Furniture: Buying Commercial vs Residential for your Workplace

Part Two:

In Part One of this post I discussed the differences between Commercial and Residential, and which items I often buy in Residential grade to help clients save money. Here in Part Two, I’ll be discussing which pieces I buy Commercial grade and why.

To review, Commercial furniture is made from higher quality of materials which are meant to hold up to heavy use for long periods of time, and have longer more inclusive warranties - but you’re paying a lot more for the product. Below are the types of furniture that I recommend buying in Commercial grade:


Dining tables don’t cut it when it comes to workstations - they are not the correct ergonomic height for working and they have corner post legs instead center pedestal legs which makes it harder to have under desk storage units.

I generally install individual desks instead of fixed workstations since they provide more flexibility - something I’ll talk about in an upcoming blog post.

Workstation seating

While it may seem obvious that you should invest in quality rolling office chairs with adjustable height, arm rests and lumbar support - I’m always surprised when I see folding chairs or basic plastic dining chairs being used for desks. In those situations, most the people in the office are in their early twenties and don’t yet appreciate the full benefits of ergonomics to way people in their thirties, forties or beyond do.

A typical office worker spends  40 hours a week and approximately 2080 hours at work, the majority of that time they are sitting at their desk. Most people don’t have good posture, but if you provide them with a chair that helps keep proper alignment, they’re much less likely to suffer repetitive stress injuries, lower back pain, muscle fatigue and exhaustion. The major benefits of ergonomics are improving the quality of work, increasing productivity, increasing moral and reducing costs related to healthcare. More on the benefits of ergonomics in a later post.

Lounge seating

The main reason to buy commercial grade is for longevity for use. You can compare the use of a sofa in a workplace or in a home. In a home, even in the most Netflix binge-tastic home a sofa is only used 3-5 hours a day to watch TV or read. In an office, a sofa in high use area could be used almost continuously throughout the day, everyday. And let’s be honest, people aren’t as careful or respectful with office furniture as they are at home - no one would balance a cup of coffee on the arm of a sofa at home, but some people seem to think that’s the only option in an office.

In a high use situation, like an office, an Ikea sofa will start to look worn in 6 months or less. The next step up of furniture - CB2, West Elm, EQ3 - you’ll see wear within 2-3 years depending on what color you choose how aggressive your team is with the furniture.

Additional design elements such as tufting helps to support and maintain the structure of the cushion so you see less wear. While tufting is often associated with more feminine decor, there’s many companies who are making sofas and chairs that have minimal tufting that allows for support but still has clean lines and isn’t too girly.


Major carpeting brands carry a variety of weaves and depths for carpeting that are rated for higher or lower traffic. Generally the higher the pile, the lower the traffic rating. For an office, you’ll want low pile carpet, ideally in a medium to darker color with a pattern that will hide basic wear. I tend to install carpet tiles instead of wall to wall since they are cheaper to install and easier to replace small sections when (not if) staining or wear occurs.

Depending on the traffic, you may be able to get away with a few residential grade rugs to help define lounges or other small spaces. Those can easily go over commercial grade carpet, but should be professionally cleaned every couple months depending on wear.


Key places for Commercial grade furniture:

If you’re working on a budget (who isn’t?) there is the push and pull of wanting to provide your team with quality furniture that will hold up and maintaining a budget. If you’re doing an office redesign on a budget, the places I would spend the most money on the highest use areas first:


Think about how you use the space during the day - you most likely spend the majority of your day at your desk. So spend the most of your desks and work chairs. While this isn’t the sexiest part of office design, it’s super important and has the highest impact on the daily life of your team members.

High use lounges

Next on the list of things to spend instead of save, would be the sofas and armchairs in the highest use lounges. Lounges in a central locations should have higher grade furniture so they can resistant to wear and tear (and spills!). Sofas in low use areas, such as entryways or receptions, can be lower grade. While most smaller companies don’t want to buy an expensive Commercial grade sofa for their office, it’s good to think strategically about purchases like this. Often it’s less expensive to buy one higher grade sofa than to have to buy two lower grade sofas because you have to replace the first due to wear.


There's nuance in creating a well designed office. Obviously each company has it's own unique ways of using a space and the furniture, so you're the best judge of where and when you can use Commercial or Residential. Are you a Commercial only office, do you have a mix of furniture, or are you working with an Ikea only budget?