“We’re a hybrid; in one sense we’re like a manufacturer; in another sense we’re like a dealer. We sell directly to end-users like a traditional contract furniture dealer, but we’re also like a millwork company on steroids…or the smallest furniture manufacturer in the world.”

Reike Office Interiors, or ROI, is a dynamic, 20-year-old, company just north of Chicago. And like most 20-year-olds, it’s bursting with energy and vision. Founded and headed by Todd Reike, ROI’s humble beginnings as a used office furniture company were quickly augmented by adding what he calls “simple manufacturing– replacing worktops and upholstery to upgrade his second-hand inventory. For the last several years ROI has made its mark as a fast-growing supplier of innovative furniture and casework to the office and healthcare markets.

“Our prime prospects are owner-operated companies like ours, ideally around 100 people in size,says Mr Reike. “Those owners are more involved in a move or refurbishment. Their number one focus isn’t price, it’s doing something cool with their office – something they can be personally proud of.”

In working with the client to help them realise their vision – either with their own designer or with ROI’s design team – the company sometimes happens upon a concept that becomes part of its solutions package for other clients down the road.

“We’re very sensitive to design and using it to inspire the customer,says Mr Reike. “I will sometimes get involved myself, to try and come up with something cool and unique. Our own offices, actually, have inspired several of our clients to specify something similar for their own projects.”

ROI’s headquarters is indeed a showcase for the design ingenuity that drives the company’s success. A large part of the visual impact comes from the rich wood tones that you first see as you approach the reception desk and are echoed throughout the space. Two walls of windows flood the office with light and energy, making the quality and execution of the desks, work stations and fixtures that much more critical.
The not-so-secret combination of surfaces favoured by ROI for its own home? Biltmore Cherry and Fusion Maple HPL, both from Wilsonart.

“Half our customers choose that same combination for their own projects,says Mr Reike. “They love our look and feel comfortable with that. Many of the companies we do work for are a lot like us – a small front office, with manufacturing in the back. These are not fancy accounting firms; they’re more family-run metal business. They want to be comfortable, and they want their customers to think of them as a quality company: polished and professional, but not ostentatious.

“The materials we use are a huge part of our success. Before we even moved here, five and a half years ago, we decided that we needed to show what we wanted to sell; standardise our clients on certain designs. The more we were able to do that, the easier it was to stock those laminates and to go out in the field later and add on with the same design.

“Wilsonart has been our laminate line since the very beginning,says Mr Reike. “It’s probably 90% of what we do, although that’s beginning to change. We used to drive all the materials with our clients, because we didn’t have to work much with outside designers, hired by the clients. Now, more are coming to us after they’ve hired their own design firms, and we’re not going to argue with them.
“We originally didn’t do that much work with TFM, but the world has forced us to move more in that direction.”
Over the last five years, ROI has continued its evolution from purely custom work to adding standard furniture lines to hit the US$2,500 and US$1,200 per-office price points.

Catapulting custom design

“We’ve also launched another division, called Catapult, which specialises in working with architects and designers,says Mr Reike. “With Catapult we are making complex custom furniture by sourcing beyond the level of what most individual companies can do.

“Let’s say a client wants a reception desk that is comprised of several different kinds of materials and fabrication techniques – metal, glass, plastic, veneer, granite, carbon fibre – to create something really unique. Most millworkers will rely on too many different fabricators to help build something like this, and I know from experience that a lot of things can go wrong in such custom approaches.
“If an architect or designer wants to do something that unique, many times the project dies because they can’t get the budget for it, or find someone to do the whole project in the necessary lead times, or get any sort of warranty on the work. We offer to fully-engineer and price out a job like that in three weeks and we’ll even warranty the product so they have someone to go to who’s responsible, even if it’s not something we did here in our facility.”

Pioneering in 3DL in healthcare

Working with 3-D laminates, on the other hand, is something ROI naturally gravitated towards.

The company has a casework line custom-engineered for healthcare environments, sold under the name Wahu Wall Hung Caseworks.

Wahu has carved out a niche with its strong designs and use of 3-D laminates and is thriving in the expanding market for durable, attractive healthcare fixtures and furniture.

3-D laminates are a growing phenomenon in healthcare furniture and offer some tangible advantages over standard HPL and TFM casework in certain applications.

For instance, HPL laminated panels have hard, 90°, edges and sharp corners and are prone to delaminating when exposed to the abuse typically found in healthcare environments.

Wahu’s furniture doesn’t have that problem, because with 3-D laminates it can create soft, radiused edges which seal the panel against moisture, are easier to clean and are more resistant to abuse.

There’s no chipping or delaminating, so there’s no swelling of exposed substrate. It’s a fresh look that healthcare designers love; and components last longer under typical wear and tear than the alternatives.

“Before Wahu, which we launched a little under two years ago, 3-D laminates were not on our radar,says Mr Reike.

“We knew the healthcare sector would demand it and we knew we had to get good at it. Then we found out it really was a great product and is able to give us very unique looks, like our sculpted ‘Liquid’ architectural panels, and even signage.”

ROI shows no signs of slowing down, thanks in large part to the company’s ability to combine durable, practical materials with visionary design to create market-leading furniture.

“As a company we’re committed to laminate; we do no veneer whatsoever,says Mr Reike.

“We have no finishing, staining, or lacquering facilities. Our customer base is not law firms, it’s companies more like us. Not one has ever said, ‘No, we want real wood.’ They’re comfortable with laminate and they like the look and durability – the value – that it delivers. Just like us.”