Updated: Nov 25, 2019
The notion of what furniture is, and should be, is changing. Sure, visual appeal, comfort, quality and usability remain important. But now there is an additional feature to consider; technology. At Samuelson Furniture, we’ve been ahead of this trend, adding electronic elements to our pieces for years. But it’s not as easy as it looks.
This element changes the way product is designed and constructed. Therefore, it is essential to incorporate best practices and strict protocols to ensure safety and usability. It all starts by incorporating the right product, according to Brittany Locke, Senior Procurement Director - Hospitality Procurement Management with Neil Locke & Associates.“We only use UL certified LED products. It’s the only way to be confident the product is safe,” she says.
Michael Chalfin, EVP for Samuelson Furniture agrees. “It’s incredibly important to use the right equipment for the job. There’s always a risk involved when putting electronics into something flammable, because those components produce heat,” says Chalfin, explaining that having the componentry properly rated for intended use is of the utmost importance to stay within safe operating parameters throughout the course of the piece’s life.
According to Chalfin, “many LED systems carry some sort of UL rating, but it is important that the rating be specific for use in furniture. Why is this important? It’s important because most furniture as we know it is made from wood. Wood is an extremely flammable material, and stuffing electrical items into this wood needs to be done in a safe manner! “
A guest may potentially keep a light on, for example, during his or her entire stay, squarely putting the onus of responsibility on the manufacturer, and those involved in purchasing the product. Chalfin says this is a very serious responsibility, so safety is always Samuelson’s top concern. “Failure can happen if you do not follow our strict guidelines, so we are always extra careful in that regard,” he says. Therefore, all products need to be UL certified for usein the United States, or CSA certified for use in Canada. If a product is marked cULus that means it can be used in either country.
To be sure they are purchasing the right products; Locke sometimes says her firm uses lighting consultants. “While we seek approval from consultants, we also rely on manufacturers such as Samuelson to be sure products are certified,” says Locke. “Plus, we love LED because it eliminates much of the risk, while giving us a broader creative palette.”
And while it may seem straight forward, when producing high end custom furnishings there’s much more to consider. “We engineer product to create the desired look and depth of the cavity in which the LED sits. Plus, we must consider elements such as color of the cavity, the type of diffuser that is needed, how heavily it diffuses, plus lumen output. This is essential because it’s not just about having a cabinet with light, for example. It’s about achieving the desired color tones and lighting output,” says Chalfin. “Every job is unique and has its own challenges.”
As customers demand change, so does the way LED lights and USB ports are utilized in furnishings. “LED is terrific, because when we add it to a piece of furniture, it provides another light source in the room without adding an additional fixture. Plus, it’s great to see public areas incorporate lighting into chairs and seating. It creates a cool flair because a chair that lights up adds to the overall effect of the space’s design vibe and energy,” says Locke.
One major question is whether to add electronic components on site during installation, or during the production process. Both our experts agree, the best time to add these elements is during the fabrication stage. For Locke, her main concern (aside from safety, naturally) is the high cost of labor once the product is at the hotel. It’s more efficient to have it handled ahead of time allowing more money within the budget to be used for design. “We recommend installing at production level when you work with a trusted responsible manufacturer. It is a big saving for the customer,” Chalfin says.
In the end, electronics are changing the entire way we look at and use guestroom and public space furniture. At Samuelson, for example, we have begun to include lighting in upholstered product, a groundbreaking change. This includes development of “smart “products with the debut of our ever Smart Chair, which is fully upholstered and includes LED lighting and USB charging in the arm.
“Our goal is to incorporate technology, LED lighting or others, in a way that’s seamlessly designed. Luxury product is about having these elements look and feel organic. It can never look tacked on to check a box,” says Chalfin. “It’s an exciting time to be in the custom furniture business.”