Harley Ellis Devereaux

Thin, Durable, and Enviro-Friendly: Is Solid Phenolic the New ‘It’ Material?

“I like to tell people that we’re an unfashionable company because fashion, by definition, goes out of fashion,” says Chris Grover of Ahrend USA.

“We’re known for original classic design. Classic design lasts. Our furniture is really a building kit of different parts, and some of those parts go to create straight-forward simple products.

Solid-core laminates, sometimes referred to as solid phenolic or compact laminates, are the key to Ahrend’s classic designs. It’s basically a very thick sheet – 12.5 mm – of HPL that doesn’t require being laminated to a panel. The core is either several layers of kraft paper or a mat of wood fiber, saturated with phenolic resin and compressed under high pressure and heat to form a solid panel that’s incredibly dense and strong, and yet workable with more-or-less standard woodworking tools. It can carry a décor paper or veneer surface, and because of its density, very smooth edges can be achieved with machining only – no additional sanding is required.

Ahrend, a Dutch company, currently buys its compact laminate from another Netherlands-based company, Trespa.

Grover says Ahrend furniture is being spec’d by design companies, advertising agencies, legal and financial offices, and corporate giants like American Express and Exxon Mobile. “The common denominators in all of these scenarios is, the spec’ is led by designers and architects,” he says. Allsteel, who distributes Ahrend products exclusively in North America, recently helped architectural design firm Harley Ellis Deveraux successfully redesign their Los Angeles offices.

“At the end of the day we ended up making the decision to go with Ahrend mostly because of their work surface material,” says Enrique Suarez, a principal at the firm and leader of the team that worked on the Los Angeles office project. “It’s thin and strong, and very durable. And because it’s made from paper and recovered wood fiber, it’s helping us with the goal of making the LA office a LEED Silver project.”

Ahrend a Hit at Harley Ellis Devereaux –Los Angeles

Harley Ellis Devereaux is an award-winning, full-service organization offering a complete range of planning, architecture, engineering, interior architecture, landscape architecture and construction services. The firm works extensively throughout the Midwest and southern California with offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Riverside and San Diego.

The firm specified Ahrend furniture for its Los Angeles office, which occupies all of the fourth floor and most of the fifth floor of a 50-story structure built in the city’s downtown financial district in 1990. The initial build-out of 35,375 sq ft accommodates a total staff of 100, and was designed with the goal of fostering creative teaming and helping attract and retain the best and brightest people for the company. HED’s brand also plays an important role in the design, and makes a clear statement to our customers about who they are.

“All of the technical staff – designers, architects, interior people, engineers – are on one floor, and administrative space, partner companies and client meeting areas are on the other, says Enrique Suarez, a principal at the firm and leader of the team that worked on the Los Angeles office project.

“In our old building we were spread out over five floors and we were too fragmented. We wanted the new space to be very interactive and conducive to collaboration which is more reflective of our culture, so the furniture had to be flexible and movable, everything on wheels.

“We started by looking at six different suppliers, narrowed it to three, and awarded the project to Ahrend. Systems furniture can be quite clunky and heavy, but theirs was very different. It’s a new look, very light, and we felt it was the most appropriate for a design firm.”

Suarez says the process involved a rigorous analysis based on cost, functionality and aesthetics.

“At the end of the day we ended up making the decision to go with Ahrend mostly because of their work surface material. It’s thin and strong, and very durable. And because it’s made from paper and recovered wood fiber, it’s helping us with the goal of making the LA office a LEED Silver project.

“Everybody loves it, including our president, who sat on a surface, shook it, and said, ‘Yep, this will last 20 years.’ We had always intended to choose something that was not only the best for us, but something that we could talk about to our clients. It’s unique, and has a lot of great potential in the U.S. market. We had them engineer some things they didn’t normally do, like end panels and overhead storage, and they were very accommodating. I’m glad they took the plunge with us.”

For more information on Harley Ellis Devereaux, please visit www.hedev.com.