Interior design: A dollar-and-sense solution for corporate flexibility

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:23 pm

Interior design: A dollar-and-sense solution for corporate flexibility

Creative cost containment drives office design and furniture choice

By Kay Falk, for SBT

Uncertain business climates spawn continual change, including business people’s workspaces. In an increasingly competitive market where stretching budgets is becoming almost an aerobic activity, companies need to plan aesthetic spaces that encourage employee acquisition and retention, create productive work environments and allow for future growth.

"Interior spaces need both to support workers’ needs and adapt to business change," says Sandy Weber, a principal in Eppstein Uhen architects, Milwaukee. "Flexibility is key in designing today’s office spaces."

In addition to creating spatial efficiencies, firms can use interior spaces to showcase their "brand" and portray an image.

Economic uncertainty has businesses looking for creative ways to contain office space costs while adding flexibility.

The way to achieve flexibility on a budget is through planning. "Businesses must look at future needs and consult an industry professional to plan a holistic approach to company investment," Weber explains. "Flexibility is achieved through a choice of furniture, and even extends to building systems, such as heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) and lighting."

Scott Davidson, account manager at CJ & Associates, an office design and furniture dealer in New Berlin, agrees that planning is crucial. Partnering with a professional can help management spell out what it wants to accomplish through office space, both for current needs and the future.

"Many firms redesign their offices to improve individual productivity and cooperation between departments that must work together closely," he says. "With lean staffs, firms seek workspaces that help people accomplish more, even if there are space constraints in a growing company.

"Businesses still want good design and seek a particular image. We and other professionals work closely with firms to develop a solution that fits the look they desire while meeting their budget constraints," notes Davidson. "There’s a definite trend toward value. Several furniture manufacturers have responded by improving their production processes to take costs out and offer lines that attract cost-conscious customers."

Other planning considerations, according to Weber, include comfort, a global economy, security (in this post-9/11 era) and attracting employees.

"The aesthetic of interior office spaces is becoming more residential or home-like, with a blend of commercial and residential furniture, materials, fabrics and lighting," she says. "People are working longer hours and because of a global economy, offices are staffed around the clock. This makes a more comfortable work environment important, and security for those working nontraditional hours vital."

A younger workforce often views a nice work environment a key part of the "package" when considering where to work. Amenity spaces such as cyber cafes, a cafeteria, fitness center or training room help attract talented employees who understand they’ll be spending more time at work than in the past.

To get the most for their office space money while enhancing productivity and job satisfaction, Weber advises businesses to invest in:

— good lighting, with the use of natural light

— ergonomic furniture, especially for task seating

— varied work areas for focus work, teaming/conferencing and confidential or private work.

Fashion impact design trends

Both Weber and Davidson agree that office and furniture design trends can follow fashion trends. "The East and West coasts tend to set color, finishes and furniture style trends," Davidson says.

"If a fashion trend sticks, it often moves to home accessories and then is translated into office interior materials and furniture," Weber explains. "With the availability of media and global awareness, trends reach all US areas more quickly than in the past.

"The Midwest tends to be more conservative than the coasts, but that has changed a lot in the past 10 years, especially in Milwaukee," she adds. "Climate has a big influence on materials and colors, too. Right now, color palettes are more natural and earthy. Textures are hot in carpets and fabrics, while furniture lines are more clean and simple."

Weber suggests contacting the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) for more information on hiring a professional interior designer and to gain knowledge of trends and products. ASID is the oldest and largest professional organization for commercial and residential interior designers. You can learn morn about ASID at its Web site: www.asid.com.

Top trends in office and furniture design

— Flexibility due to the uncertain business climate

— Improved productivity in the same or smaller spaces

— Cost containment

— Heightened security

— An attractive work environment as part of the new worker recruitment package

— Comfort for people working long hours or 24/7 in a global economy

— Environmentally friendly buildings or reclaiming an existing structure for new uses.

Feb. 7, 2003 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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