Expectations are understandably high when it comes to custom-engineered and -produced products. Architectural millwork, used for improved aesthetics and functionality for the end product, has always been fabricated to meet the specifications for a particular building project. That said, to differentiate itself from stock millwork, the industry must continuously evolve as design trends change and new technology or materials become available.
Commercial environments in particular are seeking the creation of innovative millwork features, including cabinetry, shelving, storage, reception desks, lounge or collaboration seating areas, feature walls and more.
First, the most creative architectural millwork solutions are incorporating technology in unexpected places. For example, we’re working on a project for a large financial firm that wants to track how much foot traffic the pantry gets. We’ve engineered a ceiling with undulating, wave-like walnut slats with hidden occupancy sensors. Our client will be able to track how many people are by the coffee or soda machines and what time of day employees are most frequently using the pantry. This data-driven technology will help to make informed decisions to better serve employees.
We’re also seeing that IT, data communications, HDMI and all other AV aspects play a significant role in the conference tables we design and build. There’s a growing demand for the ability to sit in a room and plug in devices that allow for content to be shown on a screen. Architectural millworkers provide the engineering for the wiring needs so that the end user can use the latest technology to maintain productivity in the workplace. This becomes a very coordination-heavy item that involves working with the other subcontractors on the project as a team, which is something we take great pride in.
Another exciting trend impacting architectural millwork stems from recent developments in LEDs. Their many advantages over incandescent light sources include lower energy consumption, longer life, smaller size, influence on LEED credits and more. In the millwork industry, not only do we have to figure out how to mount them (surface or recess), but we also have to account for engineering and access to drivers and wiring for maintenance concerns. We’re seeing creative LED applications in lobbies that are replacing typical lacquer wall panels to create an aesthetically pleasing focal point.
In terms of materials, we’re regularly seeing a combination of walnut and Corian. Walnut has a nice medium tone, and Corian has a modern sleek, mid-century modern feel that complements the natural feel of the walnut. Corian’s malleability to bend into curves also provides a more industrial modern aesthetic and allows more customization options.
Last, but not least, the most noteworthy trend driving architectural millwork in commercial settings is the growing demand for more collaborative, flexible offices. For example, xAD Inc., a global provider of location-based mobile advertising, had a vision for its New York City office. Harnessing the organization’s youthful enthusiasm, Mufson Partnership, Design Republic and Modworxx collaborated to create a space featuring a living media wall; a think-tank room with bench-style seating; and open lounge areas with cafe-style, custom banquettes to foster collaboration.
From fabric-wrapped acoustical panels and base trim that runs continuously throughout the space, to suspended ceiling features and custom seating, architectural millwork has the potential to significantly impact a space.