How Does Your Office Function?

In my last blog I discussed how the functionality of a room can impact design. I focused on residential spaces. This week I’d like to talk about commercial spaces. I’ve worked on many commercial projects, medical offices in particular. It is critical to understand how the office functions when proposing a design.

I usually focus on the following questions:


plastic-surgeon-01What is the nature of your business?

As I mentioned, I’ve designed a lot of medical office space. My initial thoughts, when speaking with a client, are centered around the flow of the office from reception area to examination rooms to offices and storage.   For a medical office, I want to understand how patients will check-in and access examination rooms. Office personnel will need access to computers as well as physical files and supplies. An important factor for doctor’s offices is their requirement to comply with HIPPA policies for patient privacy.

If your company is a corporate business, I gather information about how the business interacts with clients in their office space. There may be requirements for meetings where they do not want clients walking through their general work space.  This will impact the location of conference rooms. If there have a high volume of meetings, they may need several meeting rooms. The number of people in these meetings will impact the size and organization of these rooms. It may make sense to create a room that can be sub-divided, on demand, into smaller spaces.  Some businesses may require oversized desks while others can make do with standard sized desks.

The nature of your business will impact the design and layout of your office space.

What is the culture of your business?  Law practices, accounting firms and medical offices must maintain a high degree of privacy. This requirement imposes a need for offices with doors. On the other hand, many technology firms desire easy collaboration. This may result in an informal, open design with limited structured space. If they do have conference rooms, they may request that they have glass walls for consistency with their culture of transparency.
law-offices-01Your culture may impact how you allocate space. Many internet companies are more casual in nature and don’t believe in assigning permanent work space, or maintaining reception areas. Other companies require offices and ‘cubes’  for their emplooyees and a traditional reception area to allow clients or patients to check-in and comfortably wait for their appointments. In either case, the design must allow employs to function as needed and allow clients to feel welcome.

Walls, panels, doors, open work space – they all reinforce the function and culture of your business.

Who are your clients?  Your business may have a constant flow of visitors. They may need to check-in for security reasons or simply to manage access to the right people.  Your clients may be able to walk in or they may need assistance. Your design should accomodate their needs for easily accessible, comfortable seating. If you anticipate their need to sit for long periods of time, you may consider incorporating TVs or computer ports to help them pass the time.

Your business space is your highest investment. I emphasize to my clients that design is a necessity not a luxury. A well design space, consistent with your company image, increases employee productivity and client satisfaction. Your design must complement the goals and culture of your business. There are many questions to be considered, ranging from floor plan, storage and furniture design to lighting, fixtures, paint color and artwork.

Feeling overwhelmed?  I can offer a free consultation to those who comment on this week’s blog!

Does Your Design Follow Function?

As you know, I enjoy attending events at the Horticultural Society of New York. As I was listening to a recent lecture on garden design, I started thinking about what influences the design of a room. By design, I mean more than the superficial elements such as color, fabric and lighting.  I’m thinking about the shape, size and layout of the room. Good design should be dictated by the function of both the room and the user!

Let’s think about the layout of a traditional center hall colonial style house.  The center hall, or foyer, was designed to welcome friends and guests in a more formal time.  It had good lighting and an easily accessible closet.  The furniture was simple, yet elegant – usually a small table or cabinet topped with fresh flowers. Each room in the house served a specific purpose, even to the extent of allowing men and women to have separate after-dinner conversations!

Homes built before the 1960s offered layouts and rooms designed with a specific purpose in mind. As our lifestyles became more casual, home design became more open. No longer did we require (or desire) formal dining rooms, living rooms or libraries. However, we did want homes that allowed us to flow easily from room to room. We wanted to entertain and be able to chat with guests while working in the kitchen. We wanted to be able to see our kids playing in the family room while preparing dinner. Remember how many houses used to have family rooms or romper rooms in the basement?

Many remodels for both stand-alone houses or apartments focus on opening up available space and creating incremental functionality. An open space can be divided into unique living spaces using furniture, paint color, wall hangings or lighting. For example, an eating area may be adjacent to a living room, yet the arrangement of furniture clearly defines each space. Take a look at at a client’s NYC apartment (below left). You can see how the furniture layout clearly defines the living area versus the dining area. Or, see how we used color in the townhouse (below right) to highlight the dining room which opens to the foyer and the living room. (Click on the pictures to see additional perspectives on my website!).

tuscan-villa-1             li-town-house-01

Additionally, we see the addition of islands to kitchens (where space allows or is created). Why? Interestingly, most kitchens simply do not have enough counter space. By the time we place all of our gadgets (coffee maker, toaster, canisters, etc.) on the counters, we are left with little functional work space.  The islands provide space for meal prep, kids’ projects and quick meals.  All reflective of our current lifestyles.

How do you use your home or office space?  The concept of function applies to both homes and offices.  When I’m working with a client, the first questions I ask are related to how a space will be used.  By understanding the client’s needs as related to function, lifestyle or personal need, I can create a space that provides the features most important to the client.

What spaces don’t meet your needs?  What questions do you have about why rooms are designed the way they are?  I’d like to address your questions in future blogs!  Or, better yet, if you have an immediate problem, let’s have a consultation!

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