Made in America

With a past life in corporate interior and architectural design in San Francisco, I have been aware of 3Form’s many uses as an interior manufacturing company for several years now. I had seen their products used again and again in our sustainable projects, but the image of a conference room divider using their organic Varia Ecoresin Interlayers, in which bear grass had been entombed within a sheet of 40 percent preconsumer recycled material still resonates in my mind. So when I was asked to preview their new showroom, I was confronted with a question I had never thought of before: how does 3Form use 3Form in their interiors?

The design of the new showroom at 129 West 29th Street, between 6th and 7th Avenues, began last June. The plan was to allow a better flow and presentation of the space, which is divided into five separate vignettes: a corporate reception space, hospitality waiting room, café, lounge, and conference room. The success of this type of presentation, as opposed to other showrooms that attempt to cram as much of their product into the visual space as possible, is obvious in the fact that, walking into the room and being met with the reception desk, I forgot that I was previewing a product, not waiting to be announced.

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Within this first vignette, several new and predominate features of 3Form are displayed: a new material type, a new decorative feature, and the use of grandiose customization. The face of the reception desk is made up of Onyx™, a newly released faux rock material. The paneling, made of resin, is a fraction of the cost of stone, and allows for the unique feature of backlit illumination. Running the length of the wall beside the reception desk are orange vertical, fin-like protrusions—a new product called “edge.” Made of 3Form’s Varia Ecoresin, the panels can be alternated to create custom, slatted designs. The showroom’s design appears to be rippling along the wall, blending into the perpendicular rear wall. The solid orange panel is lit from behind, becoming the outline of a “3” about midway behind the reception desk.

Next in the progression of vignettes is the hospitality waiting room, featuring a curvilinear bench that loses its cushions on either end to become side tables. The round shape of the bench surrounding a squat circular table creates an intimate space and adverts the eye from the chandelier overhead. The intimacy may be awkward when waiting in an office or restaurants with strangers, but the bench alleviates one from having to use stiff chairs or having to talk over the heads of your party members as will happen with straight benches.

In my opinion, lighting and ceiling structures can be considered 3Form’s signature, along with their use of brightly colored pre-consumer recycled plastics and vinyls. A portion of their company is dedicated to lighting so that customized fixtures, such as the lit “3” behind the reception desk, are possible, and new designs are constantly being created. This allows the customer a wide array of choices, and calls attention to an area of the room that is sometimes forgotten.

Even in the lounge vignette the ceiling is adorned by the decorative embellishment “Shapes.” Launched 5 years ago, it has become a popular feature due to the fact that it offers an innovative, yet inexpensive, means of creating a fuller, more intriguing space. An overlapping set of organic shapes (they come two to an order) in a variety of colors appear to be a one-of-a-kind in how they are positioned, yet because the pieces are all cast using the same mold, the price tag is lower than you’d expect.

Ease and individuality were reoccurring themes in my interview with Jill Canales, senior vice president of marketing and design. Clear price points are available in their catalog, removing the hassle of contacting the vendor for a quote. And with over a thousand color options available by layering up to three sheets cast in any combination of the 34 core colors, not to mention their collections of natural elements inlaid into the sheet or photographic elements, individualism is key.

Although amazing to be able to work with a socially conscious company (all of their products are made in America, and most use recycled content) to create completely individualized spaces, I find myself a little wary of the amount of dramatic elements provided by the company. It just seems so easy to go over the top with embellishments, creating an overwhelming display rather than a space that will work well for the company it is meant to represent. However, as with the Varia Ecoresin Interlayers I remember from years ago, the products offer a wide array of options that can be used intelligently.

Kadie Yale is an MA candidate at Parsons the New School of Design and the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum where she is studying Decorative Art History and Theory. Follow her on Twitter @ k_yale

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