19 May 2024, 08:45
By Furniture News Jul 18, 2018

The new home of British furniture

Earlier this summer, trade association the British Furniture Manufacturers (BFM) relocated from its traditional home in High Wycombe to The Exchange, a newly-refurbished office and showroom facility in Long Eaton. Furniture News quizzed the association’s outgoing chairman, Matt O’Flynn, on the benefits of the move …

The BFM’s new headquarters now occupy a fully refurbished office, showroom and meeting hub in the heart of the UK’s upholstery manufacturing region. Located in Westend Mill on Leopold Street (opposite the well-known Harrington Mill building), The Exchange is also home to Orbital, an industry-focused digital agency best known for website building and its new 3D visualisation software solution, enVision.

The move was spearheaded by former John Sankey and Collins and Hayes principal Matt O’Flynn, who, after serving more than the standard two-year term as chair of the BFM, has stepped back to focus on co-directing Orbital’s growing business.

According to Matt, the new location will enable the BFM to interact more readily with its members and the rest of the industry. It is already lined up to be an official part of this year’s autumn Long Point exhibition (an official opening party is mooted for Monday 17th September, with new All Party Parliamentary Furniture Industry Group [APPFIG] chair Maggie Throup MP in attendance), and has been named a new regional headquarters for The Furniture Makers’ Company.

Promising the offer of an open, flexible space in which to interact and do business – plus some 3000 sqft of open space still available for rent – The Exchange signals an exciting new chapter in the BFM’s history, explains Matt …

Why did you choose this venue?

The BFM was looking for a suitable location and opportunity to grow our business, and the showroom facility came as a natural part of the process. As soon as we saw the space in Westend Mill, we knew what we needed to do.

How will the new HQ benefit the BFM’s members?

The Exchange is bang in the middle of the upholstery industry, with a large number of manufacturers and retailers all either permanently based here or converging regularly as part of their normal business cycle – plus the twice-yearly Long Point show. 

The Exchange has been laid out to be accessible and flexible enough to house everything from small meetings to larger seminars, meaning the BFM can interact with and offer services to the industry like never before.

Can you tell us more about any upcoming fixtures? 

We are yet to publish our calendar. However, we plan to launch The Exchange some time in September, with Maggie Throup doing the official honours, and for us to make the most of the opportunity by raising money for The Furniture Makers’ Company as their new Heart of England region location.

Long Eaton is now a UK Centre of Quality Upholstery Manufacture. Has has this accolade made a difference to the town?

This is a message that needs continuous wind in its sails. It is a great covenant, a genuinely interesting story, and reaches well beyond just upholstery. 

The mills that are so well used by the furniture trade now are part of the story. Westend Mill is one of the oldest remaining tenement lace mills in town – with the BFM now located here, it will further grow people’s awareness and respect for the area. The digital revolution that Orbital is spearheading will provide a long reaching continuation of growth within the industry for the future.

What inspired your interior design choices during the refurbishment?

We love these old mill buildings – they’re full of natural light and character. We wanted to take it back to its original form as much as possible, and then appoint the different areas sympathetically to their function. 

The BFM office is a professional space, allowing for privacy whilst still feeling open and benefiting from all the natural light. The Exchange’s reception is warm and welcoming, and the showroom benefits from exposed brickwork, great open spaces and a large cafe area with conferencing facilities and WiFi. The colours throughout are a calming neutral with a matt finish, accented with Orbital’s enVision green to inject energy.

How is business going at Orbital since its launch to the trade in January? 

Orbital has been supplying graphic design, photography, print and brand strategy to numerous brands, small to global, for over a decade. More recently, we decided to place our focus purely on the interiors market.

Technology has improved so quickly – largely thanks to the gaming industry – and it allows us to develop truly realistic representations of products in natural-looking environments, which we then make interactive – bringing clients’ entire catalogues to life and making the consumer’s journey much more engaging and productive.

We’re doing very well with the big multiples right now, and our client roster currently includes the likes of Furmanac, Linwood, Collins & Hayes, Celebrity, John Sankey, Sleepeezee, Wood Bros, Ikon and Debenhams, to whom we offer creative services including 3D product rendering, fabric wrapping, 3D roomset creation, photography, videography, website building and ecommerce solutions.

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