If you’re the owner of a hospitality establishment, navigating the world of contract furniture can sometimes feel overwhelming. What is contract furniture? And which details should you be specifying when choosing the right pieces for your hotel, bar or restaurant? We’ll tell you everything you need to know in our beginner’s guide to the contract furniture industry.
What is Contract Furniture?
So, what is contract grade furniture? And what does contract grade furniture mean? Contract furniture is defined as furniture that is intended for commercial use. It is purposely manufactured with added strengthening features for use in public environments such as hotels, restaurants, bars and even public transport – essentially, any environment that is subject to heavy traffic day in day out.
What About Domestic Furniture?
Domestic furniture is classed as furniture you would buy for home use from your local chain store, independent furniture retailer or online. Domestic furniture is often made with inexpensive materials and, due to this, the lifespan is significantly shorter than that of contract furniture. For that reason, it’s imperative that robust pieces manufactured in line with commercial furniture standards are specified for public environments. This not only benefits the lifespan of the furniture, but also the safety of those that use it.
Is Contract Grade Furniture Better?
Contract furniture is more cost-effective for businesses. You won’t need to purchase new furniture every few months when it loses its shape or breaks – resulting in disruption to the running of your business, poor Trip Advisor reviews and a hefty impact on those all-important budgets.
Contract furniture is built with longevity in mind, to withstand the rigours that contract environments endure. If you’re just starting a business, work in procurement or are an interior designer, you will need to specify contract furniture for your project that will stand the test of time and maintain a fresh appearance for as long as possible.
Bespoke contract furniture is designed and made differently to be durable. When contract furniture is manufactured, it’s not only glued together but also screwed and dowelled at all the critical joints. This combination of fixtures makes it far more robust, stable and able to withstand recurrent use.
Contract Furniture Industry Standards
Contract furniture must meet contract quality requirements, and its upholstery and finishes must also meet hospitality environment standards. Therefore, when specifying fabrics for your furniture, they must meet all British Standards for flammability, Crib 5 FR (Fire Retardant), and have undergone the Martindale fabric abrasion test for durability – which needs to be a minimum of 40,000+ rubs to be certified as “contract” standard. Domestic fabrics can be specified but will need to be further treated to meet the Crib 5 medium hazard rating. If you wish to use treated domestic fabrics, bear in mind that this will ultimately increase costs and add to the turnaround time and delivery of your furniture.
Choosing the Best Contract Furniture
Contract seating is designed and manufactured using specific materials, such as combustion modified high resilient (CMHR) foam and high presume laminates (HPL) on table tops. The foam used within dining chairs, sofas and sofa beds is already treated to meet the flame resistant requirements.
HPL is used when manufacturing contract tables for restaurants, conference centres and other hospitality establishments. The use of HPL means the table top has a degree of resistance to scratches and heat which may come from hot plates of food in a restaurant or perhaps curling tongues in a hotel bedroom. When HLP is used, Lugo specifies a solid timber edging in combination as this further increases the furniture’s durability and gives a crisp, clean finish.
Contract tables can be manufactured from a number of materials; however, solid beech is most common and the preferred material at Lugo. Beech is used for table frames and bases (unless a metal base is specified) as it is sturdy, cost-effective and accepts stains and polishes very well. Ultimately, all contract furniture design elements are carefully considered with contract furniture industry standards in mind.
Fire and Furnishing Regulations
The Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988, amended 1989, 1993 and 2010 (FFFSR) outlines the requirements for upholstered domestic furniture in the UK. There are further regulations for the contract market. There are three main British Standards that apply to curtains, seating, beds and mattresses:
• BS 7176 – Upholstered furniture for the non-domestic market
• BS 7177 – Divans and bed bases
• BS 5867 – Curtains, drapes and window blinds
BS 7176 is a standard that ensures upholstered furniture has a reasonable level of fire retardancy to ensure the safety of users and others. The fabrics undergo testing as specified by BS EN 1021- 2 in the form of ignition from different sources that represent the environments the fabric may encounter.
There are eight test sources. The most common are 0 (a smouldering cigarette), 1 (a match) and 5 (smouldering and flaming). Once test source 5 is passed, the fabric is deemed as having achieved a fire retardancy of Crib 5, in line with furniture industry standards for hospitality environments.
In addition to these test sources, tables and surfaces must also adhere to a set of British Standards. The test is not for flammability, but for mechanical damage (impact, scratch resistance and abrasion), resistance to dry and wet heat (between 55°c - 160°c) and chemical resistance (tea, coffee, oils, acids and bleaches).
The British Standards that apply to tables include, but are not limited to:
• BS EN15372 — Furniture - Strength, durability and safety for non-domestic tables
• BS 4875 part 5 – Strength, durability and stability of tables and trolleys for domestic and contract use
• BS EN15186 – Furniture – Assessment of the surface resistance to scratching
• BS EN12729 – Furniture – Assessment of surface resistance to cold liquids
Specifying the Details of Contract Furniture
Now you understand the basics of the contract furniture industry, and why it’s important you choose specified pieces for your hospitality or leisure venue. But with many different types and styles of seating, surfaces and beds available, it can be confusing to know what you want. If you have a specific chair, headboard or even table design in mind, you can present them to a contract furniture manufacturer. They will be able to either provide you with a quote for the furniture or find an alternative piece.
You can customises almost every element of your furniture with a vast range of fabrics, textures, patterns and finishes available. You could even use a bespoke design service to create tailored contract furniture from scratch and have it made exactly to your taste.
Choose the Right Contract Furniture Style for your Business
The contract furniture you choose can be easily customised to suit the particular design and functional needs of your business. Customising your own fabrics and finishes and adapting them to existing furniture designs empowers you to match the new contract furniture to your existing or new interior designs scheme to create the desired impact.
Customising additional detailing is a great way to enhance the look of your chosen seating in a few easy steps. Simply by adding contrasting piping or complementing split fabrics to the seat cushion and backrest can turn a simple chair design into a feature pieces within a room.
Another popular option is studding, which can provide a modern and sometimes industrial look to your hospitality furniture. There are a range of stud finishes available such as nickel or old gold which can also help to complement your chosen fabric and interior design scheme.
When customising contract tables you will need to consider the thickness of the table top, but you can also alter the edging shape. Popular features include chamfer or bullnose edging.
Choose Bespoke Contract Furniture
Bespoke contract furniture gives you contract furniture like no other. A bespoke design usually arises from a clients’ needs or desire for a piece of furniture for their hotel, bar, restaurant, or another establishment, that is different from existing designs available. The bespoke design can come from a specifier, designer or even from suggestions made by hotel owners, who would like statements such as accent chairs in the lobby.
At Lugo, we’re experts in the contract furniture industry. We work with an interior designer to create, develop and manufacture your ideas from a concept design to produce a creative, strong and functional piece of contract furniture.
From restaurant dining chairs to hotel beds and contract tables, we have hundreds of pieces of contract furniture for the hospitality sector. You can even browse our informative guides and case studies for inspiration here.