A quality office design redecoration requires stripping back and correctly preparing surfaces, spaces and woodwork. In this process, a decorator can experience something like being in a time machine. Layers and infrastructure of times gone-by still hover within the walls of more established office buildings.
So, for anyone who spends a considerable part of their day changing the faces of offices, it’s fascinating to revisit history. Indeed, looking to the past is a great source of learning and inspiration for future designs.
The decade that spawned the office of today. The post-war period saw rapid re-building and a huge increase in high rise buildings. Fluorescent lighting, air conditioning and lino flooring were cutting edge. It was all about function and rejuvenation. Great at the time, but many materials are now found unsustainable by modern standards.
A far more design-led decade than the previous, more frugal period. Office furniture became stylish. The most extreme and long-reaching revolution of this decade came in the form of plastic. Plastic office furniture not only made innovative workspaces more accessible to a wider range of businesses, but it allowed businesses to think far more in terms of colour and brand when considering an office. Indeed, this is the decade when the term ‘office design’ emerges as a concept.
While the UK struggled economically, technology was making its first baby-steps in world domination. Also in its infancy in this decade was the concept of a worker’s health being a corporate concern. In 1976, the Ergon office chair was designed as an adjustable ergonomic piece of equipment designed to prioritise the comfort of the worker. It soon became a standard issue throughout city offices.
The word processing explosion of the 80’s changed the structure of the workstation. Many office desks now needed to accommodate technology as well as paper. Of course, this was the decade of flamboyance and the office was no exception. Bright, contrasting colour palettes exploded within asymmetric sharp lines. Glass and metallic features were on the rise and were a clear signal of the prosperity of an organisation.
Office designers in this decade dreamt of a paperless office and the concept of hot-desking was first conceived. Rows of cramped cubicles with little scope of personalisation were the direction of some firms, ironically under the banner of being ‘open plan’. Use of colour became much more muted and utilitarian. The choice of materials was very much function-led, shunning the extravagance of the previous decade. Designs looked towards flexibility and as such could appear lacking in character.
The dotcom explosion sent the world of office decoration rebounding away from the 90’s. This was the industrial revolution of office design, and there was no going back! Instead of focussing on technology, paper or equipment, the digital corporate world began to prioritise the worker. Office design, decoration and layout became all about nurturing the productivity of the human. At its extreme, this office decoration was embodied by slides, beanbags and light installations. However many offices took a more subtle approach by providing more flexibility in the work and social space that was included in the workplace.
And so to the decade in which we find ourselves. So to a certain extent, it’s up to you. The priority for most businesses remains to optimise workers by aiding a work-life balance through the structure of the workplace. We are also far more concerned with the sustainability of materials and energy. Aesthetically, we are starting to see some design nods to previous decades. Retro design touches if you prefer. This is the time to look forward when choosing materials and back through history to harvest the best ideas for a fantastic and unique modern office decoration scheme.