Studio Furniture: When form meets function

December 1, 2003

Studio furniture plays an important role in the operation of any studio. While this passive component of the studio design serves as the physical foundation for the equipment that will be used around it, it is sometimes barely given more than a casual thought as to its design and installation.

The technology behind studio furniture may not seem sophisticated, but the craftsmen behind the work can usually quote all kinds of specifications pertaining to load tolerance, resistance to warping and durability of materials. In the end, many manufacturers create a quality product that will last for many years. Some details in manufacturing materials are important to consider, but it is easy to get lost in the specifications. A certain exotic material from some distant land may seem like the perfect choice, but in the end, the long-term durability is what matters most.

The most common material debate is between the use of plywood or particle board. Those opposed to particle board cite that it crumbles and warps too easily. This may be true of materials from several years ago, but particle board materials today are manufactured to some of the highest tolerances of any man-made material. Thicknesses are tightly controlled to thousands of an inch. Plywood likewise is a quality material, although the thickness tolerance is a little looser. It is important to know that when particle board is used, it must be an industrial-grade material and not an underlayment grade. Underlayment grade will crumble when screws are used on it.

When a surface material is laminated, the coating must be applied to both sides or the material will warp. By balancing the panel, the absorption of moisture and stresses from use will affect both sides, reducing the likelihood of warping.

A new addition to studio furniture designs is the use of solid-surface materials for the countertop. Materials such as Corian and Gibraltar provide a durable surface that is forgiving of scratches and blemishes. A scratch can be removed by sanding and buffing the area. The surfaces are strong and nonporous, which resist stains. Larger sections can be custom formed to hide seams for a continuous surface. Solid surfaces can also be cut into a variety of shapes without the need for edge molding.

Two distinct paths

Most studio furniture can be classified as modular or custom. Custom designs cost more and are manufactured to specific instructions. The modular approach includes the classic cabinetry designs as well as the workstation design.

One advantage to the modular cabinetry approach is that it usually lends itself to easy furniture reconfigurations. The workstation approach also has some modularity to it, typically providing several basic pieces that can be arranged in various ways to create the final design. Some applications may begin with a modular approach and then customize it to fit a specific need.

Whether choosing a custom package or an off-the-shelf approach, the end result can still look fabulous. When a studio project is started, the furniture is one of the first items needed before installation can begin. With custom choices and exotic materials typically comes a longer manufacturing time.

The workstation designs offer a great deal of flexibility, and by their design have an open look and feel. Conventional cabinet designs will usually provide a stronger base to work from, but they also offer an inherent wire management and power system that is hidden from view. In addition, the cabinetry can usually provide a space for a punch block connection panel or other wire distribution point.

Equipment cooling is an important consideration. While equipment needs have changed, the largest producers of heat -- cart machines -- have almost completely disappeared. Instead, studios are being loaded with more computers and computer monitors. In most cases, a passive airflow will be sufficient to maintain an appropriate ambient temperature. The addition of vents to rear panels can help. In some cases, additional forced air may be necessary.

The bigger problem from the introduction of computer-based equipment is noise. More and more equipment relies on cooling fans, which can be a noise problem. If the computer must be placed within the studio, try to place it as far away as possible from any open mics. The computer can also be housed within the furniture, which will attenuate its noise.

A showcase studio begins with the equipment foundation. The studio furniture acts as a passive partner in this system. By making the right choices today, this foundation will faithfully serve its purpose for many years to come.

Resource Guide
Selected manufacturers of studio furniture

Spacewise Broadcast Furniture
Products offered: Expression, Delux, Radial, All Talk, DQS, Airshow, Daves

Middle Atlantic Products
Products offered: Edit Center, Multidesk, racks

Products offered: Quickline, Primeline, Smoothline, custom

Products offered: Preference, Eclipse, Tech Line

Arrakis Systems
Products offered: Radius-XP, Modulux, custom

Studio Technology
Products offered: Basis, custom

Products offered: Forte, Presto, Prostation, Force, custom

Products offered: Various modular systems

Mager Systems
Products offered: Sound Choice, custom

RAM Systems and Communications
Products offered: custom furniture, racks

Forecast Consoles
Products offered: Imagemaster consoles, Modular Component consoles, Masterail, custom

TBC Consoles
Products offered: Modular, Freeform, custom

Murphy Studio Furniture
Products offered: Elegant Series

Products offered: Solutions

The furniture accessory

Equipment racks are just as important as studio furniture. Besides the utilitarian factor of the steel rack, there are variations designed to offer environmentally sealed uses or special sound isolation functions. Here are some companies that offer equipment racks in various designs that can complement a studio furniture decision.

Amco Engineering
APW Enclosure Products - Stantron
Chatsworth Products
Electrorack Products Co
Progressive Marketing Products
Signal Transport


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