Americans are always hearing about how small businesses are the engine of job growth. For its latest product, Turnstone, a division of the workplace manufacturing giant Steelcase, wanted to see firsthand what makes small businesses tick. So it set out to observe 22 successful small companies, looking at both their overall culture and their approach to furnishings. “What you find is they actually revel in kind of beating the system,” says Kirt Martin, Turnstone’s design director. “Shopping at places like Ikea comes up. Craigslist comes up. Used furniture comes up.”
No doubt these were chilling findings for a furniture manufacturer, but Martin’s team embraced the need for flexibility and affordability. The result is Bivi, a modular system whose pieces can be purchased online, assembled in minutes, and rearranged and expanded in a huge variety of ways. Prices are low by industry standards: a basic table for two is $829. Bivi is also unusually accommodating to the more casual, personalized environment of many small offices. You can link a desk with a sofa or hang a bicycle off the side of a workstation. (Indeed, it must be the first office product with a storage solution for surfboards.) Here, Martin describes a few key components of the system, which debuted at NeoCon last June.