Editor’s Note: This article on commercial interior design, which Commercial Integrator published on January 31, 2022, is freshly updated. It reflects additional insights gained in the 13 months since its drafting.
It has been three years since the remote-work trend saw a massive explosion. Many companies have long since reopened their offices, but they’re still struggling to attract workers to them. Clearly, those three years have significantly changed the approach many are taking to offices now. Commercial interior design reflects this, leaning into many of the wellness-focused aspects of a home office, while taking advantage of the communal space that only a corporate office setting can provide.
With that in mind, we’re looking at many of the commercial office trends that designers are seeing take shape already or expect to see more of in the year ahead.
Coworking Spaces Take Shape
As the purpose of an office shifts from being a task-oriented space to being a community-oriented space, so, too, will the design shift to accommodate this. We’ve already begun to see these changes take place in the reduction of cubicles in many offices and the introduction of more communal and collaboration-focused areas.
Companies know that they need a reason for employees to come into the office, and it is difficult to compete with the convenience of a home setting for many people. Instead, the design these spaces will begin to trace back function over form, aiming to make the most of the work/life balance, thereby reducing stress and increasing productivity for those that do make it in.
“The office is increasingly turning into a private coffee shop,” Katie Mills, editor, writer and product tester at Poshh, writes in an article with Commercial Café. More open spaces, and a greater variety of seating and desk options will be the way to go as people adopt a more come and go type attitude. A greater mix of multifunctional, community-oriented spaces will also start to enter the picture, mimicking a WFH-like environment.
The Rise of Resimercial Design
For those new to the concept of resimercial, it’s a design philosophy that combines aspects of commercial and residential spaces to create a more comfortable feel. It only makes sense that, after three years of many of us working from home at least part of the time, the office is adapting by reflecting more elements of the home.
As people engaged in remote work, more and more began to carve out their own little spaces in their home to make them as healthy and productive as possible. Much of this involved making (or at least attempt to make) these home offices much more comfortable and quieter. Now, that expectation is being brought forward into the main office for the days that people do have to commute in to work.
Being able to replicate that level of comfort will be key in getting employees to want to come back into the office. Having more open spaces, as was discussed earlier, will help contribute to this, but the materials used in designing the space will also play a major role in developing a more residential-like atmosphere.
Budgetary constraints will certainly be a limiting factor, but there are plenty of design options that exist across all price-points. For some cheap fixes, the simple addition of curvature in the furniture will add a homier feel to the central office, and the same goes for colors as well. At the higher end, acoustical paneling and fabrics will help replicate the home environment as well.
Sustainability Continues to be Paramount
There are a variety of reasons why green won’t go out of style in the office. For one, many employees view sustainability as a key differentiating factor when deciding whom to work for. This will be something that, overall, will help contribute to a healthier work environment, as individuals take pride in the efforts their office is taking to help preserve the environment.
In addition, energy efficiency still stands as a significant cost reduction tool, especially as utility prices are on the rise. These sustainability measures can also help contribute to the development of greater resiliency within the office, leaving less pressure on work in the event of outages, especially with buildings that utilize solar power in tandem with energy storage units.
As these considerations continue to enter the mix, expect to see more alternative, sustainable materials being used in office settings that aim to emulate less sustainable elements like marble and limestone.
Biophilia Spreads Its Roots
It’s becoming a lot harder to consider sustainability as a commercial interior design trend without also including biophilia in the mix. Far more than just adding plants into a space (though that will always be an acceptable and welcome addition), biophilia is all about adding more natural elements into the built environment.
In the office, this can be translated into something as simple as improving the lighting within the office or something as complex as creating dedicated outdoor spaces such as gardens. Materials factor into this as well, with wood and stone hearkening to both the warmth and coolness of nature.
Even color plays a role in biophilic design. Expect to see the traditional beige and cream of office spaces being phased out for blues and greens in the future. More natural-themed designs, such as grasscloth or floral patterns, will also gain traction as popular wallcovering options.
Design Choices United Under the Banner of Mental Health and Wellness
Even before the pandemic, companies were beginning to take stock on employee health and wellness. Now, that concern remains more prevalent than ever, with many companies looking to turn their workspaces into wellness-oriented environments, and that’s what most of the trends listed here contribute to.
By incorporating more communal spaces, creating a more homelike environment, and fostering greater connections to people and the environment, commercial office design is leaning more heavily into employee health and wellness than ever before. Flexibility and functionality will reign in the design of offices moving forward. The most successful spaces will be those that depart most dramatically from how an office used to be conceived.
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