Written by Alys Bryan
Alys writes the Olive Living Blog and has spent almost 10 years working as a contract furniture designer in an office based studio; she also works as a freelance designer.
“Not only am I personally working on answers to the soft workplace brief but I am now experiencing first hand the ways in which working away from an office informs the design of the soft-workplace furniture and interior.’
The changing demands on the contract interior designer
For decades interior designers have honed their knowledge and skills in order to create hospitality environments which every guest converts for their own home. As society’s exposure to high quality design steadily increases so do the demands on the contract interior designer. Demands on hospitality settings are no longer restricted to creating a perfect home from home, but, as our work lives are increasingly spent away from our desks, they must now address the need for accessible workspaces.
How furniture designers are adapting
Mobile technology has assisted in enabling increasingly flexible working, and now when away from the office a worker often requires an intelligently specified lounge environment as their soft workplace. This brings a specific brief for furniture designers and manufacturers as well as interior designers.
For example, soft workplaces in hospitality settings must consider the seating position, surface heights, privacy and technology requirements of the user, as well as smart material and textile selections which lead the user into a workplace frame of mind without removing the benefits of a soft workplace.
The introduction of collaborative spaces
Developments in technology and a much greater understanding of best practices and wellbeing in the workplace has led to the installation of collaboration spaces. Demand on the furniture and interior design for collaboration spaces is extremely similar to that of soft workplaces in hospitality settings with some added requirements for technology and a different balance on styling.
The flow of seating across a larger space must also be considered within the furniture collection design and interior specification; there is often a requirement to zone a lounge area to flow from a noisy, vibrant lounge into a soft workplace.
The changes in furniture design
If you imagine a scale between hospitality settings and workplace environments, starting with hotel restaurant seating, bedroom furniture and guest lounges, and finishing with workspace pods, high back seating systems and task seating and desks; where there was once a void between the furniture and interior requirements of the two sectors there is now a large overlap.
Designs for the soft workplace:
This is an exciting time for contract furniture designers and manufacturers, with not only the chance to answer a challenging new brief but of course the opportunity for cross sector business growth and diversification.
For further reading you may find the following links interesting:
Alys Bryan is a blogger and an experienced freelance furniture designer, specialising in commercially viable contract and domestic seating, working with a variety of UK studios and manufacturers.