By Mary Moen, Design Consultant, Studio Other
The annual NeoCon show is a wonderland of ideas and new thinking for the world of commercial interiors. Ever since this year’s event, images floating around in my mind have coalesced into five trends that are important to watch.
I also recently visited a popular shopping destination in LA to check out the latest fast fashion trends. What I saw was a retro feel harking back to the 1990s with crop tops, high-waisted boyfriend jeans and a multitude of ‘90s-inspired graphic tees.
It reminded me of what I had experienced at Neocon and the convergence of fashion and interiors. What I saw at the show echoed the bold look of ‘90s fashion reflected in color choices, floral patterns, graphic fabrics, material choices, relaxed work attire and more.
So welcome to my personal “showrooms” featuring some ideas you can incorporate into creating extraordinary interior environments.
Room #1 – Eclectic Materials
One of the trends that’s afoot is an eclectic, mix-and-match approach to the materials used in a single item. It’s a stimulating break from the traditional, siloed categories where odd juxtapositions were thought of as jarring and uncomfortable.
What we’re seeing now are techniques like:
This approach is also being incorporated into workstations, with a mixture of different materials on the panels such as fabric, upholstery or cork along with wood elements and different colors of metal. The result is an eye-catching degree of diversity and eclecticism in workstation design.
Room #2 – Warm, Moody and Bold
Here’s a definite throwback, or maybe a throw-forward, from the ‘90s.
There is a resurgence of wallpaper in commercial interiors. It’s now being use as a bold accent, with patterns like animals and plants. Plus, these patterns are then being repeated in furniture pieces like an upholstered bench. This brash approach also includes bright colors, highly graphic pieces with color blocking and large, striking wall treatments.
I think of these kinds of touches as an opportunity to design little “moments” – those Instagrammable moments that a lot of brands are looking for. Where, for example, people can go into a large office, see a “statement” and take a selfie in front of it. It’s a great way for a company or other organization to share its brand personality, culture and design sense on social media with a hashtag.
Room #3 – A World of Biophilia
Everyone seems to be talking about this topic, but it’s really important to me. In fact, I am a confessed biophiliac myself, with my ever growing collection of plants.
They’re like my family. There’s a very important relationship that humans have with nature and how it makes people feel. In the absence of plants, spaces can feel cold and impersonal. They add a needed texture to any environment.
Biophilia in commercial environments is part of the trend toward making those space feel more comfortable and fashionably residential. Sure, plants have been in the workplace for a long time. But there’s definitely something happening where people want to have LOTS of greenery in their office spaces. Plants and planters are even being incorporated into workstations themselves.
Looking back at NeoCon again, by no means is this the only company out there with an acoustic product made from moss, but the Scandinavian Spaces showroom had a full wall of this stuff. The air was cooler, and the acoustics were a bit stronger.
Another example is a project I worked on called BCG in downtown Los Angeles, with a mezzanine level space called the “magic garden.” There are no walls, just a metal grid with planters. The plants grow all the way up the ceiling, some 20 feet. It’s a very inviting lounge space to hang out in and feel good.
A third example is a brand new coworking compound called Second Home that blends indoor and outdoor spaces. The property features small, circular bungalows with earth built up around the outside to the window line. The result is that the exterior plantings are visually at desk level. In addition to the close proximity of the greenery, the plants serve as shading rather than using window coverings.
In addition, we all know that plants are good for the environment and emit oxygen. So there’s a correlation between biophilia and the betterment of wellbeing in spaces we’re in for long periods of time.
Room #4 – Be Flexible
Personal flexibility has become more and more desirable as the evolution of the workspace has progressed. Let’s take open office plans, for instance. We’re finding that some people really, really love the idea yet others hate it.
So how do we solve for both parties? How do we let the extroverts thrive in the spontaneity and interaction of open spaces, while accommodating the introverts who need some quite time alone?
The answer lies in flexible workspaces that offer smaller areas that people can pop into on an ad hoc basis. Features of these areas can include sofas with power outlets for personal devices. People can also use such spaces as comfortable workstations without having an assigned a desk.
Another option is providing employees with the ability to move their desks into different configurations, which can actually lend a sense of individual empowerment. Lightweight, movable walls on casters can also be used to create sound barriers and private spaces on the fly. In addition, employees are being offered a choice between sets of pre-configured workstations to personalize their space and reflect their individual fashion sense in the décor.
Simply offering a flexible range of spaces helps people bring variety to their day. In my case, I often work in three different rooms in the course of a single day depending on my task of the moment. In an open office environment especially, having options can go a long way toward building a happy workforce.
Room #5 – Let’s Get Casual
In many organizations, we’re long past the days of three-piece suits for men or skirts and nylons for women. In fact, sometimes it can feel like casual Friday every day.
This trend is aligned with interior innovations like open seating areas, lounge spaces and movable, height-adjustable desks. The old-line, 12-by-12 cubicle is disappearing, and some people don’t have an assigned desk at all.
Nowadays, in most industries, people can basically wear whatever they want, within limits of course. And they can match their attire to their workflow. So when they wake up in the morning, they may ask themselves questions such as “what does my day look like and what do I need to accomplish?,” “where am I going to sit, at a tall worktable, in the conference room?,” “am I expected in formal meetings or just doing personal, heads-down work?”
This level of personal choice is another illustration of the intersection where fashion meets interiors in today’s workspaces. We’ve seen major shifts over the last few years. But these changes have been instrumental in creating environments that are comfortable yet motivating and that encourage collaboration and teamwork.
The bottom line, in an age where we can easily research almost anything and people change jobs on a regular basis, is crafting workplaces that will attract and retain the quality of employees needed to realize organizational and personal success.
Mary Moen is a Design Consultant at Studio Other, a leading national designer and producer of innovative custom furniture for commercial interiors. With over eight years of design experience, Moen works with teams of architectural and interior designers to create unique environments that tie in furniture with the overall intent for the space to inspire teams and promote innovation. She earned a BS degree in Interior Architecture & Design from the Art Institute of California.