Why is it that our residential design clients are often brimming with new ideas for their home, whereas our commercial or workplace-design clients seem to become stuck in the earliest phases of design?
We think it’s because there’s so much you can do with a commercial space, people don’t know where to start! Clients are usually more familiar with home decor, and they may be unaware of the potential for individuality in the workplace. Here are six great areas to think about when designing a unique commercial space:
Don’t be afraid of color! Many people equate a “professional” feel with white or grey hues. However, professional doesn’t have to mean stark. Good design that is ‘pulled-together’ will always look professional, and adding color will only add interest. Use color just as you would at home. If you wouldn’t think twice about painting a wall of your living room your favorite shade of deep purple, why not do it at the office? Even better, pick a hue that embodies your organization’s character. Bold or unexpected colors will energize tired employees and help nervous patients forget where they are. Lush, calm colors can likewise be unexpected, and can create a serene, spa-like feeling.
#2. Lighting & Light Fixtures
Use a variety of light sources and fixtures for interest. A lighting plan that consists entirely of recessed cans will quickly make an office feel industrial, boring, and “typical.” Try introducing some unique pendants just for decorative purposes. Pulling lighting down from the ceiling gets rid of the institutional feel. Also, like light fixtures themselves, light on a surface can be as decorative as art. Use light to highlight an area or simply to create a pattern on the wall. Colored light grazing a wall can also add a special touch.
The use of multiple textures will keep a space from feeling flat and uniform. Rather than treating every surface with a coat of paint, try wall coverings such as wooden slats or embossed panels, or unique materials such as concrete, crackle glass, etc. Be sure to balance your textures — use similar materials on opposing walls, make the ceiling and floor relate, or ground the room with a bold color or texture.
#4. Unexpected Shapes
Unique shapes make a space original and memorable. Curves and waves, for example, are trendy and contemporary, and are often unexpected in the world of long hallways, ceiling grids, and angular cubicles. Elongated triangles and sharp angles are bold and command attention. Patterns, such as those found in perforated metal, add character. Use curves and other unique shapes where you usually don’t see them: flooring patterns (such as carpet transitions), ceilings and bulkheads, painted surfaces, partitions, etc.
#5. Space Dividers
Space dividers keep open floor plans from feeling cavernous and uninviting, and they come in endless forms. Use translucent dividers such as glass or screens to keep a space open and light, and opaque or solid ones for more separation. In addition to stand-alone products that are marketed as space dividers, many unconventional items can be used to break up large areas: fabric or curtains, stretched canvases (check out the ultra-unique company Juxtaform), or furniture. Some soft goods, such as Allsteel’s “Gather” line, are designed intentionally to create new “rooms” within larger areas.
#6. Decorative Glass & Acrylic
Anything shiny or bright in a commercial space acts as “bling” — people remember these touches in the same way they remember jewelry. The great thing about decorative glass or acrylic (3Form, for example), is that it can be used to introduce several unique elements to your space at once: pops of color, a sleek surface or partition, even texture. Glass with inlaid materials such as metal, bubbles, or natural particles makes a real statement and can contribute to the visual “theme” or character embodied by your organization’s interior.
Keep these ideas in mind as you begin to plan your design. With the help of a designer, you can brainstorm ways to let your company’s personality shine through, which will inevitably lead to an exceptional and exciting space!