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Commercial interior design moves toward branding, wellness

Posted on Aug 1, 2017 :: Construction , Insight On
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

As companies look toward designing new spaces, they’re keeping the future in mind.

Commercial interior design is evolving with a number of new trends, most of which are being incorporated with the hope of attracting young workers, building company culture and improving a sense of wellness all around.

“Since (millennials) are kind of a new incoming workforce, companies are really designing spaces that will appeal to them, to bring in that talent,” says Madelyn Savignac, design and marketing coordinator for VerHalen, Inc. of Green Bay.

VerHalen designs interiors for corporate office environments as well as hospitality and health care.

The growing millennial workforce also is part of the reason why the “resimercial” trend is popular, bringing residential qualities into a commercial environment, says Cindy Morrow, interior designer/facilities planner/project manager for VerHalen.

“Millennials are comfortable working anywhere, anyplace,” she says. “For a long time everybody wanted to bring the Starbucks environment into their break room and have that vibe in their office space. I think that’s just kind of continued to move through the entire office interior.”

Collaborative, open-concept spaces also are big, with spaces designed where employees can meet and work informally, such as large community tables, lounge areas and other small spaces where workers can touch base, Savignac says.

Sonia Pelot, a senior interior designer who works in Fond du Lac and the Fox Cities with the Sauk City-based Ramaker & Associates/Cities Edge Architects, says the style of work performed by today’s office employee is changing dramatically as remote work becomes more common and resources are devoted to electronics to improve mobility.

New designs incorporate “mobility throughout the day for opportunities to work in various surroundings,” Pelot says. Layouts include less private space and “a variety of work areas so there is something for everyone’s individual style.”


The growing movement toward improving employee wellness has penetrated even the design of workspaces.

“It continues to evolve,” Morrow says. “It’s all about moving throughout the day and being active at work.”

Sit-to-stand desks that raise and lower a desktop height are a popular part of that trend. “Our customers are asking for those and we’re installing them on just about every project that we do,” she says.

Additionally, “active seating,” or chairs that cause employees to engage their abdominal muscles instead of slouching into a seat, are popular, Morrow says.

“We have a chair that’s somewhat higher than the standard chair, so you’re not totally sitting on them 100 percent,” Savignac says. “They call them ‘perching chairs.’”

Pelot said companies also are including areas for stretching or yoga breaks, and they’re installing multi-screens in larger sizes that are easier to work with. “All these things are designed to help avoid work-related injuries and stresses.”

Biophilic design

Connected with wellness is biophilic design — a way to bring nature into interior spaces. It might include nature-related colors like greens and blues, but usually goes farther, including carpet that looks like grass or lichen, wooden furniture, and lots of plants or even trees.

“Many studies have shown that being around nature helps employees to be more happy, more productive and just better all-around employees,” Savignac says.

Biophilic design is complementary to the newer structural trend of keeping offices toward the interior of a room and allowing the windows to light common areas.

“Everyone wants to bring in as much daylight as possible and have a view of nature and what’s outside,” Morrow says.

Sustainability in design, including items made from recycled goods and products that limit water use, minimize waste in heating and air and using natural light in the most efficient way has become de rigueur, Pelot said.

Sustainable design complements efforts already underway to incorporate greater sustainability into their practices overall, Morrow says.

“I think every manufacturer that we work with is identifying with sustainable design either in their practices, in how they’re building or constructing their products and how they’re operating the facility,” Morrow says. “Just about everything we touch is sustainable.”



One of the key trends in commercial interior trends is the branding experience of the company, Pelot said. “The complete design should support (a company’s) branding direction.”

Creating a physical workplace that clearly demonstrates a company culture and tells its story helps bring in and keep both talent and clients.

“When employees come in, they identify right away with who their company is and know the company history and values,” Morrow says. “It gives them a sense of pride in who they work for, and a connection to their employer.”

Such branding can be built into a lobby design, such as with wall displays, but “we try to carry it throughout the space, so that no matter where you are in the building, you get a taste of that particular client’s brand,” Morrow says.

Tim Andreas, director of architecture and design for Kohler Co., also sees corporate interiors becoming more flexible, influenced by hospitality trends, “allowing people to work more freely and providing more casual environments that provide food services mixed with workspace,” Andreas said in an email response.

Lodge Kohler in Green Bay was designed so people would feel invited to spend time throughout the day, working while grabbing a bite to eat, Andreas said. “There are varied spaces to feel comfortable alone or in a larger group.”

Clients are moving away from the classic corporate aesthetic to expressing their brands or culture, Andreas said.

“It’s not just about design elements, style, or trends, but great planning and thought to create spaces people really want to be in,” Andreas said.

With Kohler Co.’s hospitality interiors, the company evaluates all the materials and features of individual and collective spaces, striving to create an overall theme with a rich variety of spaces and experiences. That includes handmade items that impart richness to the design, he said.

“If you can get a space that people feel welcome and comfortable, they will be more likely to want to stay and come back again and again,” Andreas said. “The materials and finishes reinforce the experience and atmosphere you are looking for, but you have to define the experience first, and then make careful decisions about how you create the effect you want.”