Turnstone Augments 2001 Designs

    GRAND RAPIDS — It appears that reports of the demise of West Michigan’s furniture manufacturing industry continue to be greatly exaggerated.

    Turnstone, at any rate, reports having released new products for the last six consecutive years, with shipping of the latest of those items to begin this autumn.

    Turnstone, a Steelcase subsidiary, used NeoCon earlier this month to release an upgrade to its environmentally friendly Jersey desk chair, while also previewing the second release of new products in its Kick systems office furniture line.

    The first elements in the Kick series, previewed at the huge Chicago show a year ago, began shipping this spring. That release was called Kick Phase II.

    Kick Phase III was previewed earlier this month and reportedly will begin shipping to buyers late this year.

    According to Turnstone, the Phase III releases are products conceived from the feedback that the company has received from buyers of its Phase II products:

    • The Rag Top Bin — A translucent revisitation of the old roll-top desk, except that one not only raises and lowers the roll-top cover, but also can raise or lower the entire roll-top bin itself. One can move the bin upwards and downwards in one-inch increments on the wall above one’s desk.  

    • The Data Duct, Downspout and Utility Bar — Three products which, taken together, constitute a more flexible way of routing data and cables along panel tops, while screating multiple ports into which the user can connect computers, scanners and so forth with minimal “spaghetti” wiring clutter.
    • 120-Degree Configuration — A desk configuration that allows people to work in circular clusters of three.

    Kick II featured assorted shelves and panel inserts conforming with its desks and panels.

    Kick III introduces two new 4.5- and 5.5-foot straight work surfaces, a broadened range of panel insert types and fabrics, plus matching 1- and 2-foot vertical panel extension panels, and a power and data extension at work-surface level. 

    The Kick line is a series of office desk consoles created by Turnstone’s design team, Jon King, Joe Ruiter and Alan Rheault (pronounced “Row”).

    The designer of the upgraded Jersey desk chair (an outgrowth of the Jacket chair line) is a familiar name in West Michigan — Brian Kane, of San Francisco. Kane has been associated with Steelcase in one fashion or another since 1987 when the furniture giant acquired Metropolitan Furniture in which he was a partner.

    Now heading his own firm — Kane Design Studio — with a clientele in Europe as well as the United States, Kane worked with Turnstone in creating the Jersey line, which is designed for easy recycling.

    Unlike most chairs, the Jerseys employ no plywood, glue or foam padding in their back support.

    Instead, the aptly named Jersey chairs use a pullover mesh that snaps into place. Thus, when the chair reaches the end of its days, Kane says, it can be recycled for its steel with a minimum of trouble.

    Turnstone also says it likes the chair because of its design flexibility: it can be linked to any office design scheme with a minimum of change in manufacturing processes. Moreover, the firm says the Jersey line requires less material, manufacturing time and expense than other chairs.

    Flexibility also is what Turnstone’s own design team says it has had in mind in creation of the Kick line.

    “For example,” says Rheault, “the Data Duct, Downspout and Utility Bar are designed for the tech-savvy people who are working today.”

    Unlike an earlier generation, he said, today’s employees don’t want to sit around waiting for IT to send a worker upstairs.

    “They’re smart enough to move their own cables and set up their technology, and they want to do that themselves. They want to move a cable, hoop up a CD burner or a printer and get working.”

    He said the Kick line’s 10 new 2002 products all are based on the feedback that Turnstone has received from the field.

    And the nice thing, adds King — Rheault’s compatriot — is that all Kick components work together seamlessly.

    “Whether they are products introduced last year, or any of the new Phase II or Phase III additions, all of the Kick products fit together … it’s an integrated, holistic system.”

    King, who has been with Steelcase 14 years, is a graduate of Kendall College, as is his younger colleague, Ruiter, who joined Turnstone just two years ago.

    Readers may recall Ruiter as the Kendall senior who already had sold a chair design patent to Steelcase. Ruiter’s own Turnstone seating line is scheduled for introduction later this year.

    Rheault jointed Turnstone in 1997. He studied design at Western Michigan University and Kendall and earned his master’s degree in management from Aquinas College.

    King, who holds more than a dozen patents and numerous awards, has had a hand in designing nine different Steelcase lines. He also originated the universal panel frame concept some years back.

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