Title:
Modular office furniture
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A modular furniture system comprises a plurality of components from which a variety of furniture assemblies can be constructed. The system includes seating units and a rail system, the rail system including front and rear rails mounted to the seating units. Advantageously, no side rails are required. A vertical panel can be included for supporting various user amenities.



Inventors:
Barrett, Shawn O'neill (Libertyville, IL, US)
Barrett, Deanna Lynn (Libertyville, IL, US)
Application Number:
10/865586
Publication Date:
12/15/2005
Filing Date:
06/10/2004
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47B39/00; A47B83/02; A47C7/68; A47C7/72; A47C13/00; A47C15/00; (IPC1-7): A47B39/00; A47B83/02; A47C15/00
View Patent Images:
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20090008006Pedicure chair footbath coverJanuary, 2009Suitt
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20100066150Seatbelt retractorMarch, 2010Mori et al.
20020043842Back rest for seat backApril, 2002Nakamori
20020185581Bicycle seat elevation adjusterDecember, 2002Trask
20090236887BACK SUPPORT FOR A SEATSeptember, 2009Lu et al.
20080129006Stabilized Mobile Unit or WheelchairJune, 2008Johnson et al.
20090134683HEADRESTS FOR VEHICLE SEATSMay, 2009Furukawa et al.



Primary Examiner:
NELSON JR, MILTON
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP (MINNEAPOLIS, MN, US)
Claims:
1. A modular furniture assembly comprising a rail system, said rail system consisting essentially of a front rail, a rear rail, and a plurality of supporting leg members, and at least one seating unit mountable on said rail system, said seating unit comprising a lower front end mountable on said front rail and a lower rear end mountable on said rear rail, such that said at least one seating unit when fixedly mounted on said rail system defines a furniture assembly.

2. The modular furniture assembly of claim 1 wherein said rail system consists essentially of a front rail, front leg members supporting said front rail, a rear rail, rear leg members supporting said rear rail, and connecting elements.

3. The modular furniture assembly of claim 2 wherein said rear rail is of an “L” shaped cross-section having an upper substantially vertical portion and a lower substantially horizontal portion, said upper and lower portions intersecting one anther at an interior edge, such that the lower rear edge of the seating unit fits substantially against said interior edge of said rear rail.

4. The modular furniture assembly of claim 2 wherein said front rail system is of an inverted “L” shaped cross-section having an upper substantially horizontal member and a depending substantially vertical member, such that the lower front edge of said seat assembly is supported by said horizontal member of said front rail, and said depending vertical member of said front rail is engaged by said front leg members.

5. The modular furniture assembly of claim 4 wherein said front leg members comprise means for receiving said depending vertical member of said front rail.

6. The modular furniture assembly of claim 1 further comprising a second seating assembly mountable on said rail system.

7. The modular furniture assembly of claim 1 further comprising at least one table surface mountable on said rail system.

8. The modular furniture assembly of claim 1 further comprising at least one arm rest assembly.

9. The modular furniture assembly of claim 8 wherein said arm rest assembly comprises an arm rest member and an object support surface.

10. The modular furniture assembly of claim 1 further comprising a vertical panel mountable on said rail system.

11. The modular furniture assembly of claim 10 further comprising a lighting unit mounted on said vertical panel.

12. The modular furniture assembly of claim 10 further comprising a garment hook mounted on said vertical panel.

13. The modular furniture assembly of claim 10 further comprising a vase mounted on said vertical panel.

14. The modular furniture assembly of claim 1 further comprising a working surface in operative relation to said seating unit.

15. The modular furniture assembly of claim 14 wherein said working surface is adjustably mounted to said assembly.

16. A modular furniture system comprising one or more seating units, and a rail system, said rail system consisting essentially of front rail members, rear rail members, leg members, and connecting means, such that one or more furniture assemblies can comprise components of said modular furniture system including at least one seating unit, one front rail member, one rear rail member, and leg members with connecting means for connecting said leg members to said one front rail member and said one rear rail member, said at least one seating unit being fixedly mountable to said one front rail member and said one rear rail member, each of said components of said one or more furniture assemblies being selected from said modular furniture system.

17. The modular furniture system of claim 16 further comprising a table surface mountable on said rail system.

18. The modular furniture system of claim 16 further comprising a vertical panel mountable on said rear rail member.

19. The modular furniture system of claim 16 further comprising one or more stem members mountable on said rear rail, said one or more stem members adapted to support a user amenity.

20. The modular furniture system of claim 18 further comprising one or more stem members mountable on said vertical panel.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to modular furniture for use in an office environment. More particularly, this invention relates to modular furniture for use in office reception areas, and other areas of an office where visitors may wish to conduct work.

Modern office facilities typically have reception areas to accommodate visitors who must wait before or between appointments. Such reception areas generally include lounge seating and side tables. While such reception areas might be comfortable places to rest, they are generally not suitable places for work. Yet frequently, business visitors often need to accomplish certain work related tasks, before, between, and after their business appointments. Such tasks might include making notes or memoranda of the meeting, checking for and responding to electronic or telephonic messages, generating reports, and preparing for upcoming meetings. Business travelers frequently carry with them various electronic devices such as laptop computers, personal digital assistants, handheld devices for sending and receiving electronic mail, and the like, as well as assorted papers and files. Using such devices in most modern office reception areas can be difficult, awkward, and uncomfortable, because of the lack of appropriate work surfaces, lighting, and other features that would provide greater comfort for users who are not in their own primary offices. Yet it is usually not feasible, from either an economic or space allocation standpoint, to furnish reception areas with individual desks or worktables.

There are many environments besides office environments where it would be desirable to have lounge furniture that can also function as a temporary task area. Such furniture would be desirable anywhere that conferences or seminars are held, such as commercial conference centers or schools, when attendees might want to communicate with their home offices during breaks between sessions. Such furniture would also be desirable in any area where people have to wait for extended periods of time, such as hotel lobbies, doctors' office waiting areas, hospital waiting areas, or airports, particularly in airline hospitality club areas for frequent travelers.

Another challenge to the furniture designer is the fact that each office environment, reception area, or waiting room is unique. Each has its own physical layout, lighting, and amenities. A single furniture arrangement could not satisfy the needs of so many different environments. What is needed is a system of furniture that can be assembled from a system of common components, so that certain components can be selected for each environment, to provide a unique arrangement of common elements most suitable for the needs of each environment and its users and visitors. It would further be preferable for such common components to include not only seating units and structural members, but also lighting, work surfaces, and amenities, as may be deemed suitable to each individual environment.

It is thus one object of the invention to provide a furniture system that is suitable for use by business visitors who need to accomplish work-related tasks.

It is another object of the invention to provide a furniture system that is suitable for use by business visitors who need to accomplish work-related tasks, which furniture system is adaptable to a variety of different office or other environments.

It is still another object of the invention to provide a furniture system that is suitable for use by business visitors who need to accomplish work-related tasks, which furniture system can be relatively inexpensive.

It is still a further object of the invention to provide a furniture system that is suitable for use by business visitors who need to accomplish work-related tasks, and which is modular in nature.

Other objects, advantages, and novel features of the invention will be apparent to those skilled in the art from the following description of the invention and the figures that form a part of this patent.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention comprises a furniture system based on a rail system, the rail system consisting essentially of a front rail, a rear rail, and a plurality of supporting leg members. The furniture system further comprises one or more seating assemblies mountable on the rail system. Other components can be mountable on the rail system, such as lighting fixtures, table surfaces, and vertical panels which can support lighting fixtures, garment hooks, and other elements that promote the comfort and efficiency of a user. The front and rear rails can be available in a variety of different lengths, so that rails can be chosen to accommodate either a single seating unit, a plurality of seating units, or a combination of seating units and table surfaces. Other components can include an adjustable working surface, and side arm members. The side arm members can further include other components, such as a tray surface for comestibles such as coffee and the like.

DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES

The invention as disclosed herein will be more readily understood by reference to the accompanying Figures illustrating various preferred embodiments, wherein

FIG. 1 is a front view of an embodiment of the invention having a single seating unit and a side table surface;

FIG. 2 is a left front perspective view of an embodiment of the invention similar to FIG. 1 and including additional elements for the comfort and convenience of the user;

FIG. 3 is a right front perspective view of the embodiment of FIG. 2;

FIG. 4 is a side view of the embodiment of FIGS. 2 and 3;

FIG. 5 is a front perspective view of an embodiment of the invention comprising two seating units and a table surface therebetween;

FIG. 6 is a front perspective view of an embodiment of the invention comprising two seating units;

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of an embodiment of the invention comprising three seating units;

FIG. 8 is a rear view of the embodiment of FIG. 7;

FIG. 9 is a front perspective view of a frame for a seating unit of the invention;

FIG. 10 is a rear view of the frame shown in FIG. 9;

FIG. 11 is an exploded view of a furniture assembly of the present invention; and

FIG. 12 is a side view of the furniture assembly of FIG. 11, assembled and upholstered.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is a modular system of furniture suitable for both task and lounge purposes. The modular furniture system comprises a rail system, the rail system consisting essentially of a front rail, a rear rail, and a plurality of supporting leg members. The front and rear rail members are each available in a variety of lengths, and may be selected in accordance with the needs of a particular modular furniture arrangement. The furniture system further comprises seating units that are mounted on said front and rear rail members. Optional components comprise arm members, table surfaces, tray surfaces, lighting fixtures, and vertical panels for supporting other amenities.

FIG. 1 illustrates a simple assembly of modular furniture made of the system of the present invention. Furniture assembly 10 comprises a front rail 12 supported by leg members 14, 16, and a rear rail 20, also supported by a plurality of leg members, of which only leg member 22 is visible in the illustration. The front and rear rails support a seating unit 24, the seating unit 24 comprising a seat portion 26 and a backrest portion 28. In the illustrated embodiment, optional arm rest members 30, 32 are secured to the sides of seating unit 24. In the illustrated embodiment, the front and rear rails 12, 20 are each longer than the width of seating unit 24. The additional length of the rails is used to support a side table surface 34, which in the illustrated embodiment is made of glass, and rests on supporting means that extend inwardly from front rail 12 and rear rail 20. The table surface supporting means can be, for example, pegs that extend inwardly from the rails, or inverted L-shaped mounting brackets that are secured to the inner surfaces of the rails and provide an inwardly extending surface to support the table surface. The furniture assembly 10 further includes a vertical panel 38 mounted to rear rail 20. Vertical panel 38 contributes to the aesthetics of the assembly 10; it also can support certain user amenities, as shown in the other embodiments illustrated below. Vertical panel 38 can be mounted to rear rail 20 by known means. For example, a plurality of dowel pins can extend upward from rear rail 20 into a plurality of pre-drilled holes in the bottom edge surface of panel 38. Alternatively, mounting plates can be used that bolt to both rear rail 20 and panel 38.

FIGS. 2-4 illustrate another embodiment of a furniture assembly 110 made of the system of the invention, comprising front rail 112, front leg members 114, 116, rear rail 120, rear leg members, of which only leg member 122 is visible in the figures, seating unit 124 comprising seat portion 126 and back rest portion 128, optional arm rests 130, 132, and vertical panel 138. Unlike the embodiment of FIG. 1 in which the front and rear rail members 12, 20 are of the same length, in this embodiment the front rail 112 is shorter than the rear rail 120. There is no lower side table surface corresponding to table surface 34 of FIG. 1. Furniture assembly 110 includes a tray surface 140 mounted into the side of arm rest 130. Tray surface 140 may be used for any relatively small objects that the user wishes to have within reach, but is especially suited for comestibles such as coffee and the like. It may be seen that in the illustrated preferred embodiment, tray surface 140 is mounted at a height so as to be within reach of a person seated in seating unit 124, but low enough so that objects placed thereon will not be unintentionally knocked by the arm of one seated in the seating unit 124. Furniture assembly 110 further includes an adjustable working surface 144 pivotably mounted to post member 146. In the illustrated embodiment, post member 146 is mounted to the front portion of the side of seat portion 126. It may be seen, however, that post member 146 also could be mounted to the front surface of arm rest 130. Working surface 144 is intended to hold work materials of a user, such as papers, books, calculator, or, more commonly, a laptop computer. Work surface 144 is pivotably mounted to post member 146 to swing out of the way when a user is being seated or rising from seating unit 124, and then to swing back into a working orientation when a user desires to work, as illustrated in FIG. 3. Work surface 144 also can slide forwardly and rearwardly on glides such as are known in the art. FIGS. 2-4 further illustrate lighting fixture 150 comprising a standard lighting element 152 mounted to a stem 154 having a clamp 156 at its lower end. Clamp 156 is sized and shaped to securely fit over the top edge 139 of vertical panel 138. In the illustrated embodiment, clamp 156 is in the form of a C-clamp. An electrical cord 158 extends from the rear of stem 154. In the illustrated embodiment, light fixture 150 has a relatively short stem 154 and is mounted to the top edge 139 of panel 138. Panel 138 also can support other user amenities, such as a garment hook, a file holder, and the like.

FIG. 5 illustrates yet another embodiment of a furniture assembly 210 made of the modular furniture system of the present invention. In the illustrated embodiment, a front rail 212 is supported by leg members 214, 215, and 216, and rear rail 220 is supported by three similarly positioned leg members, of which only leg member 222 is visible in the figure. Front rail 212 and rear rail 220 are of the same length, and support two seating units 224, 264, with a table surface 234 supported therebetween on inwardly extending pegs. Seating unit 224 comprises seat portion 226, back rest portion 228, and arm rest member 230; while seating unit 264 comprises seat member 266, back rest member 268, and arm rest member 270. In the illustrated embodiment, neither of the seating units 224, 264 is provided with either a tray surface or a working surface as illustrated in the embodiment of FIGS. 2-4, but it will be understood that either a tray surface or a working surface or both could be provided to either or both of the seating units 224, 264. In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 5, a vertical panel such as panel 138 is not used, and lighting fixture 250 is provided with a longer stem 254 that is mounted directly to that portion of rear rail 220 that extends between the seating units 224, 264. Such a longer stem can be mounted by a mounting clamp 258 of the same general size and shape as mounting clamp 158. For aesthetic enhancement, a short stem 274 is mounted to rear rail 220 by C-clamp 276, and is used to support flower vase 280. It will be appreciated that, if desired, a vertical panel could be provided between the seating units and a lighting fixture with a shorter stem could be used, as illustrated in FIGS. 2-4; a vase with a shorter mounting stem also could be used.

FIG. 6 illustrates yet another embodiment of a furniture assembly 310 made of the modular furniture system of the invention. In the illustrated embodiment, a front rail 312 is supported by leg members 314, 315 and 316. A rear rail, of substantially the same structure as rear rail 220 of FIGS. 3-4, is supported by three similarly positioned leg members, of which only leg member 322 is shown in the figure. Front rail 312 and rear rail 320 are of the same length, although shorter than the front and rear rails of FIGS. 2-4, and support two seating units 324, 364. Seating unit 324 comprises seat portion 326, back rest portion 328, and arm rest member 330; while seating unit 364 comprises seat portion 366, back rest portion 368, and arm rest member 370. In the illustrated embodiment, neither of the seating elements 324, 364 is provided with either a tray surface or a working surface as illustrated in the embodiment of FIGS. 2-4, but it will be understood that either a tray surface or a working surface or both could be provided to either or both of the seating units 324, 364. In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 6, no task elements are included, and the arrangement is suitable for use as lounge furniture.

FIGS. 7-8 illustrate front and rear views of yet another embodiment of a furniture assembly 410 made of the modular furniture system of the invention. The frame system of this embodiment, i.e., the rails, leg members, and their connecting elements, is substantially the same as that of the embodiment of FIG. 5. In the embodiment of FIGS. 7-8, a front rail 412 is supported by leg members 414, 415, and 416, and rear rail 420 is supported by three similarly positioned leg members 421, 422 and 423. Front rail 412 and rear rail 420 are of the same length, and support seating units 424, 464, with a third seating unit 444 therebetween. Seating unit 424 comprises seat portion 426, back rest portion 428, and arm rest member 430; while seating unit 464 comprises seat portion 466, back rest portion 468, and arm rest portion 470. Third seating unit 464 comprises seat portion 466 and back rest portion 468, the third seating unit having no arm rests. The embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 7-8 is suitable for lounge furniture for up to three persons. It will be appreciated that, if desired, the two end seating units could be provided with tray surfaces or work surfaces or both, to facilitate task usage of the assembly.

From the foregoing illustrations and descriptions, it may be seen that the modular furniture system of the present invention comprises a rail system, the rail system consisting essentially of front and rear rails and supporting leg members and their connecting elements, which rail system can be selected from a plurality of components of the inventive furniture system to accommodate any combination of seating units and table surfaces. A particular advantage of the present rail system and the modular furniture design is that no side rails are required; the front and rear rails provide both simplicity of design and structural integrity. The modular furniture system can be made into assemblies that can be used solely as lounge furniture, such as illustrated in the embodiments of FIGS. 5 and 7-8. Alternatively, the modular furniture system comprises task elements including table surfaces, work surfaces, tray surfaces, lighting fixtures, vertical panels and the like, so that assemblies can be made that serve as comfortable task furniture for one or more users. The task assemblies are particularly well suited to areas that accommodate business travelers and business visitors.

The construction of the various components of the modular furniture system of the present invention and their connecting elements now will be described in greater detail.

Each seating unit can be made of a frame 40 as generally illustrated in FIGS. 9-10. Each frame 40 comprises two side panels 42, 44 that extend along the sides of the back rest portion and the seating portion. The two side panels 42, 44, are connected to one another in the back rest region by top cross piece 45, upper back cross piece 46, lumbar support 47, and a back rest cushion support 48. Back rest cushion support 48 comprises front panel 49, top panel 50, rear panel 51, and a bottom panel, not shown. Side panels 42, 44 are further connected to one another in the front seat rest portion by front panel 52, top panel 53, and bottom panel 54, shown in phantom lines. As shown in FIG. 10, brace members 55, 56 may be used for enhanced structural integrity. Foam structures, such as polyurethane foam structures commonly used in upholstered furniture, can be positioned within the back rest portion on top of cushion support 48 and in the seating area. An additional foam structure can be placed over lumbar support 47. A plurality of pre-drilled holes 57 are provided in several locations in frame 40 to facilitate construction of a furniture assembly in accordance with the invention.

FIG. 11 illustrates an exploded view of a furniture assembly 510 of the present invention. Seating unit 524 comprises frame 525 substantially of the same structure as shown in FIGS. 9 and 10, and is provided with a plurality of pre-drilled holes 57. Frames for arm members 530, 570, are provided with a plurality of pre-drilled holes 58 corresponding to the locations of holes 57 in frame 525 to facilitate the mounting of the arm members to the seating unit. Front rail 512 and rear rail 520 are each of an “L” shaped cross section and can be of substantially identical structure, except that front rail 512 is turned “upside-down” relative to rear rail 520. That is, rear rail 520 comprises an upper substantially vertical member 536 and a lower substantially horizontal member 537, said upper and lower members having an intersecting edge 538. Front rail 512 comprises an upper substantially horizontal member 517 and a depending substantially vertical member 518 that intersect one another at an interior edge 519. As seen in FIG. 12 (surface 540 omitted for clarity), the lower rear edge of frame 40 fits against the intersecting edge 538 of rear rail 520, while the lower front end of seat frame 40 is supported on the top of horizontal member 517 of front rail 512. Also as shown in FIG. 12, in a preferred embodiment, front rail 512 is disposed slightly behind the lower front edge of the frame 40, for aesthetic reasons and also so that a user's legs will not come in contact with the rail, which might cause some discomfort. Referring again to FIG. 11, in the illustrated embodiment rear rail 520 and front rail 512 are each provided with a plurality of pre-drilled holes 59 by which the rail can be secured to the bottom panels of the frame using known fastening elements such as screws, bolts, and the like.

Rear legs 522 can be all of the same design. Each rear leg 522 is provided with a mounting plate 523 by which the leg can be mounted to the bottom surface of horizontal member 537 of rear rail 520. The front legs in one embodiment could be similarly constructed and provided with a similar mounting plate to mount to the bottom surface of horizontal member 517 of front rail 512. In the illustrated preferred embodiment, however, the front legs 514, 516 are in the form of hollow tubes with notches 513 cut partway through the length thereof, the notches being sized and dimensioned to receive depending vertical member 518 of front rail 512. In the illustrated embodiment, the leg members 514, 516 are of square cross-section and the notches 513 are cut through only one side, so that the other three sides of the leg member surround the left and right ends, respectively, of front rail 512. A front center leg member, such as leg member 215 of FIG. 5, has notches cut in opposing sides so that the leg member extends along the front and rear surfaces of the vertical depending member of the front rail, and the front rail can extend on either side of the center leg member. Optional glide pieces 539 can be placed on the bottom of each leg member.

Referring again to FIG. 11, arm member 530 is further provided with pre-drilled holes 542 by which L-shaped mounting plate 543 is secured thereto. Tray surface 540 is secured to the extended arm 545 of mounting plate 543 by fastening means that extend up through the bottom of tray surface 540.

There has been described herein a modular office furniture system comprising a plurality of components, from which a variety of different furniture assemblies can be constructed. The modular components include a rail system, seating units, arm members, table surfaces, vertical panels, tray surfaces, and various amenities that can be supported by the rail system or the vertical panels, such as lighting fixtures, vases, garment hooks, file holders, and the like. The selected components can be used to construct furniture assemblies suitable as lounge furniture or task furniture depending on the user's needs and the environment in which the furniture will be used.

While preferred embodiments of the invention have been described, the embodiments are disclosed by way of illustration and not by way of limitation. Those skilled in the art will recognize other embodiments and equivalents within the scope of the invention, which embodiments and equivalents are intended to be covered by the claims appended hereto.