Today we’d like to introduce you to Jamie Miller.
Hi Jamie, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
I went to fashion design school in Milan, Italy in my 20’s. I eventually made it back to the states and got a Masters’s in Architecture at the New school of Architecture in San Diego and worked as an architect for 8 years. In 2012 I started a company called “Union Cowork”, a cowork (shared office) company that was different because we were neighborhood-centric and California-centric. Our goal was to build 50 walkable and bikeable locations throughout the state – currently, we have six locations from Downtown Los Angeles to Downtown San Diego. While I was building out our spaces I realized a gap in the market for contemporary furniture – anything that was non-corporate was very expensive or was not very good quality. I also realized there was a need for furniture that adapted better to open space floor plans – a very popular way for companies to set up their office space. I partnered with a Dutch furniture designer, Peter Van de Water (petervandewater.com), and we developed “Line X” – a contemporary, sophisticated product line that we integrated with Union Cowork’s aesthetic. My experience in design, architecture and then community building led me to the development of Alfabet Furniture. (Alfabet is Dutch for “Alphabet”:)
I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
The road has, at the very least, been paved. We had opportunities built-in with Union Cowork as our first client. Our relationship with our designer is wonderful. Our Speed bumps have included a number of personnel challenges and of course the global economic shutdown due to COVID-19. Although we have a wonderful product that has been designed and built to a high level of specification (all of our furniture is built in Los Angeles and the Netherlands), we have had challenges getting our product in with more mainstream corporate sales opportunities. We are a small company with a lean marketing budget which requires a lot more hands-on development work.
As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I own a contemporary commercial furniture company called Alfabet Furniture. As an architect who cares about form and function, it was critical to me to have the right design partner. We built our first line of desks and meeting tables with Peter Van de Water, a furniture designer based in Amsterdam. He is focused on sustainable solutions that are well thought out and beautifully built with his team in the Netherlands. Our finishes are different from most in that we use real wood veneers and a special laminate made of paper, called “Arpa”, which is manufactured in Italy. I’m proud of the fact that we do things “the right way”, even though this is more challenging. We build our product with consideration for where the labor comes from and how people are treated. That means we have to do more homework and oftentimes spend more in order to make sure we have fair-wage products. The fact we deeply care for design means our product has more consideration for the end-user. For example, the Arpa surface has a soft, matte finish that reduces eye strain. We are committed to European-based design and manufacturing, which is much higher quality. Most companies these days do not have the fortitude nor the follow-through to make such a commitment, and I am proud of this.
What quality or characteristic do you feel is most important to your success?
I am a problem solver, I see the big picture and I am calm enough to let the unimportant elements go. I understand that most of the time people are expressing personal challenges that may not relate to a problem at hand. I find that by hearing their personal perspective, first, I am much better at helping them to solve the actual challenge.
- Our height-adjustable desks start at $700
- Our meeting tables start at $800
- Bench height-adjustable workstations start at $900 per person
- Email: email@example.com
- Website: alfabetfurniture.com