96 interiors+sources september2017 interiorsandsources.com
As the lines blur between work and home, companies are following suit by embracing comfort and beauty—hallmarks of residential design—to make workplaces more attractive to a competitive pool of talent. Here, Katie Cavallo, IIDA, interior designer at
SHEARS ADKINS ROCKMORE; and Amanda Loper, AIA, LEED AP, principal
at David Baker Architects, discuss how residential design found its way into
the office, reflecting on why comfort and aesthetics matter in the workplace,
and why it’s here to stay.
AMANDA LOPER: Looking back, one of the key trends across design is that
personal space is getting smaller while shared space is getting bigger. In
mixed-use residential projects, units are shrinking while common spaces are
gaining prominence, and the same has happened with workplaces—cubicles
and offices are things of the past. With technology, employees don’t need as
much space to work, and culturally, people want to be together, even when
they are working alone.
KATIE CAVALLO: People want to work the way they live, which breaks down
the barriers of formality in the workplace. The real-estate footprint has
become smaller because spaces have become multifunctional and more
open. I find people use examples of how they live or travel to describe what
they prefer in a workplace.
AL: People no longer compartmentalize their lives. It’s common for employees
to want to work in spaces that are more attractive, and in interesting, mixed-use
downtown areas that offer walkable environments. The old school thinking
that you drive up to a building in an industrial park to work in a high-walled
cubicle is not appealing to younger generations. It’s not that the office needs
to be casual, per se, but people need to feel comfortable. It’s the little touch-es—soft materials, natural light, plants—that blur the lines between residential and workplace design.
KC: People are more educated on what is visually pleasing. We’re surrounded
by thoughtful design—graphic design, fashion, websites, products. In general,
people have higher expectations for the spaces where they live and work. They
want their environments to be attractive and comfortable. It is becoming instinctive
for non-designers to know when something doesn’t look “right.”
AL: Beauty makes us feel good. If we see something as beautiful, there’s a
human connection. Most people don’t respond positively to sterile, corporate
environments. The talent pool has become more competitive for companies,
and if your office is aesthetically pleasing, you’re more likely to attract and
KC: The key to creating appealing workplaces is [a distinctive design that]
holds an element of surprise. Since we need office environments to be
multifunctional, we must provide comfortable spaces that are purposeful
and respond to the audience.
AL: We are having the same conversations with mixed-use residential,
hospitality, and corporate clients. They’re all thinking about the same elements:
communal places to gather, eat, and meet; private areas for focused work;
health and wellness; accessibility to Wi-Fi; and comfortable places where
people can just hang out on their laptops. The purposeful use of space is
paramount to all of these conversations.
KC: Function is what separates design movements from passing fads. For
example, just because you have a ping-pong table at home doesn’t mean
it belongs at work. But elements that combine comfort and beauty with
functionality—like natural light, access to nature, and soft material—are
always going to be sought after in residential and workplace design.
Good workplace design isn’t just a matter of what looks and feels appealing
to employees—there is an undeniable business case that good design affects
employee satisfaction and engagement. “Design Leveraged, Volume 2,” a joint
publication of IIDA and the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers
Association (BIFMA), explores this link with hard data, statistical analysis, and
case studies. Visit iida.org to learn more about “Design Leveraged” and IIDA
Compiled by Louisa Fitzgerald | Photography courtesy of IIDA
Residential design elements are increasingly finding purpose in office environments.