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Close-up: Delinda Anderson

Innovative Commercial Environments' designs complement surroundings

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A table isn't just a table, a chair isn't just a chair, especially if the company is Innovative Commercial Environments of Carlsbad.

While careful not to call herself an interior designer, Delinda Anderson, Innovative principal, must design furniture so it becomes part of, rather than conflicts with, what the interior designer has created.

The company is small. There are only four full-time and two part-time employees, but Anderson said they are extremely loyal.

"We've had people work until 2 a.m. They really feel like it's their company," she said.

Much like an architect, Innovative uses an AutoCAD (computer-aided drafting) system to design tables, chairs, desks and other types of furniture. It then examines the specifications to determine which of some 50 or so furniture manufacturers will be the best to realize the design. These manufacturers range from LA-Z-Boy to Tangram Studio.

Anderson, who has worked in the commercial furniture industry for the past 23 years, said she started the business in September 2006, around the time her son was applying for school at Georgetown University.

"I'm a single mother and I needed the money for his college," she recalled.

After some smaller jobs, ICE landed a $1.5 million contract in January 2007 to design the furniture and workspaces for College Loan Corp. in Poway, which has since left the building that General Atomics is now using.

"That job had 450 workstations," Anderson said.

ICE also landed a $430,000 job plus an additional $75,000 in work later for the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology at about this same time. The firm designed various workstations and furniture solutions for private offices.

"Our furniture is made just in time. It's custom. So there isn't anything that is kept in stock ..." Anderson said. "We design the furniture to match the room."

Linda Erickson, vice president of Pointivity, an information technology firm in Sorrento Mesa, said ICE provided all the systems furniture and the furniture for a training room and a training room lounge, and did it all economically.

"It was fantastic, beautiful furniture at a wonderful price," Erickson said, adding that from conception to realization took about two months.

Kymberli Clement, an owner's assistant at Pacific Coast Steel on Murphy Canyon Road in Kearny Mesa, said her company budgeted about $500,000 for its furniture solutions, and the work was completed within about four months.

The Pacific Coast Steel job was in a 25,000-square-foot space that included 45 workstations and furniture for 15 private offices.

"They bent over backwards. This building was formerly a medical supply company and it really needed work. ICE helped turn it into our own space," Clement said.

Anderson is proud to say that most of her manufacturers construct the furniture in the United States, and many here in Southern California.

In down times, military work has helped to fill the bill for ICE. The firm was recently contracted to make its furniture appropriately conform to a two-phased renovation of an existing building at the San Bruno Marine Corps Marine Base. The phases, expected to be completed in August, will include everything from new chairs to new workstations.

ICE is also planning to design furniture at Camp Pendleton, the Miramar Marine Corps Air Station and the Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado.

Perhaps Anderson's favorite job was providing the furniture, artwork and plants for a 130,000-square-foot building for the Morongo Band of Mission Indians in the Cabazon area.

The job has specially designed workstations, Stylex (stacking) conference chairs, flowing tabletops that conform to the room, and basket-like chair backs designed to hearken back to the tribe's heritage.

"The Morongo tribe has a great heritage of basket weaving, and we were looking for something that reflected that," Anderson said.

The warm Southwestern colors were another key aspect in the furniture design for its spaces.

Anderson said designing furniture to conform to its surroundings is about solving problems -- a necessarily deliberative process.

"It's not that you have to have the most expensive solution, but it has to work. Most of my competitors don't seem to get that," she said.

These solutions may include free-flowing tables, benches and other elements that navigate angles, wall sockets and other obstructions. These solutions often mean ICE won't have the lowest bid.

"We may not be the cheapest, but we generally get the jobs we go after," Anderson said. "We like to think of ourselves as the Nordstrom's of furniture."

Anderson expects revenues will remain in the $2 million to $3 million range in 2009.

"My goal is to bring this to $4 million to $5 million as the economy improves," she said.

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