The iconic wood tables that fill every Apple Store have long been globally admired as symbols of tasteful interior design. Fewer people are aware that recent top Apple Stores contain a hidden space called the Boardroom. Each Boardroom is decorated with a collection of premium furniture and accessories from some of the most respected designers in the world. We tracked down these hard-to-find items to create a directory for those with a discerning eye for design.
Boardrooms aren’t a company secret but are generally closed to the public. Access is limited to business meetings, artists hosting Today at Apple sessions, and private events. Apple describes the Boardroom as a space more intimate than the main store area and flexible enough to showcase any business solution.
As of this article’s publication, there are roughly three dozen stores around the world either built with or remodeled to add a Boardroom. Former Retail SVP Angela Ahrendts formally announced the Boardroom concept in May 2016 when Apple Union Square opened in San Francisco. The design and furnishings of the spaces are directly inspired by Apple Park, meaning that each Boardroom brings a small taste of Cupertino with it. Accessories and furniture in each store vary based on age, size, and location. Most Boardrooms contain at least one item unique to the city or country the store is located in.
Angela Ahrendts introduces a conceptual Boardroom at Apple Union Square (Photo: CNET)
There is very little public documentation from Apple on the Boardroom, so I consulted with designers and representatives from several major suppliers of modern design products to catalog each space. In some cases, Apple fabricates its own furniture, meaning not every piece is available to the public. I’ve organized the items into multiple categories below. If you have additional information on any Boardroom products, drop me a line and I’ll update this article.
Apple Birmingham (Photo: Silver Mountain Agency)
At the core of every store Boardroom is a set of Maruni’s Hiroshima Arm Chairs. Early Boardrooms used chairs with plain wooden seats, while more recent chairs are either upholstered with fabric or Apple’s favorite shade of brown leather. These distinctive chairs can also be found in the cafe at Apple Park Visitor Center. The Hiroshima line was designed by Naoto Fukasawa, a close friend of Jony Ive and the designer behind many popular Muji brand products. Ive and Fukasawa were recently interviewed together and reflected on the design of Apple Park.
Since late 2017, new Boardrooms contain a pair of Hans J. Wegner’s CH25 Lounge Chairs in oak made by Carl Hansen & Søn. The chairs are typically paired with a generous sofa upholstered with the same exact tone of brown leather used elsewhere in the Boardroom and throughout every Apple Store. I was unable to locate this specific model of sofa after scouring hundreds of online listings, and spokespeople from manufacturers representing a large percentage of the modern furniture market could not identify the piece as a product from any of their brands. The nearest matches I’ve found are the Risom 65 Sofa and Piero Lissoni’s Divina for Knoll.
Apple Schildergasse (Photo courtesy of Storeteller)
Early Boardrooms experimented with furnishings and materials, while more recent spaces have settled into a consistent pattern. A few older Boardroom locations including Apple Vía Santa Fe and Apple Schildergasse use a light tan cloth-upholstered sofa similar but not identical to Lissoni’s 191 Moov. One notable exception is Apple Mall of the Emirates, which featured a proto-Boardroom before the spaces were officially launched by Apple. The chairs along its walls are entirely custom and closely resemble the seating at Steve Jobs Theater.
Apple Regent Street
Tables and Storage
Though paired with a set of Hiroshima chairs, the main conference table in each Boardroom is not a Maruni product. Its design also differs from the Arco Essenza tables used at Apple Park Visitor Center’s cafe and in the early Boardroom at Apple Mall of the Emirates. Since June 2018, these conference tables have included the same integrated plug dots for charging devices that recent Apple Store tables use, indicating that these are custom pieces built only for Apple. The coffee tables, side tables, and shelving in each Boardroom are based on the same design style.
Apple Covent Garden (Photo courtesy of Saif Aslam)
Fortunately, the Home Dining Table in oak from Isokon Plus offers an extremely close match to Apple’s own design. Perhaps coincidentally, the table was designed by Barber & Osgerby, the same studio behind Vitra’s Pacific chair used throughout Apple Park. Furniture company Fritz Hansen recommended the Essay table and Grand Prix table as tasteful alternatives.
Boardrooms also feature one or more wall-mounted credenzas with a varying number of drawers based on the size of the room. Apple holds a patent on a credenza with a very similar design and a glass display top. Inside the credenza, drawers have been specially engineered to neatly house a collection of Apple’s entire line of portable products while they are charging.
Apple Kärntner Straße (Photo courtesy of Storeteller)
Lamps and Vases
Placed on the credenza in most Boardrooms is one of two lamps: Achille Castiglioni’s Snoopy Table Lamp in black, or more recently Atollo glass by Vico Magistretti. Apple Champs-Élysées in Paris contains the only Boardroom to feature the Akari 10A by Isamu Nouchi, a floor lamp made in the style of Japanese paper lanterns.
Credenzas and conference tables are also outfitted with an assortment of decorative bowls and vases. Earlier stores often favored pieces from Iittala’s Alvar Aalto Collection in a variety of heights and colors. A planter filled with white orchids is another staple. Unlike most objects in the Boardroom, nearly every single store features a different style of planter. One of many is the Lyngby Vase from Lyngby Porcelain. Kristina Dam Design Studio’s bowls and the Ginter Planter Set are also similar to designs spotted in various Boardrooms.
Apple Passeig de Gràcia
The rarest objects in Boardrooms are perhaps a set of blown glass vases designed by Laura de Santillana. Known as bambu and sold by Arcade Murano, the vases are a limited edition of 300 pieces, each one signed and numbered. While not an analog, 3 Green Bottles by Jasper Morrrison may be a more attainable alternative.
Apple Covent Garden (Photo courtesy of Saif Aslam)
Sculptures and Accessories
Apple adds a few extra accessories to each Boardroom as it sees fit. Area rugs are common under the conference table, typically dark gray, tan, or olive green. There are no visible markings on the rugs, but Design Within Reach and AllModern offer similar styles and colors. HomePods have been another staple since the product’s launch.
Some locations have a Norr Tray for holding drinks and glasses or a Kubus Bowl for decoration. Fans of mid-century design will instantly recognize Vitra’s Eames House Bird paired with a L’Oiseau wooden figure by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec. Apple Piazza Liberty in Milan contains a one of a kind ceramic figure, Bisson, created by artist Elena Salmistraro as part of the store’s creative launch campaign.
Apple Vía Santa Fe
There are also a few Boardroom accessories you can’t buy. A wide variety of framed Apple Park prints decorate the walls in each location. The scenes vary by store but are often panoramic vistas of the main ring building in black and white or color as well as intricate blueprints of the campus design. Since Apple Regent Street, each store also contains a cutaway section of stone showing the design of Apple’s carved handrails found at Apple Park and several major stores.
Apple Regent Street (Photo: TechCrunch)
It’s hard to imagine much reading time is spent in Boardrooms, but Apple has assembled an impressive library of design and art literature for each store. Presumably, these selections are personal favorites of Apple’s design and retail teams. Books highlighting local design are included when appropriate. Here’s a list of books that have been spotted in various Boardrooms:
- 25,000 Years Of Jewelry
- A Book Of Things
- Ai Weiwei
- Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty
- Ando: Complete Works 1975-Today
- Andy Goldsworthy: Ephemeral Works: 2004-2014
- Brazil Modern: The Rediscovery of Twentieth-Century Brazilian Furniture
- Brick: A World History
- Calatrava Complete Works 1979-Today
- Capital Drawings: Architectural Designs for Washington, D.C., from the Library of Congress
- City Of Darkness: Revisited
- Death Drive: There Are No Accidents
- Designed by Apple in California
- Designing TWA: Eero Saarinen’s Airport Terminal in New York
- Dieter Rams: As Little Design As Possible
- Documenting Science
- Gaudí The Complete Buildings
- Gerhard Richter: Panorama: A Retrospective
- Grace: Thirty Years of Fashion at Vogue
- I Don’t Have a Favourite Colour
- Isamu Noguchi: A Sculptor’s World
- Issey Miyake
- James Turrell: A Retrospective
- Josef Albers: Sublime Optics
- Ladislav Sutnar: Visual Design in Action
- Le Corbusier Le Grand
- Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology
- Norman Foster: Works 6
- Patterns from Nature
- Pleats Please
- Remember those great Volkswagen ads?
- Reporting From The Front: Biennale Architettura 2016
- Richard Neutra
- Richard Serra 2014
- Skywood House: The Architecture of Graham Phillips
- Street Art San Francisco: Mission Muralismo
- Studio Olafur Eliasson: An Encyclopedia
- The High Line
- The Houses of William Wurster: Frames for Living
- The Last Stand: Northern Europe
- The Reichstag Graffiti
- The Sketchbooks Revealed
- The World of Charles and Ray Eames
- This Brutal World
- Thomas Heatherwick: Making
- Visual Complexity: Mapping Patterns of Information
- Vogue: The Gown
- Wang Shu Architecture
- Water Towers
- Wiener Werkstätte
- Wiener Werkstätte 1903-1932: The Luxury of Beauty
- You are an Acceptable Level of Threat and If You Were Not You Would Know About it
Apple Carnegie Library Experience Room
Inspired by the design of Boardrooms, Experience Rooms open the idea of a more personal store space to every customer. Apple’s goal was to create an ideal setting for listening to music on HomePods, watching Apple TV, or trying out AirPods. As of this article’s publication, only Apple Champs-Élysées in Paris and Apple Carnegie Library in Washington, D.C. feature Experience Rooms. While both locations contain largely the same furnishings as the latest Boardrooms, each has a few unique pieces as well.
Apple Champs-Élysées Experience Room
At Apple Champs-Élysées in Paris, two gray Eero Saarinen Womb Chairs are nestled next to a window. A black petrified wood side table has been positioned between the chairs. Each log is unique, but you can find similar options from a variety of suppliers. The Akari 10A floor lamp makes another appearance here. Instead of Apple Park prints, black and white photographs of famous French cities from photographer Axel Morin line the walls.
At Apple Carnegie Library in Washington, D.C., Apple Park prints have again been replaced, this time with historic floorplans of the Carnegie Library. A marble-topped Eero Saarinen Side Table was added. D.C.’s Experience Room also has a few books relevant to local design and architecture:
- Capital Views: Historic Photographs of Washington, DC, Alexandria and Loudoun County, Virginia, and Frederick County, Maryland
- Guastavino Vaulting: The Art of Structural Tile
- Washington in Maps 1606-2000
Before Boardrooms, some Apple Stores built similar spaces called Briefing Rooms. Like Boardrooms, these areas are generally closed to the public and primarily intended for business customers and special events. Briefing Rooms also hosted private try-on appointments for the gold Apple Watch Edition in 2015.
Briefing Rooms didn’t begin rolling out in significant stores until 2010, although Apple’s original North Michigan Avenue location in Chicago featured a similar rooftop space years earlier. Several dozen stores would eventually offer Briefing Rooms. As classic stores are remodeled, these areas are slowly being converted into Boardrooms.
Apple Uptown (Photo: Julio Ojeda-Zapata)
While Boardrooms are opulent spaces filled with luxury goods, Briefing Rooms are typically more utilitarian and use tables, shelving, and benches matching the design of the main store area. Current product lines fill wall tables, and product marketing posters are hung around the rooms. Wall-to-wall dark gray carpeting is common. One notable exception is Apple Puerta del Sol in Madrid, which contains a brick-lined subterranean Briefing Room with white tables and cabinets I haven’t been able to identify.
Apple Amsterdam (Photo: Gary Allen)
Around each conference table sits a set of Eames Aluminum Group Management Chairs with Pneumatic Lifts. Apple uses a version of the chairs without arms. At Apple Amsterdam, a group of black Barcelona Chairs by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe fills the lobby. At Apple Kurfürstendamm in Berlin, a separate area in the Briefing Room holds black PK22 easy chairs and a glass PK61 coffee table from Poul Kjærholm.
Apple Upper East Side’s former bank vault
Apple Upper East Side
One of the most unique rooms in any Apple Store around the world is at New York City’s Apple Upper East Side. Once home to the U.S. Mortgage & Trust bank, the store still contains the original bank vault, now repurposed into a room resembling a hybrid Briefing Room, Boardroom, and Experience Room. Initially, the vault was positioned as a place for Apple Watch Edition try-ons.
The Upper East Side store opened in June 2015, just three months before Apple’s new retail design language was unveiled in Brussels, Belgium. Many of the store’s fixtures resemble prototypes of designs now common in every new store. This extends to the vault, which contains its own unique collection of furniture.
Piero Lissoni’s 250 Met Divano and footstools fill the room, upholstered in gray leather. Jasper Morrison’s Soft Modular Sofa is another close match. The coffee table is also a Lissoni design, Zap by Cassina. Similar options are Romano Marcato’s TOÈ and Marcel Breuer’s Laccio.