I once walked into a serviced office in Parramatta only to be absolutely knocked back by the power and brightness of the colour scheme in this particular office. Let me paint the picture… the floor comprised a number of offices, all with full height plasterboard walls and full height, narrow MDF doors, so there were lots of walls and lots of doors.
No big deal, that’s how most offices might look right? The problem was the colour selections. Think of the two most common colours of the late 1990s and you might say purple and lime green. In this case the designer had chosen the most eye burning level of these two colours possible – purple walls and lime green doors to the max. It was powerful but overpowering. I couldn’t believe these rooms would be used for business premises. They were so very bright and just ‘butt ugly’.
COLOUR REFLECTS WHO YOU ARE
These offices were going to be used as serviced offices for new start-up businesses, companies looking for inspiration to burst into their full potential, a place of thinking and work focus.
No way. I can tell you, as would nearly anyone working in that premises - WRONG COLOURS.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am certainly no interior designer or colour consultant. Nor do I have an eye for art. Matter of fact when most clients ask me what do I think they should run with, I turn the question around by saying it’s your office, you’re going to live here, what do you really like?
In the end it’s what you like that matters. If I see something on paper that might be a bit bold or overpowering I will comment, but in the end it’s your office.
PRO TIP: I am a big fan of feature colours but I’m not a big fan of making every second wall a feature colour unless there is a specific reason for it e.g., to identify meeting rooms or to set the mood in an interview room, displaying corporate colours for marketing purposes and the like. Use the ‘more is less principle’ to get maximum ‘wow’ factor.
MATERIALS ARE A GREAT WAY TO LOOK DIFFERENT
Aside from paint colours there are an endless amount of other finishes that can be applied throughout the premises. From natural products like stone, wood, steel, aluminium and timber through to equivalent man-made products.
The use of feature finishes provides impact to your final design and also double as soundproofing or a resilient finish for a lot of foot traffic.
‘WOW’ IS GOOD
If you want some ‘wow’ in your office you need to start thinking about what you like and why. Then start looking for examples you can discuss with your designer. Magazines or websites are full of designer finishes and many are useful for getting specification sheets direct from the suppliers.
The more information you can provide your designer the better they can see which way you are leaning on finishes and fittings.
PRO TIP: Natural products are exactly that, natural. It’s what makes them one of a kind, beautiful and rich in colour, sometimes expensive always varying in level of quality and sometimes size. You need to be aware that the colour of the product shown in the magazine or online or even as a sample in a showroom, may not always be the same as that delivered to your office.
NATURAL MATERIAL VARIATIONS
I have seen many clients become completely frustrated at the difference in colour of the product they receive compared to the one in the showroom. This generally only occurs with natural products and is part of their unique allure I think.
You could take this up with the supplier, but it won’t end well unless you have a chalk and cheese example. What you’ll hear mostly is ‘Sorry mate it’s a natural product’.
The other interesting aspect of natural products is that sometimes the product is not as hard-wearing or maintenance-free as the man-made alternative. Let me give you an example.
NATURAL PRODUCTS NEED MAINTENANCE
We once installed a natural stone tile in a reception area that cost the client a lot of money. It was difficult to lay but the installer did a terrific job, provided a clear protective finish over the newly laid tiles and followed the manufacturer’s details to the letter. Eight months after handover I returned to the client’s premises for a follow-up visit. Whilst I was waiting at reception, I noticed a very large stain in the natural stone, in full view of everyone entering the premises. I knew it was not part of the natural product and so I asked the question of the receptionist. “Hi, I really like these f loor tiles they look good, but what happened?” She replied, “Yes, someone dropped a coffee and stained it. They’re a natural product.”
Natural products do need more maintenance than other products. Even though we had applied the correct level of protective finish, it was only guaranteed for six months and a new coating should have been reapplied to maintain integrity. Be aware of these potential problems when choosing natural products. Think about the maintenance and what is involved before committing to the design specifications.
LIGHTING ADDS A LOT
Let’s talk lighting. It’s a critical element of design and one that can really give you a ‘wow’ factor in so many ways. It can provide big, bold brightness to a space that says ‘Here We Are’ as soon as you step out of the lift. If you have walked into a space you just know is different, chances are it was the lighting. It can also have the opposite effect and provide a subtle low level of light when required. (Perhaps in an office where the mood needs to be calm and conversations kept at a low level or an interview room or sometimes a reception area.)
Lighting also needs to be practical. There needs to be sufficient light to see and complete your day-to-day tasks. If it can do that in a way that is also stylish and adds impact to your premises then all the better.
Some designers will rely on specialist lighting consultants to provide the effects you are wanting, which will mean an additional fee. Depending on budget, if lights are something you’re concerned about, then the cost will be money well spent. The specialists stay up-to-date on everything to do with lights, they can design to achieve specific lux levels and they have all the latest technology and fittings on tap. They will often provide designs that save you money in the long run by choosing energy efficient fittings and globes.
A specialist light consultant will take the designer’s plans and provide marked-up suggestions on how to get more from your premises through clever selection of fittings. They will define exactly where the fittings should be placed and offer suggestions on how to switch the lights.
Colour choice needs a professional.
Don’t be afraid to speak your mind if the colours are… bold.
Don’t go overboard with the endless choices of colours and materials - it can look messy.
Natural materials will vary from the samples you made your decision on.
Lighting adds a lot to your design impact.
If your premises has special needs, consider a lighting specialist who may even save you money over the longer-term.