A successful company continuously evaluates where it stands in the marketplace, including an assessment of the products it offers to its customers. Embracing this strategy at Cumberland Furniture resulted in an innovative program involving some of the industry's top designers. The company's investment in "Designers Speak" has enabled Cumberland to bring 13 new pieces to market, including the Alia Lounge, in a relatively short time frame.
"We conceived Designers Speak in late 2005, and introduced the first phase on the East Coast in January 2006," says Scott Gilmore, Cumberland's president and chief executive officer. "Initial designs premiered in June 2006. We are currently in the West Coast phase—working with designers on that side of the country—which will result in the introduction of more, new pieces this fall."
A direct result of this program is the Alia Lounge, one of Cumberland's newest offerings. Available in a guest chair, a lounge chair and a two- or three-seat sofa, the Alia Lounge is also offered in a wooden bench with an upholstered and fixed seat cushion.
Gilmore describes that Designers Speak is part of a larger initiative that involved analyzing all of the company's product lines. The ultimate goal was to identify gaps in what the company was offering and then fill those holes with new products.
In addition to the company's own internal analysis, an outside consultant also reviewed all products lines, which included interviews with customers, dealers and sales representatives. The goal was to present a unified look that adhered to the stylistic genre for which Cumberland wants to be known, according to Gilmore.
"Designers Speak is part of our total design program and new direction," he adds. "We believe it gives us a strategic and thoughtful approach to offering customers a range of appropriate furniture options."
Gilmore notes that even though Cumberland has become known for its wide variety of seating options, its offerings in this area had become too eclectic in style. The Alia Lounge is part of the company's effort to refurbish its products with classic and enduring designs—an approach that works in tandem with removing pieces that no longer fit Cumberland's defined style.
The Alia Lounge was designed by Jordan Goldstein, AIA, and Shawn Litttrell of Gensler's Washington, D.C. office. Goldstein, who has designed products before, believes that his design work as an architect provides an opportunity to have extensive insight into what the market is looking for in terms of redesigned or new products.
"Scott was very open to using new materials that would emphasize the product's geometry and proportion," says Goldstein. "They wanted a line with clean, elegant geometry that would become a timeless piece. It's an exciting opportunity to help a company set a dynamic new direction."
It is interesting to note that Goldstein and Gilmore did not meet until the product's prototypes were unveiled before a closed-door meeting of the company's sales force during NeoCon® in 2006. "I did a great deal of sketching, including working on the train while traveling between Washington, D.C. and New York City," adds Goldstein. "The sketches were created in digital files that were sent to the company. The design didn't change much from the original sketch that was submitted."
The Alia Lounge will appeal to designers and their clients looking for a classic seating option for offices, reception areas, museums and galleries, as well as clubs, hotels and restaurants. The upholstered interior can nestle in a wood surround. Frames are available in solid wood or stainless steel, finished in polished, satin or statuary bronze. An affordable, fully-upholstered version is also available. Customers may select from a range of upholstery options, including COM (customer's own material) and COL (customer's own leather).
Goldstein, like many other product designers, says that understanding a company's manufacturing capabilities is very important. He maintains that evaluating an organization's capabilities and working together to addresses current and potential processes helps to determine what can be done and at what price point. "One of the most appealing things about working with Cumberland is their craftsmanship," states Goldstein. "Their capabilities in wood and upholstery are well known, and they produce very high quality products. They're open to discussing the many facets involved in producing a product: It's a good collaboration."
As an example, the wood surround on the frame is available in maple hardwood that may be finished in light, medium or dark color palettes. Goldstein notes that customers have lots of room for creativity based on the frame, surround and upholstery options that are available. While he wouldn't select a favorite, Goldstein expresses a preference for light colored upholstery with a dark wood base and metal frame.
Cumberland officials are encouraged by the early reception to Alia Lounge. The first orders were received a month after the product literature was distributed. For an industry where it can take many months for specifications to result in an order, they're very pleased with the market's positive response to date.