Many of us spend more time at the office than in our own homes. As such, creating an office space that everyone (executives, interns, editors, clients and stylists) love can help makes the long hours and hard work that much more enjoyable. According to the Harvard Business Review, ‘face-to-face interactions are by far the most important activity in an office.’ Their data suggests that "creating chance encounters and unplanned interactions between knowledge workers, both inside and outside the organization—improves performance.”
With this in mind as an interior designer, my approach to an office space is to create a space that inspires and is the catalyst for thoughtful conversations and interesting ideas.
Recently I had the opportunity to work with Sara Andréasson and Jill Cooper, co-founders of Michele Marie PR. They expressed a need for a more creative, fashion forward office space. They had grown tired of working with a formal desk set up in their Beverly Hills office. As a PR agency specializing in editorial, celebrity, and social media press in the fashion, beauty and lifestyle industries, they felt they needed a more open and inviting space to create a collaborative environment for both employees and clients.
Designing a New Office Space
A few key questions can help get to the heart of design inspiration.
- What is the goal/role of having an interior designer?
- What is the mood or emotion of the space?
- What are we trying to accomplish?
- What is your number one priority for this project?
After this initial conversation with Sara and Jill, I found that the biggest challenge during this project would be incorporating two different aesthetic preferences into one shared office space and lobby (a common occurrence among clients). It was also important to find a balance between appealing to both women and shining a spotlight on their expertise through the clients they represent.
Key Design Considerations for Creative Agencies
We all felt it was important to create a stylish space that would not distract from the various apparel and accessory lines MMPR represents. This is important because clients should never feel like they are competing for the spotlight with the agency that is suppose to represent them, or that there is a preference for one client over the other.
Great offices act as a visual extension of a company’s brand so focus on cultivating an atmosphere that captures your company essence and energy. The women pulled inspiration from Soho House West Hollywood, but expressed a desire for a brighter alternative. A key objective was ensuring the design was streamlined to fit five to six people comfortably in the main meeting space.
Additionally, Jill and Sara wanted their office space to feel fashion-forward. Both needed an executive office that was comfortable and feminine while still being functional for small meetings. To achieve this, we kept the common areas neutral and added in more personal elements into the executive office design.
Accolades and art
Incorporating meaningful items, awards and media hits in a tasteful manner can be a challenge for agencies. A great solution is to treat items as a collection and display them in a concentrated area. First you should determine:
- What elements are personal and belong in office spaces?
- What accolades are beneficial for a client to see?
- What belongs in the more communal spaces?
And then chose areas that makes sense for the given item. Personal elements like thank you notes might be more appropriate as a gallery wall in an executive's office, while awards are great to display in spaces prospective and current clients are likely to glimpse—think lobby or conference room adjacent or even a main corridor.
When displaying artistic pieces, floating shelves are a great solution because they have a minimalist profile and enable you to use a high quantity of items with similar scale. This provides the impact of a pattern and the function of accessorizing without cluttering or detracting from the rest of the space.
Consider First Impressions & Public Spaces
MMPR is a PR agency which embraces new concepts, so I was working with both mixed-use spaces (with an open layout), and private areas designated for offices and meetings. As a result, a core objective was to create continuity between rooms while also taking into account their various functions. However, I faced a bit of a challenge because MMPR is not only used as an office, but also a showroom. Celebrity stylists frequently visit the space to see the various clothing, beauty and accessories that MMPR represents. Because of this it was crucial the lobby remain neutral.
Clients should never feel like they are competing for the spotlight with the agency that is suppose to represent them, or that there is a preference for one client over the other.
The lobby is the place everyone walks through, so it's important that if feel inclusive. We wouldn't want to alienate a menswear or traditional corporate client by going over the top with pink toned hues or boundary-pushing art in the entryway. Save that for executive offices that allow more room for personal leanings. Keep your public domains inviting and unbiased with colors like grey and white.
To maximize the lobby space, which I knew had to function as both a waiting room and workroom, we added a divider to create this separate space. The new area now became multiple functional (such as an assembly area for gifting) and left the main section of the lobby as a welcoming area for clients and guests. Jill and Sara have a great collection of industry books that shows off a passion for what they do. We turned the books into a display piece, a fashion library, in the lobby, to create a strategic focal point that also doubled as storage space.
Before the redesign, the reception desk sat behind the entryway. That is counter intuitive. If you walk into a room, your instinct is to keep walking towards your destination and so, we moved the desk around to be the first thing guests see when they walk through the door. Not only did this make more sense when considering the flow of the room, but it also created the opportunity of adding a multi-purpose room off to the side of the lobby. This extra space was perfect for client and stylists fittings; in the fashion industry in particular many people since are working on tight schedules and prefer to simply meet in the lobby to save time, instead of walking back through an office.
Don't forget about the hallways
Most people look to change obvious features like workstations or new furniture. However, it is important to take advantage of everything at your disposal in order to share your brand story. One way to do that is through hallway walls.
Sara and Jill have collected many mementos and client pieces through the years of MMPR being in business. Originally these items were piled into bookshelves in the lobby. In order to create a more organized and calming feel, we installed shelving along the walls of a corridor leading to the showroom. By displaying key pieces throughout the space instead of all lumped together, the brands were still on display but the display felt less chaotic. Hallway walls are a natural and unobtrusive way for clients, media, stylists and employees to interact with MMPR’s history. It also creates a seamless transition from space to space.
How to Make the most of smaller spaces and shared workplaces
For Sara and Jill’s office we really had to get creative in order to optimize the space for both solo and collaborative work. Their shared office is modestly sized and a vital need was functionality and spacing for group meetings. In order to reconcile needs with wants, we played around with the furniture. I chose lounge chairs that had narrower arms, but a fully supported back, rather than bulkier options. To subtly add depth without relying heavily on patterns, I used textural variety. This means is I selected one linen and one velvet version of the same chair. Textiles are a fun and integral aspect of adding variety and visual appeal to any space.
The hallway walls are a natural and unobtrusive way for clients, media, stylists and employees to interact with MMPR’s history. It also creates a seamless transition from space to space.
While a streamlined minimalist desk looks lovely, make sure such items are paired with a discrete storage system. Invest in a credenza that can also double as a filing cabinet. In the co-founders office we selected a well disguised mini-file drawer that looks and functions as an accent table in the space.
If you’re considering an office redesign, here are a few things to keep in mind to make sure the transformation is dream-worthy. First, make sure you know what your brand is and stands for. Identify how the space, especially the lobby, reflects the voice of your brand. Balance beauty with functionality. If you are unsure of what to do and have the budget, seek the guidance of a pro, especially when it comes to purchasing expensive furniture.
The biggest mistake I see people make when redesigning is splurging too soon and then missing out on key essentials needed for the space. Another common mistake people make is overestimating how much space they really have and then try to jam in more furniture that leads to an overcrowded and overwhelmed look. Knowing dimensions and laying out your space is especially crucial if you have a small office space. It is essential to factor in the number of employees and how big your work area needs to be. This will really help you determine your furniture choices and how you will set up the functional flow of the space.
From there, identify all your employee work areas before designating conference rooms or lounges. When designing, be sure to keep public and private spaces at a safe distance. You want to avoid having external visitors walk past a space in which private client conversations are happening.
About Stefani Stein
Los Angeles-based interior designer Stefani Stein is known for her relaxed yet refined style that has caught the attention of several celebrity clients over the years. Her modern touches intertwined with classic and unexpected elements make her a highly coveted designer for commercial and residential space design. Connect with her on Instagram @stefanisteinla.