8 min read

Contract Grade, Explained

Written by:

Christi Farrell, RA, Leed GA


November 8, 2022

Image source:

Studio Marlowe

In the quest for designing healthy spaces, one term often emerges as a notable consideration for interior designers and consumers alike: Contract Grade. This standard is not just a hallmark of durability, but it is also a keystone for promoting healthy interiors.

What is Contract Grade?

Contract Grade refers to furniture and furnishings that are manufactured to meet stringent standards suitable for commercial use. This might include hotels, office spaces, and restaurants. However, the relevance of Contract Grade has transcended beyond public spaces and into residential homes, especially with a growing awareness around the health implications of interior design choices.

Characteristics of Contract Grade Products

  1. Durability: Expected to withstand heavy usage, typically assessed with double rubs for fabric and reinforced construction for furniture.
  2. Safety: Must adhere to fire safety standards, with materials often being flame-retardant.
  3. Ergonomics: Designed for comfort during prolonged use, often incorporating features to support the body.
  4. Sustainability: Some Contract Grade products prioritize eco-friendly materials and production processes, conducive to a healthier environment.
  5. Design: While built for utility, these products do not compromise on aesthetics.

Relevance in Healthy Interior Design

Contract Grade products are increasingly relevant in interior design that prioritizes health for multiple reasons:

  • Material Quality: The use of non-toxic materials is more common in Contract Grade furniture, which aligns with the principles of a healthy home.
  • Longevity: Reduced need for replacement means less waste and decreased exposure to the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) common in new furniture.
  • Maintenance: Designed for easy cleaning and maintenance, aiding in the upkeep of an allergen and bacteria-free environment.

Contract Grade and Well-Being

Incorporating Contract Grade items into home design can contribute to the overall well-being of the residents. The ergonomic features can improve posture and reduce bodily stress, while the robust materials and construction promote better indoor air quality and reduce health risks associated with poor-quality furnishings.

The Role of Standards and Certifications

To ensure Contract Grade products live up to their name, various standards and certifications exist, such as:

  • BIFMA: The Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer's Association sets the industry standards for commercial-grade furniture.
  • GREENGUARD: Certification that ensures products meet chemical emissions standards, contributing to healthier indoor environments.


Q: Is Contract Grade furniture only for commercial spaces?
A: No, while primarily designed for commercial use, Contract Grade furniture can be incorporated into residential spaces, especially when prioritizing durability and health.

Q: How do I know if a product is truly Contract Grade?
A: Look for industry-standard certifications, specific manufacturer information, and inquire about the construction and materials used.

Q: Can Contract Grade furniture be stylish?
A: Absolutely. Many manufacturers combine robust construction with contemporary designs to suit any aesthetic.

Companies Embracing Contract Grade for Healthier Interiors

Several companies have taken the lead in integrating Contract Grade standards in their products, contributing to healthier interior environments:

  1. Herman Miller: Known for ergonomic office furniture, they're a pioneer in combining design with health standards.
  2. Steelcase: Offers a variety of Contract Grade products designed for well-being and sustainability.
  3. Knoll: Their commitment to quality and modern design extends to their durable and health-conscious furniture lines.

Incorporating Contract Grade Products into Your Home

When selecting pieces for your home, consider the following tips:

  1. Prioritize Key Areas: Start with furniture pieces that are used most frequently, such as seating and desks.
  2. Balance Aesthetics with Utility: Choose pieces that not only meet Contract Grade standards but also complement your home's design.
  3. Consult with Professionals: Interior designers with experience in healthy homes can guide you towards the best Contract Grade options.


Contract Grade is more than a measure of quality— it is a component of the growing movement towards healthy homes. By choosing furniture and finishes that align with Contract Grade standards, homeowners can ensure a living space that nurtures well-being, style, and sustainability.

Companies that embrace these standards not only cater to the commercial world but also empower consumers to make informed decisions about their residential interiors. As the demand for healthier living spaces rises, the importance of Contract Grade items is expected to grow, shaping the future of interior design.

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Christi Farrell

Christi is a licensed architect and interior designer specializing in sustainability. She enjoys teaching design and bringing transparency to the impact that furniture has on our planet.

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