Watson makes award-winning furniture | Bainbridge Island Review

Which Bainbridge Island and Poulsbo-related company recently won a handful of awards for their innovative furniture?

It’s elementary, my dear – Watson.

Watson Furniture launched Haven, a collection of tables and social tools designed for collaboration, at NeoCon in Chicago. Haven won four Gold Awards, and when Watson’s C9 Trolley storage solution also won Gold, which broke a 31-year record in award history.

The Haven line won for communal tables, benches, conference rooms and collaborative collections. NeoCon is the leading trade fair for commercial furniture design.

Watson designs and manufactures office furniture in Poulsbo, having debuted in BI in the 1960s. About 25 years later cabinetmaker and metallurgist Grahame Watson handed the business over to Bill Haggerty, Daniel Warn and the CEO Clif McKenzie, who runs the company, which employs around 185 local people. About 65 work in the office and 120 in the factory. It also uses local raw materials, but this is becoming increasingly difficult to do as the supply chain has shrunk due to COVID-19.

“The pandemic has made it extremely difficult,” said Joe McKenzie, son of the CEO.

Unlike most of its competitors, Watson turns design designs and raw materials into finished products entirely under one roof at its manufacturing facility and corporate headquarters. Watson also has a studio in Seattle, but most of their clients come from their online virtual showroom.

The idea behind Haven is that it’s adaptable, transforming the workplace into a social haven for people and ideas to flourish. Haven is designed for multiple work modes and settings to meet the needs of many users and purposes. Circular shapes encourage inclusion and group decision making.

BI designer

Ethan Pearl of Bainbridge Island is the lead industrial designer. He didn’t design the Haven line, but he also won awards for his designs. His passion is for design that walks lightly on the Earth.

Watson practices “practical environmentalism,” his website says: “We use the cleanest ingredients we can get our hands on – things that are recycled or recyclable; stuff that doesn’t give off gas toxins; stuff that lasts.

Its wood is 92% recycled, the steel is 100% recyclable and its screens are made from 100% recycled polyester fabric made from reclaimed plastic bottles.

“Every step of our process is designed to maximize our ability to reduce, reuse and recycle… We recover and reuse powder, sawdust and water,” the website says.

Their website says Pearl is in charge of “bringing ideas to life, whether through sketches, computer modeling, or making physical prototypes by hand.” His career at Watson started as a summer school intern, helping with various tasks, most notably as a self-proclaimed “VP of Cardboard Engineering” due to his many cardboard prototypes.

“With technological advancements, manufacturing is getting easier and easier. If we are not careful, this ease of production will result in an exponential increase in unnecessary things. In products that clutter our lives and waste our resources. However, good design offers another avenue. By being thoughtful and intentional, we can design products that help us live better with less… ”he says in a quote on their website.

Son of the owner

Joe McKenzie, a son of the owner who has been there since he was 13 and has done just about all the work, said the product development team has the big picture. “What’s going on in the world… They adapt the furniture to their needs. “

As you walk through their offices and the factory, the first thing you notice is how spacious and clean everything is. It’s by design. “Being very close to people is not what’s best for you,” he said.

Describing one of the award-winning benches, McKenzie explains that there is a small divider in the middle for two people to feel comfortable using. There is also a place for a USB stick. There is a footrest and a place to hang a coat. On another piece of furniture there are lockers with a place for recycling bins in the middle and a place for plants above.

McKenzie explained how a study shows that when people are in squares, they are individualistic, but when furniture is curved, it becomes more collaborative. With the squares, companies try to crowd as many people as possible. Workers feel like someone is looking over their shoulder, he said.

But when the height of the furniture can be adjusted, moved easily, and the work areas fold up, coworkers are actually comfortable talking and won’t be looking for a meeting room, which is much more productive, a- he declared.

McKenzie said Watson makes custom furniture and can prototype it in a day. Most of its clients are in the United States and Canada.

He said that during COVID, they expanded their factory so that workers “weren’t on top of each other.” He said 86% of their employees have been vaccinated.

McKenzie said they pay their workers well and treat their workers well, so many stay for a long time. “That way we get the talent we want. They also have monthly barbecues, bonuses, an annual Bravo Night, an espresso bar, a campus walking trail, a gym and showers, plus the regular perks of a successful business. But like everyone else, they now have vacancies – 16.

He said it was one of the few furniture companies dealing with both wood and steel and able to turn raw materials into a finished product. “We don’t have a warehouse full of finished products,” he said, adding that everything was made to order and shipped.

He said they are very effective. A welder can do 10 different welds in a day, he said.

Despite all the fancy equipment, McKenzie said some of the work was still done by hand. “These are people who practice their profession. They are craftsmen. ”

The Haven social tables have won recent awards. Courtesy photo

Ethan Pearl of Bainbridge Island is one of the original ideas of the designs.  Courtesy photo

Ethan Pearl of Bainbridge Island is one of the original ideas of the designs. Courtesy photo

Clif McKenzie

Clif McKenzie

This cabinet features left and right lockers with recycling bins in the middle and plants in the middle and is located near workers for convenience.

This cabinet features left and right lockers with recycling bins in the middle and plants in the middle and is located near workers for convenience.

A welder works in the metal workshop.

A welder works in the metal workshop.

The metal sheets go through an oven about 80 feet long.

A welder works in the metal workshop.

A computer-controlled router cuts a long piece of wood.

A computer-controlled router cuts a long piece of wood.

A colorful workspace in Dallas using Watson furniture.  Courtesy photo

A colorful workspace in Dallas using Watson furniture. Courtesy photo

An inspirational quote with photos from Operation Watson hangs on the desk.

An inspirational quote with photos from Operation Watson hangs on the desk.



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