Coalesse touts live and work environment

February 15, 2009
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Like Pitt and Jolie becoming known as “Brangelina,” the words “live” and “work” have also become one and have just as much sex appeal — at least in the office furnishings industry.

Coalesse, one of the three core divisions of Steelcase, specializes in gathering furniture for the live/work environment by selecting designs from Steelcase companies Brayton International, Metro Furniture and Vecta, as well as from well-known European companies. The Coalesse line is being shown currently at 30 retailers across North America.

“Design is really kind of a given now. Everyone’s got good design,” said Jason Heredia, vice president of marketing for Coalesse, which launched in June 2008. In creating a vision for the company, Heredia said the team decided “to join forces (with other companies) and go after a new direction. We’re going to rename our mission Coalesse.’”

“Our primary mission, we believe, is that if life and work are blurring … what would happen if a furnishings company took that mission on? There’s no one waking up every morning going, ‘Gee, because I can work out of a Starbucks, how does that change the way the environment should be?’ That’s what we do.”

Heredia added that in using the term “live/work,” Coalesse is not referring to home offices. The company looks at “how do you bring more home into the office,” said Heredia. “We focus on not only businesses, but we span over what I call ‘professional grade consumers.’ These are the consumers that do their research. Those are the kinds of customers we care about.”

Coalesse wants to separate itself from the competition by offering a higher quality of design that Heredia said is meant to provide inspiration to those “professional grade” consumers.

“We did some research with architects and designers, and it turns out if you watch (the consumers) long enough … there’s an interesting pattern you can watch over time,” he said.

“Each one of them has what we call ‘the personal collection.’ This is … where they tear stuff out of magazines and they throw it in the drawer. They want to use it someday, but they don’t know when. That’s inspiration. That’s when you’ve gotten through the noise and you’ve engaged someone. That’s our measure: How do we get Coalesse into a personal collection?”

Coalesse did some benchmarking with European companies to try to find out why many consumers feel European designs are superior to U.S. designs.

“We found lots of things. We found detail; we found design integrity,” said Heredia. “We’re working with some of the best design names in Europe right now for our next portfolio. We’re trying to figure out how to be accessible but premium — and that’s the difference between us and the Europeans in a lot of ways.”

The “spirit of California” gives an idea of the direction Coalesse is going.

“When people abroad think of California, they think of innovation … and kind of this ‘hip’ factor — and that’s who we are,” he said, noting the company will open a design center in March in San Francisco. The center will house the design, research and sustainability teams.

One good example of how Coalesse strives to bring a hint of informality into the business world is the Together Bench. When combined with a table, the German-made bench is the Coalesse approach to a conference setting. Together Bench was designed with the intention of having people scoot in together, and by doing so, it invites a level of informality into the interaction of those sitting on it.

“We’re about work,” said Heredia. “We’re Steelcase; we have all this research. Let’s apply it through the brand Coalesse in a different way.”

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