Fluid Interiors Reinvents Itself as a Green Office-Interiors Company
“In the past, interior spaces have been absolutely rigid,” says Berk Claiborne, president and co-owner of Minneapolis-based office-interiors company Fluid Interiors. “Companies and organizations have been using things like stud-wall construction or sheetrock construction, in which the only way to change it is to tear it out, put it in a landfill, and start over. In our book, that is a waste of a lot of resources. And even worse, it doesn’t respond well to the needs of the client.”
A business interiors distributor and service provider, Fluid focuses on products that are sustainable and LEED-friendly (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). Besides selling office furnishings (as well as movable walls and raised-access flooring) and working with design firms to create workspaces, Fluid reuses or recycles used materials from job sites for its clients.
Fluid Interiors started more than 50 years ago, previously operating under the names Pink Companies and William J. Business Interiors. The companies merged in 2002; the combined entity was acquired by Michigan-based office interiors products company Haworth in 2006. In 2007, Claiborne and CFO Mark Eklund teamed up and rebranded the merged entity as Fluid Interiors. Fluid remains a Haworth reseller, but it also handles other “green” brands, including HumanScale and Groupe LaCasse.
Since there has been little new building lately, large-scale renovation projects for Fortune 500 companies such as General Mills are boons to Fluid Interiors’ revenue, though many of its clients are small businesses. Jobs can be as small as a single chair or as large as, say, 3,800 workstations—the multimillion-dollar project that Medtronic hired Fluid to do in 2007. That job has since grown to 4,200 workstations and more than 9,000 chairs, upgrading previous work.
The company employs 25 in its headquarters and showroom in the Butler Square building in the Warehouse District, and another 18 at its operations center in Brooklyn Center. The Medtronic project helped Fluid’s revenue spike from $22 million in 2006 to more than $40 million in 2007.