Fabrics for High-Traffic Commercial Spaces

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by Diana Delaney

Designers face unique challenges when choosing fabrics for commercial spaces. These high traffic areas not only tend to experience a lot of wear and tear but they also have to appeal to a broader audience while still creating a distinctive style statement.

So how do we determine the right balance between style and practicality, comfort and durability? When selecting products and material for a commercial design, there are several key considerations that I immediately take into account, as they may affect the rest of my decisions. It can be quite different from my approach to residential projects.

Commercial buildings often have special requirements in order for a project to meet building codes and various regulations. In terms of fabric selections, consideration must be given to abrasion resistance, lightfastness, fire-retardancy and antibacterial or antimicrobial requirements (most often required in healthcare settings). While we may occasionally use these standards as a guiding principle, they are not often a defining requirement in a residential setting.

_D3_9844Once we have established the general rules, objectives, and budget for the project, the next step is determining what type of furniture components are needed and how they will be used. Most clients have specific requirements for the life cycle of products they are purchasing, so my job is to ensure that the pieces we specify and fabrics we use meet the expected life expectancy, and this is notwithstanding any guarantees and warranties.  After all, once a project is installed and completed, the last thing anyone wants is the hassle of repairs or replacements.

Usage scenarios for each piece also helps us to determine how durable the fabrics need to be, whether they need to be spill and stain resistant or fade resistant. For example, consideration for things such as much natural light enters the space and whether it will be coming into direct contact with the fabric; where will window treatments be used and whether they need blackout options or adjustable shades. If we are putting an ottoman in a seating area, will people actually be sitting on it, or is it perhaps more likely food and drinks will be placed on it like a coffee table?  All of these things come into play as we move forward in the design process.

For contract furniture specifically, I like using faux and bonded leathers for sofas, then perhaps throwing in a bold or playful fabric on any accent pieces or in the accessories. Bonded leathers look great, are easy to clean and can be found at reasonable price points. Wearability is paramount here again due to the fact that they will inevitably be abused through daily wear and tear.

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For commercial bedding, I am a fan of clean, white linens. They can be washed at high heat and with bleach so it is a simple and classic option that never goes out of style and will be relatively easy to maintain. You can always update the look with various weaves and patterns that are still white-on-white. I recommend bed-ends or darker quilts to protect the linens, as one of the first things people do when they enter a new bedroom or hotel room with a freshly-made bed is jump on it and put up their shoe-clad feet!  Coming up with creative methods to meet practical requirements while maintaining the integrity of your design is sometimes a challenge, but is certainly a welcome one for both the designer as well as the clients and those who eventually end up enjoying the space.

Although the design process is often built upon inspiration, the project parameters and fabric application ultimately determine the final selections. You work backwards from the point of that inspiration; meaning, you may find a fabulous colour, piece of artwork or fabric that originally inspires you and although it is not practical to apply that fabric to a high-traffic hotel lobby chair (for example, that custom silk you fall in love with), you may still use the pattern or colour which may lead your design in a direction that is indeed suitable for that space and that project.

The universe never falls short on inspiration; it is simply keeping your eyes (and mind) open enough to receive it.

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Diana’s work with Custom Home Interiors over the past five years has largely involved creating design concepts for model homes, condos and lobbies, as well as developing corporate housing programs for our sister company Corporate Housing Interiors Ltd.
 
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Custom Home Interiors works with industry professional to provide leading edge furniture, appliances, home automation, fireplaces, window treatments and fittings for commercial and residential projects.

We publish a quarterly newsletter containing links to bi-monthly blog posts & other relevant industry news. Subscribe to our quarterly newsletter.

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Meet the CHI Team’s David Skinner

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David SkinnerName: David Skinner

Job title: Operations Coordinator

Number of years working with CHI:

1 year in April 2016

What did you study in school?

I am currently completing a Computer Science degree at Carleton University.

What is your favourite room in a home and why?

My favourite room would be the living room or entertainment room because I love sitting down with family or a group of friends and having a shared experience, whether it be watching a movie or playing a game.

If you could only have one appliance in your kitchen, what would it be and why?

My one appliance would have to be a dishwasher because without it my roommates would fill our kitchen with dirty dishes. I don’t mind doing dishes, but without a dishwasher it would be like a second job in our house.

What is your most memorable CHI project to date?

I have been working with CHI for a little less than a year now as the Operations Coordinator. The first large project that I was able to work on from start to finish was the Minto 185 project. I was partially in charge of the installation team, so in addition to installing the appliances, I was assisting in project management. It was a great learning experience for me, and I look forward to working on more projects from conception through to completion, then being able to step back at the end and appreciate all the hard work that went into the final product.

Minto 185

After we completed our installations at Minto 185, it was very rewarding walking through a finished suite and seeing the appliances shining in their new homes. With the addition of the window coverings, which CHI also installed at Minto 185, I believe we really helped the suites stand out.
 
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Custom Home Interiors works with industry professional to provide leading edge furniture, appliances, home automation, fireplaces, window treatments and fittings for commercial and residential projects.

We publish a quarterly newsletter containing links to bi-monthly blog posts & other relevant industry news. Subscribe to our quarterly newsletter.

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