Landing a design contract with a company can be good news for your interior decorating business, but when it comes to creativity it can have its drawbacks. While working in a client’s home is all about channeling their personal tastes and unique needs, creating a corporate space is a little different.
Newer companies with young employee bases may be eager to create spaces that are more casual or exciting, but many businesses are probably looking for a more traditional space: something where functionality and professionalism might be valued over style and creativity. That doesn’t mean the corporate spaces you create have to be flat and bland, though. Check out our tips for bringing your creativity to even the toughest office space.
Let the light in
There are tons of studies showing that natural light increases productivity, happiness, health, and more—basically, people just really like natural light. When you’re redesigning an office space, try to start out by working around the windows; unless you’re working on a big budget you won’t be able to change them, so you want to make the most of the light they can give.
You’ll need artificial lighting too, of course. Try to stay away from that dreaded fluorescent glow—look into options for ambient lighting, or focus on picking colors that will make plain fluorescent bulbs a little more bearable.
Stage a stakeout
If possible, spend some time watching the office’s employees at work before you start designing. There’s no better way to get a sense of the office’s heartbeat: Where are the high traffic areas? Where are the dead zones? What spaces do people use the most? What design resources are employees missing?
Once you’ve got a feel for the office’s atmosphere and needs, you’ll have a much easier time designing a space that will support your client’s employees, rather than accidentally hampering their work. You’ll also have a better idea of the office’s overall atmosphere, which can guide you towards a style to suit the environment.
Every office has “zones”—spaces for work, meetings, socializing, relaxing, or getting some privacy. Design with these zones in mind, and think about how to meet the specific needs of each space. A busy kitchen isn’t going to work as a spot for employees to take a quick nap or make a private phone call, but that dead area over in the corner might be perfect for a “quiet zone.”
Different zones are also opportunities to experiment with different décor. Casual social areas can give you a little more freedom than formal conference rooms, so try making them a little more welcoming and relaxed.
This is especially true of areas around personal spaces like desks, cubicles, or individual offices, but it really goes for the whole place. That’s not to say you should leave your work looking bare—just make sure you leave room for employees to personalize their space.
As an interior decorator working with clients to design spaces in their homes, you get to work one-on-one with the main occupants to create rooms that suit their style and incorporate their personal touches. On the other hand, when you’re designing an office, you’re probably not working with every single employee who uses the space. Instead, leave opportunities for personalization in your design and let your clients’ employees fill in the gaps.
Help build their brand
We’re not suggesting you volunteer to take on their marketing campaigns—your design career has you busy enough already! But there is something to be said for an office space that reflects a company’s unique character.
This is especially true if the business conducts client meetings on site. Even if they don’t, a workspace that reflects the company’s brand and character can help give employees a sense of personality and remind them what they’re there to do. Try going through a company’s website, marketing tools, ads, and products to get a feel for their brand, then create a space that replicates it.
Focus on the furniture
This is the one place where you absolutely do not want to sacrifice practicality for style. Many employees spend most of their day at their desks or in conference rooms, so it’s important to make sure they have high-quality ergonomic chairs and computer setups. It might limit your creative potential a little, but it’s definitely worth it to avoid back problems and other health issues down the road.
Spaces that see less use give you a little more flexibility, though. A kitchen or lounge where employees aren’t sitting for extended periods of time could be the place to add some style to the office setup with creative chairs or stools.
Discuss their limits
Just because your client’s current office is kind of bland doesn’t mean they want it to stay that way. When it comes to creating your vision, treat a corporate design project the same as you would an independent one: listen to what your client wants, make suggestions, and use your professional design experience to help fill in the gaps.
There are lots of ways to reenergize a workspace without getting too wild. Try bringing more color or texture to the office décor—it’s amazing how much character a little bit of brightness can bring to a room.
If your client is open to big changes, though, don’t be afraid to get just as creative as you would with an independent client’s home. An office doesn’t have to look like an office—we loved going through this list of awesome office spaces for inspiration. But do make sure you’re keeping those essential zones in mind; even the most innovative office needs spaces where employees can concentrate on their work.