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Designers of the modern workplace

Office planning: Company creates aesthetically pleasing, ergonomic space

Posted: April 21, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: April 21, 2011 1:55 a.m.

The space in the new cafeteria at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles was designed and furnished by BKM Office Environments. The new eatery, called HBO Café, is for employees and patient visitors, and sponsored by the cable-broadcast company HBO.

Considering itself a student of the workplace, BKM Office Environments is a furniture and office-space planning company that will soon finish work on the new Children’s Hospital Los Angeles set to open in July 2011. 

With two full-time designers on staff, the small company of 20 designed the use of public spaces and furnished the hospital’s cafeteria, waiting rooms and patient rooms.

While the furnishing of hospital patient rooms is typically handled by companies who supply hospital beds and other medical furnishings, BKM placed furniture in all rooms for patient visitors. Accoutrements include small sofas that convert to beds and recliners for family members who might sleep in a child’s room.

The hospital first opened its doors to children in a two-story home equipped with four beds and one volunteer doctor 110 years ago, so planning the new space and furnishings was an honor for BKM.

“The hospital put out a bid in December, bid to five or six different vendors,” said Amber Jones, BKM account manager and Stevenson Ranch resident. “We bid on the entire furniture selection, and were notified that we won the bid on Dec. 24.”

BKM started installing the furniture in the middle of March, and will finish by mid-May, Jones said.

Local customers
Pete Sloan bought Ventura-based BKM Office Environments in 2003, when the company was only 5 years old.

In the years since, and during a severe economic downturn, Sloan has built the company and its reputation into an $8.5 million business by satisfying clients’ one project at a time.

“We’ve been working with Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital for about two years,” Sloan said.

BKM has also worked with the city of Santa Clarita including City Hall and parks and recreation, Sloan said.

“We handled the new transit facility,” Sloan said. “That was a neat facility.” 

The company was involved through every stage of development, and really took the time to understand the city’s needs, customizing to meet those needs, said Jason Crawford, marketing and economic development manager for the city of Santa Clarita.

“Best of all, BKM was attentive to our timeline and budget,” Crawford said.

Other local customers include College of the Canyons and Arvato Digital Services, Sloan said.

Company’s services
The core business segments for BKM are business, health care, education and government.

New furniture sales account for 60 percent of the business with moveable walls with architectural products accounting for 30 percent, Sloan said. The remaining 10 percent represents asset management and moving services provided by BKM.

After a space is planned and designed for furniture placement, BKM handles moving and installation of all furniture. The company has its own fleet of trucks to handle transport needs.

The business also stores furniture at its own warehouses on a short- and long-term basis for companies that are moving, reducing or increasing the amount of office space they occupy. Some businesses have been growing once again and need to use the furniture they stored.

BKM also tracks and manages assets, or office furniture inventory, for businesses. And it provides maintenance-repair services for companies as normal wear and tear occur on furniture and desk chairs, saving businesses the cost of buying new furniture.

“I have worked with BKM for several years to provide office and patient-care furniture for various departments at Henry Mayo,” said Glenn Dabatos, a program director for rehabilitation services at Newhall Memorial. “What I enjoy about BKM is that I only deal with one person who assists me in finding the right furniture for our employees and patients, and resolves any problems (if any) immediately. I have always been impressed with their customer service and great communication.”

Trends of the future
Movable walls and building collaborative spaces are the biggest trend in the office-space planning today, Sloan said.

BMK works with a system that allows it to place and move walls as needed to create new work or meeting spaces. The moveable walls meet all the business needs of a fixed wall, but do not require permits Sloan said.

“We can create a room with glass or vinyl or traditional walls,” Sloan said. “We move it over a weekend; pressure fit them against existing fixed walls and seismic-brace them.”

The movable walls have the same sound rating as a traditional wall, and can even contain power or plumbing connections in them. Businesses often find they want to make two smaller conference rooms out of one large one, Sloan said.

The other popular business trend is to design “collaborative” spaces, or open work spaces for businesses and higher education institutions, he said. 

Increasingly, organizations want staffs to be able to easily work and communicate with other in open work and meeting spaces. The space design allows for the transfer of knowledge and information between people.

“We design space on what is called ‘intentional consequences,’ where employees need to talk and meet three or four times a day,” Sloan said.

“So we set up the work area so that they cross paths and end up communicating with each other naturally,” Sloan said.

The most challenging designs are hospitals Sloan said.

Upholstered furniture has to meet CAL 133 fire code standards. The codes require furnishings pass a stringent fire test to ensure upholstered pieces don’t catch fire.

“It can be challenging sometimes, but we have to go for safety,” Sloan said. “We want a happy medium, in terms of aesthetics and design, but we don’t want to scrimp on safety.”

BKM Office Environments is located at 2111 Portola Road, Suite A, Ventura and can be reached at (805) 339-6388 or


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