by Emily Dobby
There are immense waves of change taking effect in functional planning, since planning is driven, at its foundation, by how people interact with spaces and one another. We’re exploring how the dramatic change in the way we interact with work spaces has affected and impacted how we approach and use our home spaces.
The open plan office, so in demand for a time, represented a dynamic and engaged team and home environment. Nevertheless, the occupants were often inundated with noise and visual clutter and were less productive due to ongoing distraction without privacy and autonomy.
Flexible, adaptive, responsive
The open plan is beginning to shift toward a more flexible, reconfigurable plan, and this shift was underway before the pandemic disrupted the world.
“The pendulum away from open office to flexible spaces was already starting to swing pre-pandemic. We were seeing the growth of spaces that supported a range of work styles, from micro-enclosures, known as telephone booths or privacy rooms, to quiet rooms for 2-4 to work as a hive mind, to collaborative spaces with casual seating, including lounge furniture, mobile screens and boards and even the quirky ‘rocking horse’ stools,” says Ann Squires Ferguson of Western Interior Design Group.
Now, as the traditional office layout shifts even more, demountable wall systems, allowing the reconfiguring of rooms without the mess and waste of traditional construction methods, are hugely in demand. A single large meeting room can be divided into three private offices overnight. Stand-alone privacy screens and enclosures are easy to purchase online.
The public health protocols that felt so foreign a year ago have now been adopted as Standard Operating Procedure throughout the business world. Reception desks now have plexi screens, seats in shared spaces are all placed two metres apart and partitions have been added and extended on working benches and between desks.
“The open floor plan of the past now appears more sinister – exposure, even implied, leaves us all with a feeling of discomfort. We want protection; we want to feel secure and supported,” says Squires Ferguson.
How does this affect home design?
At the same time as floor plans in the office move in a more flexible direction, home spaces are being simplified and organized to promote cleanliness.
Some designers have seen an increase in demand for bathrooms situated at the front of the house to encourage proper hygiene. Homeowners are purchasing less carpeting, and more easily cleanable stainless steel for kitchens. A demand for brighter walls and minimalist spaces with less clutter prevails.
“Non-porous and anti-microbial surfaces have absolutely risen in prevalence. Any naturally materials like wood and stone require sealants to preserve the surface while allowing increased sanitization,” says Squires Ferguson.
Other factors that are less obvious are that seaming, button tufted, fluting and ruching in upholstery now may need to be minimized, thus eliminating any recess where dirt could easily become trapped.
Bleach cleanable textiles – long the standard on our healthcare projects – are now being specified throughout home and office work spaces.
Designers are noting a renaissance of traditional forms and colour combinations, classic patterns and textures, as we crave comfort and familiarity in these uncertain times.
Work at home
Whether you are using a guest bedroom, your dining room table or a corner of your living room, creating a stable at-home work environment is of utmost importance.
Privacy screens are helpful to delineate spaces and reduce noise, and designers have seen a big demand for ergonomic chairs and workplace accessories. Investing in a mini desk can be a wise choice as it can be tucked into a small corner.
“It is great to be able to work from home but I believe it is crucial to have a space designated for it so at the end of the work day, you can “walk away” or “close the door” and enjoy the rest of the day; not be reminded every time you look at your kitchen table all the things that you still need to get done for work,” says Josée Lalonde of Josée Lalonde Design.
Self-care, holistic health and multi-purpose
Squires Ferguson recently worked on a project that included a light flooded library with high back acoustic lounge pods and fully upholstered recessed nooks in the walls for an occupant to tuck in and curl up with their laptop.
“Another new office space for a software company in Langford has requested a reduction in open plan office in exchange for the inclusion of three personal amenity spaces that may be used for on-site chiro, massage, acupuncture, dental cleaning, hair cuts, a laundry facility, even a mani/pedi station,” she says.
Services like these will entice workers back into the office and give the users the peace of mind that they can access personal care on their own terms.
“These trends are affecting interior designers’ material and fixture selection. All lighting is dimmable and softer, more organic shapes with translucence and dappled output are taking precedence. Lushly variegated feature walls like those from Jim Baker at Barker Manufacturing are adding the sensation of movement. With these new levels of client buy-in, we now have the opportunity to craft experiential interiors that have the power to truly benefit the inhabitants, to calm the mind and soothe the spirit,” adds Squires Ferguson.
At the end of the day, people are resilient, and we are all moving forward and adapting to change. Embracing these challenges and building on one another’s optimism will allow us to confidently navigate this path.