Salamander Designs’ first-ever “design:tech connection” event on Feb. 21 at its Bloomfield, Conn. factory and headquarters brought together around 70 AV/IT integrators, architects and designers, as well as technology vendors whose partnerships support the efforts of this specialty furniture company. Tech furniture and how it can aesthetically fit into modern office environments was showcased – an apt focus for the evening, since Salamander has deep-seated expertise in both the residential and commercial tech furniture arenas. The event’s co-host was Connecticut-based ACT Associates, an audio/visual consultant that specializes in the design, engineering and management of corporate AV and video conferencing spaces.
“Between AV guys and designers, relationships have been forever contentious. We very much want to build bridges,” Salvatore Carrabba, Salamander Designs’ founder and president, told us. Which is why this event really was an inaugural one, with future such gatherings certain to follow.
The company’s current business, Carrabba explained, skews 60 percent residential and 40 percent commercial, but the split is trending toward 50-50 – and, truth to tell, the line between the two sectors is blurring.
“Things are becoming more ‘resi-mercial,’” Angela Babowicz, Salamander’s marketing director, said. “The workplace, such as it is defined, is changing; people are working from home offices. There are more and more collaborative spaces, more video conferencing, more facial recognition technologies at play. And what is happening is that in the connected space, people are really interested in something we can provide – greater ease of installation and reduction in installation time.”
Key to Salamander’s success has been partnerships with vendors whose products work synergistically with the company’s furniture designs.
On the evening of our visit, the facility was set up to showcase four “experience rooms.” On display in the main showroom was a short-throw projector cabinet occupied by a Sony model, projecting onto a Screen Innovations screen. In that category, Salamander also supplies cabinetry for Hisense, Vivitek, Epson and Dell projectors. Displayed in the showroom area as well was NEC’s new 75-inch Infinity Board, on a Salamander stand.
An adjacent room was set up to spotlight a full solution for a meeting room: a customized Salamander 10-foot-by-four-foot conference table containing embedded Crestron products sat beneath a Shure Microphone Ceiling Array system, and across from a Sharp 4K 70-inch interactive display system. In the same area, supporting this conferencing space were a Logitech camera and Yamaha speakers.
About the table, Salamander’s Scott Srolis, senior vice president of sales and marketing, noted that its design “addresses all the pain points of integrating a table into a commercial space. We’re able to put everything into and under the table for easy serviceability, including four wire banks that are brought up from below and configured for Crestron.” The point he drove home was that the table is customizable – a chief selling angle for much of Salamander’s furniture.
The Factory Tour
Attendees at the event were treated to a look inside Salamander’s 94,000-square-foot factory, which is powered by a solar field on the roof, enabling the company to operate so environmentally efficiently that it sells power back to the local electric company, said Director of Engineering Michael Babowicz, who performed the role of tour guide for the evening.
End-to-end assembly line production is equally as efficient, he said, having been winnowed down from two-and-a-half hours to 40 minutes using a “triage” method of manufacture, to build an average cabinet. Employees are rotated onto different lines, which both broadens their knowledge base and earns them more while also benefiting the company. “It holds their interest, too, as they’re not doing the same things over and over,” he added. All furniture parts, save for the nuts and bolts and for some entry-level residential furniture SKUs, are produced locally. “We build fresh to order, with no stock just sitting here and waiting to be assembled,” says Babowicz. “Everything’s built with a purpose.”
One overarching philosophy serves to connect the diversity of products available through Salamander. As Carrabba explained it, “Our specialty is integrating the furniture that is able to support technology of today, but that is also retrofittable for the future.”