It never fails: during a party, everyone ends up in the kitchen. Now, this universal truth is making its way into today’s most progressive and functional office spaces, where cutting-edge businesses are designing warmer and softer offices—increasingly with a kitchen, café, or lounge at the center—in the name of collaboration and mobility.
Top talent has the choice of where to work, so savvy businesses create nurturing environments to attract the best recruits. With many employees still working within the confines of a cubicle, an open plan is a selling point for prospective staff and a way to keep existing staff satisfied. Moreover, as business functions become increasingly digitized, managers have focused on fomenting in-person collaborative environments, where employees speak, brainstorm, and work face-to-face rather than via technology. Central communal spaces foster the exchange of ideas while supporting the trend toward ad hoc teams over traditional hierarchical structures. Many of these strategies have come from the hospitality industry.
Modest amenities like lounges, cafés, and breakout spaces enable employees to escape their desk. At campuses such as Google and Microsoft, those amenities have been taken to the extreme with gyms, gaming arcades, and movie screening rooms. But these strategies can take place on a smaller scale by offering comfortable sofas, overstuffed chairs, banquette seating, or booths. Bar-height countertops or communal tables are also seen in many pantry spaces.
Consider the office redesign of Precision for Medicine, a firm that provides a wide array of services to pharmaceutical and life sciences companies, located in the heart of Bethesda, Md. Precision’s owner wanted a space that reflected the brand, engaged its occupants, and encouraged creativity and productivity. When a design team from BBGM took on the project, they focused on bringing the comforts of a resort into traditional workspaces, a philosophy that dovetailed perfectly with Precision’s vision to create a home away from home for employees.
There is no desk or reception area, making guests feel like they’ve entered a private residence. Rustic elements and vivid colors contrast with the vibrancy of natural light flooding the office. Just beyond the entrance is a lounge where colorful throw pillows, a rug, and lighting fixtures juxtapose with reclaimed wooden planks and wood-like ceramic tiles of the wall and floor.
A drink cart and magazine console welcome guests to feel at home in the space as well.
Cara Paglia, LEED AP, is an associate and registered interior designer at BBGM, a Washington D.C.-based architecture firm offering functions ranging from design to construction administration.