Interior Design Masters: Episode 3
February 16, 2021
February 9, 2021
The brief: design a sophisticated office space that includes three clear zones — space for working, room for meetings and a “breakout zone” for creativity or quiet time. The location is a premium, contemporary workspace with shared communal lounges, modern kitchen areas, an in-house gym and café. Supplied furniture is all from high-specification Scandinavian brands like Menu, Gubi, Hay, Hem and Vitra, and quality finishes abound. Designers will work in teams of three, but each one must take a zone as their own.
Each group has been given a different fictional brand to design for: an established tech company looking for “a cool and dynamic office space to appeal to its progressive workforce”; a media PR company that wants an “exciting and inspirational workspace for its sociable workforce”; and a sustainable beauty brand in need ofn”new premises to attract its socially conscious employees”.
If show homes were about selling a dream, then designing an office is seduction!
The entire landscape of office-based work has radically changed in the last year. Before Covid, shared workspaces were promoted as the antidote to the traditional corporate space, but today, even these look less attracive in favour of WFH. The big design question then is what’s needed to entice us away from the security of our homes and back to work elsewhere?
After all, i think the demise of the office is over-stated. Human beings are innately social creatures and we need to come together to get things done. But, if businesses are smart, offices will be smaller and used as 3 day/week hub points for shared learning, innovation and collaboration.
To succeed then, a designer needs to delve into the benefits of meeting up with colleagues IRL, rather than working remotely. Customising a space to feel like a sort of private member’s club that you really want to join. Comfort certainly has to be key — elements of ‘home’ — but a professional version, not a cosy one.
It should also be about connection, community and a cohesive brand identity. If you’re working in a shared space, you need to be able to walk in and immediately be able to identify your team, know where to park your laptop, and where to get a cup of tea.
Key will be absorbing design ideas from around them — the building as well as their teammates — and seeing how a similar language can be incorporated into their own designs, but with the aim of lifting everything up, not compromising and diluting.
The creative use and layout of the furniture is also paramount. The devices built or used to partition one area from another, and the fulsome and bold use of wall and/or floor treatments.
The finished designs must also subscribe to the design-led ethos and style of the building as a whole. Albeit there were certain constraints: the floor tiles cannot be changed, nor doors or windows painted, or ceiling lights or blinds removed.
There was a time in the mid 90s when design went through a ‘fun’ phase and many offices looked more like children’s play centres than adult workspaces.
Grown-ups do not need primary colours and bean bags to be productive, nor egg-shaped pods to be creative. All any of us need is good daylight, ergonomic furniture, space to focus and space to come together as a team. This applies to pretty much any space you care to consider.
Imagination is a word that seems to get missed out of many conversations about design. We love to talk of colour theory and function, layout and zoning, but what of those flights of fancy that provoke original thinking and clever problem-solving when the obvious moves are not possible?
Imagination in design is the ability to think of something that the client couldn’t have conceived by themselves. It is the ability to think laterally when it’s clear that something cannot be done as initially visualised. It is the very essence of creativity, otherwise surely we’d all be designers? And I’m not sure it can be taught. I think you either have it, or you don’t.
It’s ultimately what distinguishes those spaces that truly uplft you, from those that just serve a purpose. As they say, constraints can be the mother of all invention, if you choose to see it that way.
This week’s guest judge, Linda Boronkay, was formerly the Design Director of the Soho House Group. As such, it was Linda who made ‘soho house’ into an adjective with her seemingly effortless melange of vintage and modern, cosy comfort and generous easy living with which the brand became synonymous.
Now out on her own as a designer, her recipe for success? “Interior design for me is about creating a fantasy, a safe haven and an unforgettable experience. It’s about how objects, colours, lights, or the lack of these, make you feel. It’s the emotional response to the physical world that excites me.”
Added because people always ask, and I can’t respond to every message individually! Note too that these are all my own clothes, and I rarely wear ‘in season’ clothing. I’m more of a ‘classics’ girl. Which I mention bcause most of the pieces are at least a year or so old, if not more so. Ps My top tip for ‘designer’ wear? The Outnet. Great stuff regularly upto 70% off. (Not an ad. Just sharing 😉
Judging: Peter Pilotto silk shirt; ‘S Max Mara jeans; Marc Jacobs jewelled peep-toe heels
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Michelle Ogundehin is internationally renowned as an authority on interiors, trends and style. She is an influencer with expertise and the multi award-winning former Editor-in-Chief of ELLE Decoration UK.