A lounge chair by the fireplace. The local bar. Your home kitchen. These are some of our favorite places — places that remind us of good times, relaxing and enjoying life. They encourage authenticity and bring us together to build relationships. So why not bring those favorite places to the office?
Designers like myself believe building relationships in the workplace follows the same principle as designing terrific gathering spaces in the home. People need spaces that encourage social networking and promote comfortability. Color and materials show branding and elicit moods. Nowadays, themed spaces are intentionally designed to depict places we love. Sometimes called “our happy places” or our “favorite places,” themed spaces support a variety of functions: gathering together, sharing ideas and heads down work. Themed spaces are also typically more playful, conjuring positive emotions that last throughout the day.
Here are some examples of how to design favorite places in the workplace:
1. Recreate the neighborhood coffee shop with pieces of lounge furniture, coffee tables and lamps grouped by a fireplace. Because both individuals and groups visit the coffee shop to unwind or tackle work solo, diverse seating and table sets are the way to go. Add soft, warm lighting, an LED fireplace and warm color tones to set the mood for your snack in the afternoon.
2. Connect your workplace with the outdoors through low-height partitions to gain access to outside views and sunlight. Bring nature into the workplace with cool color schemes like greens and blues and patterns with organic shapes. Surround your space with live plants and use it to enclose groupings of cafe tables and chairs for an outdoor dining feel. Bring more height with indirect, overhead, ambient lighting to bounce light off the ceiling. Finish it off with soft floor materials that emulate nature, such as river rocks and patches of grass to use as pathways.
3. Replicate a homey kitchen — starting with a communal table and a well-stocked pantry. Communal standing-height tables or long kitchen tables are perfect for gathering and catering group luncheons or town hall meetings. Kitchen appliances, dinnerware and a well-stocked kitchen make this a welcoming space all day long. Enliven the space with pendant lights, coffee tables, booths and fun backsplashes or wall coverings to inspire your staff to hang out.
4. Convert your breakout space into a local bar with a long bar top furnished with bar stools and illuminated with modern pendant lights. Energize it with graphics and a display of eclectic art or merchandise. Make it more dynamic by adding the ability to write messages and create changeable wall art.
5. Create a peaceful space just like having a spot in a courtyard by creating a division of space through screens or high back furniture. Add a rocking chair, a swing or a hammock and finish the surfaces with warm-toned materials like wood. Install acoustical panels on walls or wood slats on the ceiling to absorb sound reverberation.
Incorporating residential features like these not only have the power to transform your workplace, they quickly become a tool for attracting and retaining talent. What have you done to intentionally design favorite places in your office?