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Office-furniture companies find that their clients increasingly want used items

Office-furniture companies find that their clients increasingly want used items


Companies and institutions looking to brighten their office space on a budget are turning to used furniture as a less-expensive and greener strategy.

About four years ago, half of the clients of Affordable Office Interiors were buying new furniture and half were buying used, said Georgia Dobbelaere, the company's president.

Now, "we are probably at 70 percent used and 30 percent new," she said.

The company, based in Illinois with showrooms in Milwaukee and Madison, can take an office cubicle from the 1980s, strip it of its faded fabric and stained work surface and remanufacture it into an updated workspace.

"If they have existing furniture and that furniture is viable, we'll reuse it," Dobbelaere said "What we try to do is keep it from the landfill."

Vicky Statz, a Madison sales representative for Office Furniture Resources based in Milwaukee, said more of her customers also are interested in pre-owned office furniture than in the past.

More people are considering either reusing what they have or supplementing new furniture with a few pieces that have been refurbished, Statz said.

"People are looking at this option for value-driven reasons, but there are a lot of other reasons for doing it," such as being more environmental, she said.

Paragon Business Furniture Group in Middleton mostly sells new furniture, but the company also will clean or install new fabric on existing work stations.

Clients usually request a combination of both — purchasing new furniture and cleaning some of the existing stations, said Brett Warrington, one of the owners of Paragon.

Affordable Office Interiors started in a 100-square-foot office 15 years ago and has since grown to a 250,000-square-foot facility in Carol Stream, Ill. In December, the company quadrupled its space in Madison by moving to a new location at 2025 S. Stoughton Road, where it has five full-time employees.

Affordable Office Interiors recently completed a project for the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health that incorporated reused and remanufactured furniture.

Jennifer Quale, facilities planning specialist for the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, said the university works with multiple furniture vendors and has implemented a purchasing contract for recycled furniture, both as a cost-savings measure and as a way to work toward sustainable designs.

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