Designing the Avant-Garde Workplace

Koray Malhan, chief design officer at Koleksiyon, takes us behind the scenes of the design process for the next generation of office amenities.
Koray Malhan, Chief Design Officer, Koleksiyon
Koray Malhan, Chief Design Officer, Koleksiyon

As office design continues to evolve, innovative seating and alternative solutions that help companies reduce their footprint—and real estate costs—are much in demand. New ideas are emerging from international designers like Turkish furniture manufacturer Koleksiyon now sharing its avant-garde perspective in North America at showrooms in New York and Chicago. Since entering the U.S. market in 2015, the Istanbul-based brand has gained market share in the commercial furniture market, stunning peers, architects and their commercial real estate clients with solution-based products that cross boundaries.

For more than 40 years, Koleksiyon has been developing high-end furniture products for workplace, hospitality and residential settings. Koray Malhan, Koleksiyon’s brand and design director & chief design officer, supervises the development of the company’s projects as well as its frequent collaborations with international designers. We recently caught up with Malhan for his views on what’s new in the field.

Tell us about your new Chicago showroom in the Merchandise Mart.

Malhan: The Chicago showroom is Koleksiyon’s third permanent U.S. location in addition to showrooms in New York City and Dallas. The Koleksiyon showroom is located on the 11th floor of the Merchandise Mart where we feature a variety of Koleksiyon products and collections in a sophisticated and fluid manner. We highlight the brand’s focus on collaborative workspaces—replacing “me spaces” with “us spaces.” Our concept for the space is tied to the idea that workplaces are similar to cities where more and more spaces are communal.

As more traditional office spaces move into open-concept work environments, furniture designers are tasked with creating the most innovative pieces that facilitate the fluidity of moving between private and open stations. Koleksiyon designs contemporary products that offer both private and open workspace solutions for various workstyles.


What did you introduce at NeoCon 2018?

Malhan: Koleksiyon is passionate about contemporary work culture and we were honored to participate in NeoCon 2018. It was our fourth time there. Koleksiyon is solving workplace issues with unique and innovative desk systems, shelving units, storage pieces and other offerings. Our workplace product portfolio in the U.S. market is driven by global influences. The portfolio we presented at NeoCon is also designed for Europe, including the United Kingdom, as well as Asia Pacific, parts of the Middle East and UAE regions, and these offerings are available through our many dealers.

This workplace product portfolio looks at the demographics of the evolving working society as a whole, without geographical or cultural differences. In fact, we concentrate more on the similarities of each region than their differences. Therefore, the new tendencies seen globally in today’s work culture guide our design propositions, helping us to create a wide spectrum of offerings for all the areas of today’s work habitat.

What product or collection for NeoCon 2018 drew the most attention?

Malhan: In 2018 we launched a series of new designs in collaboration with Rainlight Design Studio suited for various learning environments. During NeoCon, many who visited our showroom commented on this collection, calling it “very inspiring” and “innovative.” This may have been due to the way the collection involves the user through active engagement with the products. The Tabula table, for example, allows employees to gather around for discussions or active participation when the table flips to easily become a writing board. For Tabula, we collaborated with U.S. glass company Clarus to create a unique and everlasting surface finish that can be written on. Moreover, Tabula allows projections to be displayed on its surface, such as project images for presentations.

The Throni chair (above) and the Tabula easel table (below)
The Throni chair (above) and the Tabula easel table (below)

Another item that garnered a lot of interest was Throni, also designed with Rainlight Design Studio. Throni is a foldable seat where the arms and back can be easily lifted and adjusted, like the collar of a shirt. Throni is inspired by the simple gestural change of raising a collar. The interactive feature of this chair allows the user to announce their availability, whereas the transformation of the raised collar denotes privacy. Conversely, grouping two closely arranged Throni chairs can create a setting for a private meeting. Throni offers a rich variety of options for different postures and ways of working, which many visitors enjoyed during NeoCon as they tried their favorite positions for seating, reclining, resting, working with a tablet etc. Further, Throni provides the option of open conversation or private working.

Any other thoughts you would like to share with the Commercial Property Executive audience? What’s next for workplace design?

Malhan: We believe the most crucial change in workplace design is the cultural one, although it is sometimes triggered by the vast use and change of technology in our daily lives. Freedom is the key word that dominates the upcoming world of work—freedom from a fixed desk, from a need of wired connection, from the necessity of being physically tied down to a singular location etc. The dramatic shifts in technology usage, artificial intelligence and prediction machines all lower the cost of communication tools and methods and are the harbinger of a new culture ahead.

These innovations easily change the way we work, commute, communicate, meet and create in teams within various work environments. Also, a culture built on collaboration is rising as opposed to the “me-oriented” philosophy of previous decades. Although everyone seems to have become more individually charged and oriented, the work culture continues to grow in a collaborative way. We expect a dramatic shift in what we call the work desk or workstation, and we plan on developing products that meet these new workplace needs.

Images courtesy of Koleksiyon