Don’t Buy Office Furniture, Subscribe to it: A Q&A with Brad Williams at NORNORM
The workplace of the future must be flexible, cost-effective, and sustainable. Businesses are realising they are non-negotiables. One company, leading the charge to help businesses reduce their environmental impact is NORNORM.
NORNORM is a subscription-based furniture company on a mission to make workspaces better for people, businesses and the planet. Not only will their solution tackle waste generated by single-use furniture, but it’s also beautiful, cost-efficient and fully circular.
They’re not just disrupting the office furniture scene; they’re flipping the script on how we see and manage workspaces that are both adaptable and sustainable.
The business is backed by some of the biggest brands in the world, united in the belief that personal wellbeing, sustainability, and business viability do not need to be pitted against each other — they are interconnected. NORNORM’s model is based on a simple premise: Don’t buy office furniture, subscribe to it.
We were fascinated to hear more about the concept of circular furniture, how it all works and what this means for the real estate industry and beyond, so we sat down with their UK lead, Brad Williams, to get the full scoop.
How did NORNORM start?
Headquartered in Copenhagen, NORNORM was founded in 2020 by former Global IKEA Manager, Anders Jepsen, alongside investor and Skype co-creator, Jonas Kjellberg. The business was set up in partnership with the international furniture giant IKEA, and they remain a strategic investor today. After a successful start in the Nordics and across Europe, NORNORM is now expanding its activities to the UK.
What’s the vision for the business?
Our vision for a better workspace starts with a simple ambition: to build a fully circular business model that can be good for business, people, and the planet.
With 10 million tonnes of office furniture ending up in landfill every year, NORNORM is driven by the goal of creating a fully circular solution for workplaces and reducing some of the burden on the planet.
We also want to provide customers with greater flexibility in the operation of their workspace, so they have the freedom to adapt their office as they see fit. We believe the future of furnishing is circular and flexible, minimising waste and CO2 emissions.
What’s included in your service?
We’re a complete furnishing service, offering high-quality ergonomic furniture. We provide the 3D designs, delivery, assembly and installation of furniture, and unlimited changes thereafter. Our end-to-end service saves our customers a lot of time and effort, and the subscription model allows customers to swap and change furniture within our circular ecosystem. For landlords, this flexibility gives them confidence because they know if the end user requires changes to the configuration, NORNORM will take care of this as part of the service.
How does it work?
You start by telling us your workspace needs and style preferences. We then create a furnishing solution tailored to your needs, shared in an interactive 3D-model within 48-hours. Once you’ve confirmed the design and proposal, we deliver and install a functional office 8 weeks later or on the agreed installation date.
One of the unique features of the service is our pricing model which is done on a rate-per-square-foot rather than per item, which allows you to continuously adapt your furniture to your business needs through subscription. Customers can reduce a high CapEx number for a one-time solution and convert that to monthly OpEx which is great for managed and flex workspaces.
NORNORM is disrupting the office furniture scene and doing things differently to how they’ve always been done. Are you seeing lots of interest in this model?
We’re really going from strength to strength. After just 36-months in the market we’ve installed over 3 million sq ft of furniture and partnered with over 1,000 customers and counting. We’re working with high-growth tenants that are scaling their businesses including the likes of Netflix, Booking.com, Miro and Klarna, plus many of the big corporates including Deutsche Bank, AstraZeneca, Miele and Volvo. We’re also seeing a lot of interest from landlords and operators and have partnered with the world’s largest workspace provider, IWG, as well as Blackstone, Edge, AMF, Covivio, Castellum and more.
What types of furniture does NORNORM offer in its subscription service?
NORNORM furniture is manufactured by renowned brands such as Hay, Martela and Herman Miller and combines long durability with timeless, Nordic design. The aim is to significantly extend the lifespan of the furniture. If a company no longer needs certain pieces, NORNORM picks them up and refurbishes them so that they can be used again elsewhere.
We also provide the foundations of a workspace with ‘product sets’ which helps ensure our solution is as circular and efficient as possible. The furniture in our product sets is designed with purpose of space in mind, such as for focused work, collaboration, private meetings, and socialising.
What are the benefits for the real estate industry?
Amongst minimising waste and CO2 emissions, there are so many benefits to using a furnishing service with NORNORM. It’s a more affordable investment than buying all your furniture outright, which frees up capital to invest in growth.
It also gives businesses flexibility to utilise the furniture they need, and continuously optimise their space – scale up, scale down and switch it all around.
We also manage the time-consuming pain points that come with office furniture – i.e. when items break, comes to end of life, when a new tenant has different requirements, changing occupier needs, maintenance, items needing a refresh – all scenarios are easily solved with our unlimited flex changes.
How can this model help businesses meet their sustainability targets?
Many businesses are working towards sustainability goals but if you are serious about reducing your CO2 impact, buying new furniture is a no go. On average, businesses can reduce their climate impact by 66.3% per year by choosing to subscribe to furniture instead.
What’s the main thing we should take away?
Ego is the enemy of the circular economy. It’s not always easy to rewire how you’ve always done things, but we’re working more and more with innovative thinkers who really want to create smart workspaces of the future that are truly flexible and sustainable.