Furniture Design 101

Learn more about furniture design in the workplace and what your furniture scheme says about your business.

Tasked with coordinating your office’s design scheme but don’t know midcentury modern from Scandinavian? Kelly Wallman, founder of San Francisco Design, offers a cheat sheet for identifying furniture styles.


Rich colors, dark wood and ornate details such as clawed feet or wingbacks. Traditional pieces that look like something out of 18th-century France or England. 

Works best for: Older businesses that want to convey prestigious histories and deep roots. 


Simplicity, utility and warmth, accomplished with the use of light, natural wood (such as birch, spruce and pine), friendly colors, and simple, clean shapes and lines. It grew in prominence alongside the modern movement and continues to have staying power.

Works best for: Those wanting an uncluttered, functional, beautiful retreat from their hectic lives.


Fluid and evolving. It may incorporate elements from a variety of styles, but popular features currently include geometric forms, mixed elements (such as glass and chrome) and abstract accents.

Works best for: Startups aiming to express a hip look that inspires energy and passion.

Midcentury Modern

A subsection of modern style that had its heyday in the ’50s and ’60s. Famous for iconic pieces like the Eames chair and tulip table. Key characteristics are splayed legs, pops of bright color, and organic and geometric shapes and patterns. It also integrates chrome with wood, fiberglass and leather.

Works best for: Companies that want to emulate the Mad Men aesthetic.

Photo provided by Staples