Mahapatra.
In the course of research, Sylvester learned that despite potentially large inventories of used office furniture, resale is difficult due to the complicated nature of the product. “Turns out there are lots of small parts from multiple manufacturers that make refurbishment of office furniture complicated,” she said.
Because the products were deliberately designed with a limited number of parts and skus, replacing worn pieces and parts is simplified.
“Our furniture is quite modular,” explains Hayes. “Most of our pieces have three or four parts to them. So, it’s pretty easy for us to swap out parts and fix it.”
A well-curated offering also simplifies decision-making.
Specifying one workstation can encompass up to 1,100 decisions, with up to 400 different line items for a single desk or chair, related Sylvester.
“It’s great if you’re a Bank of America. You’ll get an amazingly efficient, beautifully built in space because you can customize it exactly. But for 99% of tenants, they don’t need that level of customization. No one wants to have 400 choices.”
Additional products suitable for ancillary areas are currently in the design stage including soft seating and low tables. Functional accessories are also on the horizon.
Selections will remain tightly focused in keeping with the pillars of ‘easy, affordable and flexible’ the company was founded upon.