'Resimercial': Why We Need a Better Term

May 8, 2018

The word “resimercial” is used to describe residential-like furniture in the commercial market, but editor-in-chief Kadie Yale thinks we need to ditch it for something more fitting.

Ever since the ill-fated relationship between Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie began in 2004, our society has been in the downward trend of mashing two words together and calling it a day. Case-in-point: “resimercial”, which is the trend of residential aesthetics in the commercial marketplace.

This insistence in mashing two words together to coin a phrase was started by the media in a lazy attempt to explain a more complex idea, but in my opinion, those of us in design media should nix this terrible trend. Resimercial is the best place to start.

No one reacts well to resimercial

The first and most significant reason to retire resimercial is the negative response that it gets. Most people don’t know what it means, which automatically negates the entire reasoning behind combining two words. One should be able to understand that the speaker is describing the relationship between the two things which make up the word. Of those who do know what resimercial means—or who have had the word defined for them for the first time—a majority of the response is sour.

The last thing anyone working in the commercial design industry wants is for someone to automatically react in revulsion to a word describing their product or design.

Never heard of Resimercial? We've got you covered.

Resimercial gives the wrong impression of commercial

Second, in many ways the word resimercial cheapens designs. This isn’t to say that residential design is in any way secondary to commercial design, but for some it brings to mind less hearty products at best and companies such as IKEA at worst. It makes sense since residential products are not created with the same type of end user in mind. They need to accommodate at most a dozen or two people on special occasions such as holidays rather than the dozen a day or more that high-traffic commercial interiors deal with regularly. However, while the word resimercial may make commercial goods seem less hearty, the truth is that products from every sector are becoming closer in terms of what type of wear-and-tear they’re able to handle. Residential has benefitted from the blurred lines of commercial and home by providing more durable products at a lower price point far more than contract furniture has benefitted from taking on the aesthetic of residential.

Home and contract have always existed together

Third, it ignores the historic ways in which commercial and residential design have always been intertwined. The idea of products specifically for the contract market is still relatively new. To be precise, one could pinpoint the invention of the cubicle in 1964 by Robert Propst for Herman Miller as the dawn of office design. Even the hospitality market only began to flourish as the middle class did in the post-war period, hitting its peak within the last few decades. Not to mention, the impact of the previously-sterile and uncomfortable interiors of institutions such as hospitals, schools, and government buildings is something those in the industry are just beginning to research.

Many products have always had one foot in residential and one in commercial.

All this being said, it’s understandable that one would want to easily explain the more laid-back aesthetic that is finding its way into the commercial market, particularly as we transition from the more rigid impression of offices—meaning board rooms and desks—towards the reality that space is fluid according to the needs of the individual.

Next, More: The Resimercial Takeover

Ambidextrous Design: A proposed change

Teknion, for example, calls its resimercial products “soft contract”. It’s a solution that, in my opinion, works better than resimercial because it is the antithesis of the rigid office space. However, I don’t think it’s quite right, Aas it sounds as if all soft contract products need to be cushioned and upholstered.

Instead, I would say a more appropriate term for describing the ways in which the more laid-back aesthetic of residential is penetrating into the commercial market is “ambidextrous design”. The term highlights the ways in which design from all markets are overlapping. Healthcare is taking from hospitality, retail is taking from restaurant design, and commercial and residential are swapping design ideas left and right.

The word ambidextrous gives the product described more strength in that it doesn’t diminish any characteristic of the design. Being ambidextrous is seen as a strength and describes the ability to use both sides of the brain; the combination of feeling and creativity with logic and precision.

This perfectly defines the way in which design is headed. It understands that beauty and comfort can be matched to the scientific perfection technology allows and can be blended into the characteristics that a space requires, whether it be a strong and sparse conference room or a comforting hospital lobby.

Coverings: Four Highlights in Hospitality and Residential Projects

About the Author

Kadie Yale | Former Editor-in-Chief

Kadie Yale holds a BA in Industrial Design from San Francisco State University and a MA in Decorative Art History and Theory from Parsons the New School. In her role as editor-in-chief from 2015-2018, she led the interiors+sources team in creating relevant content that touches on sustainability, universal design, science, and the role of design in society.

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