Many businesses seek to create a contemporary, modern look for their office. A freshly configured and decorated building helps to build a business environment that fosters communication and creativity. When we imagine these office designs we invariably assume that the space will be open plan with informal pods and glass fronted meeting rooms. Visibility and light help to form an environment for a forward-thinking organisation. However, how do you achieve this if your office is within an old, listed or historic building?
A Question of Space
Office spaces come in all shapes and sizes – we should know, we’ve seen them all! While it is true that new build offices lean towards natural light and mixed-use space, this is not the be all and end all of office design. Especially across a historic city such as London, the type of building that houses an office can vary wildly. From industrial revolution factories to Georgian townhouses, ancient wheat stores to art deco hotels, all types of historic building are being re-purposed to house office space. So how do you integrate these two concepts to arrive at a space that is fit for purpose?
First, we must remember that the external and internal aspects of a building need not follow suit. What appears historic from the outside can reveal contemporary minimalism under the surface. When reconfiguring the layout of a building, ensure that its facilities are prioritised. Clearly, there are structural parameters that must be withheld but don’t just ditch as many internal walls as you can. Ensure that aspects such as washrooms, separate meeting areas and social spaces are sufficiently accommodated.
The key to really modernising an old office building is in ensuring that it is up to the job to support a contemporary organisation. This means that it should accommodate smart technologies and up to the minute connectivity. Not just this, but consider plumbing, heating and cooling utilities and energy efficiency. This work is not cosmetic but is key to your building working at its optimum as an office.
Clearly, any internal reconfiguration whether structural or decorative may be limited by listed building legislation. So it’s worth ensuring that your lease document and building regulations are properly checked before you instruct your decorator!
Fixtures and Fittings
Lighting, window surrounds and other aesthetic fittings are a great way to make a nod to the historical nature of the building. If you have modernised the internal layout of the space with light colours, use of glass and removing walls, fittings can be vital in linking the two aspects of the building. So for example within a Georgian space, look at contrasting contemporary furniture with chandelier light fittings.
Wall features are a great place to start to give an office a more modern feel. It can be a temporary medium so is quick to install, flexible and easy to change. So perhaps a mural, or a canvas or even perhaps a striking wallpaper design. Even if the layout of your historic building remains unchanged, art is a very immediate moderniser.
Think about how colour reflects different eras. To retain a sense of the historic, you would ordinarily choose deeper colours. So if your intention is to modernise your historic office interior, look at stark white contrasting with vibrant colours. In addition, consider where you can integrate glass in the space. This could mean widening internal doorways and inserting glass panels into walls.
Bespoke furniture is both aesthetically striking and eminently functional. It is, therefore, a great place to dedicate a chunk of your office redecoration budget. Contrast historic fixtures with clean lined furniture to bring together the different aspects of the building.
The key to achieving a sympathetic office design when your building is old is in the quality of finish. Even if your design is entirely out of keeping with the external of the building, as long as both aspects of the building are well maintained, the contrast of old and new remains striking. Structural amends should work with the building rather than against it, and the history of the building remembered. This will see you on the right path to a truly conscientious contrast.