A new collection of office furniture comes from, what at first glance appears to be, an unlikely source. Joe Gebbia, the 35-year-old cofounder and chief product officer of Airbnb, is launching a line of modular office furniture.
“Neighborhood” premiered at the ICFF furniture fair at New York City’s design week and includes 42 pieces. It was created for Bernhardt Design, and is the company’s most extensive collection ever.
While the choice to delve into furniture making may seem a bit random for someone at the helm of a company enjoying such massive global success, Gebbia actually has a background in design. He studied industrial and graphic design at the Rhode Island School of Design, where he worked with a local furniture maker to learn Japanese joinery. He officially launched Airbnb in 2008 with two of his college roommates.
However, according to Gebbia his experience shaping Airbnb is actually a major part of the inspiration behind Neighborhood. Running a fast-growing and ever-expanding company requires furniture that is flexible and adaptable, allowing for privacy in open-office environments.
“I’ve been working every day out of the [Airbnb] offices for over nine years now,” says Gebbia. “I have a firsthand perspective on companies that want to be fluid–have flexible IT systems, work from the cloud, use cordless devices–with nothing tethering you to a desk. We haven’t adapted furniture to the new fluidity of how companies work.”
Neighborhood seeks to solve that problem, featuring interlocking seats that form benches with high backs to offer some privacy and tables that include charging stations. All of the pieces are sound absorbent and were created with the intention of suiting an evolving office environment.
“As the nature of an organization changes, it should never be held back by the furniture that you use,” adds Gebbia.