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What is contract furniture?

Waiting room. Photograph by Karen Winton

While searching for furniture online, you may well have come across websites highlighting the fact that they sell "contract furniture". But what exactly is contract furniture, and who is it aimed at?

Put simply, "contract furniture" simply refers to items of furniture that are designed for commercial premises, rather than for residential properties. The terms can refer to a whole host of different furniture types, from the bed that you sleep on when you stay in a hotel to the chair that you sit on when in the waiting room at your GP's surgery.

The word "contract" refers to the agreement that the seller will co-sign with the buyer, who can be anyone from a landlord of a residential property to a multimillionaire owner of a chain of hotels. It may seem a little over the top to be signing a contract when simply buying furniture, but contract furniture is governed by a number of rules and regulations to ensure its durability and its safety.

Any furniture sold for contract use needs, by law, to meet standard Crib 5 as a minimum: a legislation that ensures that upholstered furniture meets certain safety standards and has been checked rigorously. As it is designed for long term commercial use, contract furniture needs to be more durable and hardwearing than furniture designed for normal residential use: buyers are advised to look for pieces that are guaranteed to last for a minimum of five years.

The purchase of contract furniture can be quite different to buying items for your own home: many items will be purchased in bulk, and will need to be chosen carefully so that it fits with the type of commercial premises in which it will be housed. When buying contract furniture, purchasers will have a number of aspects that they will need to take into consideration, such as design and style, durability, quality, length of guarantee, ease of maintenance, safety aspects, delivery, quantity, the terms of the contract itself and, of course, cost.

Because both the purchase process and the types of furniture are so different from residential purchases, buyers will generally purchase contract furniture through a specialist company that deals solely with products designed for commercial use. Such companies include the likes of Hill Cross Furniture, which was set up by Jake Bailey and Richard Barker in the year 2000 to offer both great furniture and quality customer service to this niche.

Furniture that is designed for commercial premises can range vastly in price, but it is worth spending sensibly rather than simply choosing the cheapest options, in order to buy furniture that will last and not need to be replaced after just a few years. There are many different colours, styles and materials available to suit all types of premises, and you will also find that alternatives can be custom-made to suit your premises. Whatever your business, choosing contract furniture over regular domestic furniture will ensure durability, longevity and a better return on investment.

Photo credit: Karen Winton

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