5 Design Trends That Signal the Demise of Traditional Office

Industrial designers are focused on rolling out new products to maximize comfort, privacy and productivity in the largely open floorplans that currently dominate the workplace.

By Diana Mosher

Cubicle farms had their day and then they were replaced by open plan. Now some open plan critics would like to see a return to closed offices—but that seems unlikely to happen. Instead, industrial designers are focused on rolling out new products to maximize comfort, privacy and productivity in the largely open floorplans that currently dominate the workplace.

After years of dealing with acoustical complaints by encouraging employees to work at home when they needed a quiet place for “heads down” work or because they unable to book a conference room, many organizations are now doing their utmost to bring everyone back to the mother ship. They want all the talent together under one roof, because that’s were the magic happens.

The Race to ‘Resi-mercial’

One way to encourage people to spend more time at the office is to make the office as comfortable as home—and even nicer. When executed correctly, employees will want to spend as much time as possible in the “resi-mercial” workspace. One of many furniture collections designed with this goal is mind is Recharge, a new collection of modular lounge soft seating and tables from Allsteel Inc. created in partnership with Encinitas, California–based designer Chris Adamick.

The Recharge portfolio comprises upholstered benches, seats, poufs, privacy screens and tables—a versatile kit-of-parts that can be configured to provide semi-enclosed areas in a variety of open environments. “Recharge’s modularity and flexibility allow the end user—be it an individual, a group or an organization—to determine where and how it functions,” according to Adamick. “In that sense, it reflects the influence of residential design in the contemporary workplace—office solutions that offer the same physical comfort and ready adaptability we expect from our furniture at home.”

Biophilia Reduces Anxiety

In 1964, psychologist, Erich Fromm used the term biophilia to describe “the passionate love of life and all that is alive.” Today the term is frequently associated with interior design. One of the most direct ways to derive the positive effects of biophilic design (improved productivity, mood and health along with reduced feelings of tension and anxiety) is by introducing natural and light to the workplace.

Finnish company Naava has introduced the Naava Active Green Wall which combines the benefits of living green walls, acoustic elements and air purifiers/humidifiers into one free standing piece of furniture. The Naava Active Green Wall is a cloud-based product that uses artificial intelligence and is fully automated boasting 10 times the effect of non-tech green walls. The facilities team will appreciate that the living plants in Naava Active Green Walls require no soil.

Products that Tell a Story

Now more than ever the products selected for workplace design are backed by interesting stories that set them apart. Mayer Fabrics has unveiled a new collection for the commercial market called Wonderlust. Inspired by the global travels of collector, designer and museum benefactor Alexander Girard, Wonderlust was created in collaboration with the Museum of International Folk Art, the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, and Sunbrella. Wonderlust brings the warmth and color of global folk art to commercial spaces.

Mayer Fabrics designer Kimberle Frost worked with Sunbrella to create seven vibrant and engaging patterns drawn from the iconic folk art that Girard loved so well. “We are thrilled to see such a joyful and thoughtful interpretation of the folk art and textiles from our museums,” says Pamela Kelly, vice president of licensing for the Museum of New Mexico.

The Art of Sound Proofing

The number of decorative wall-mounted acoustical products in the marketplace keeps growing. Unika Vaev has introduced several of its own in collaboration with Icelandic artist and designer Bryndis Bolladóttir. Drawing on his love of texture and sculptural forms, Bolladóttir developed the Bryndis Collection for Unika Vaev.

Offering a range of colorful spherical, hemispherical and cylindrical products, the collection is produced from Icelandic Wool that is layered over mineral wool and flexible polyurethane foam. The design and production of this product results in maximum sound absorption with minimal coverage requirements.

Making Work Fun

When you love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work. The new generation of employees embraces this concept and part of talent retention is designing creative workspaces where they can thrive. Thinking outside the box, 55-year-old manufacturer David Edwards has unveiled an entire new collection featuring 15 new contemporary collections—including The Plain Box Swing—to shed its old identity and help workplace designers deliver the spaces that are sure to appeal to Millennials and beyond.

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