The benefits of using an independent space planning company

You may have noticed that throughout our website we are very proud to state that we are an independent company, but what are the benefits of this? Well, put simply through being an independent company we are not tied to any supplier or product range. In fact our only aim is to ensure that our client gets the best possible service and value for money. A quick search of the web shows that there are actually very few independent space planning companies; many furniture suppliers offer a planning service (although this tends to be very different to our space planning service as we are happy to re-use your existing furniture), and there are many interior fit out companies, but again they are usually tied to their suppliers. Our independent status allows us to recommend the best possible solutions to your office design problems. We are able to recommend several furniture and fit out suppliers, and so we are able to obtain several quotes for you based upon our drawings and just a single site visit.

If you would like more information about our office design and space planning services, just give us a call.

Personalising your office reception

Your office reception is the first thing that visiting clients will see of your company and so it is vital that this area is kept up to date in order to make a good first impression. As well as looking good your office reception must be disability friendly, and this means that the standard tall reception counter is no longer such a good choice. Most modern reception counters now include a “cut away” section that is dropped to allow wheelchair users to access the counter, and it is also important to consider visually impaired visitors too, so raised glass surfaces may also be unsuitable. A good counter design will include space for storage underneath, as well as plenty of room for the reception staff, as this will be their primary workplace and so needs as much attention as any other workstation.

It is important to consider soft seating in a reception as visitors will need somewhere comfortable to sit while waiting, and fairly firm tub chairs and two seater sofas are a good choice here. Large sofas tend not to work as well as single seaters, so in a reception with limited space 2 or 3 single seaters and a small sofa would work well. Leather always wears well, especially in high traffic density areas, and is a good choice over fabric for anywhere that has users that may be drinking coffee.

Keeping visitors entertained whilst waiting is important, and a large flat screen displaying company information or a news channel is a god way of doing this. If there is the space an internet (or intranet) point can work well to allow visitors to catch up on work whilst waiting, and this can work well if combined as a touchdown counter with 2 or 3 stools that can double up as workspaces.

Receptions are the one area where you can go really bold with colours, or even use a modern lighting system to add changing colours to white walls. The key thing with any reception though is that it is designed with practicality in mind, and so must allow for adequate circulation space, especially as it is usually also the main fire exit. Call us to discuss how we can revamp your reception, and add a bit of life to your office!

Office flooring materials

We are often asked what materials are best to use in a modern office for flooring. This is an area where you can introduce a bold colour or design, and even use different colours to indicate different zones, or fire routes. Traditional carpets on a roll are not really ideal, as they can be tricky to repair (wear and tear and coffee damage happens far quicker in an office environment than it would in a domestic one due to the increased traffic). However carpet tiles are a good solution as they allow the user to replace single tiles at a time. If the carpet is made with a thick pile, then it is often hard to see any joins and the finish is similar to that of a roll, but without the drawbacks. Carpet tiles can also be useful when used with a raised floor as they can allow easy access to the wiring below the floor, and are usually supplied at the same size as the raised floor grid tiles (600×600mm). For areas such as coffee points where a carpet could quickly become stained a vinyl floor-covering works well. You can get a realistic wood effect vinyl that is actually laid in strips (like wooden planks) which allows for access under the floor should it be needed, and has several advantages over traditional wood, or laminate flooring products. One of the key advantages here is that the vinyl is quiet when walked upon; this may not seem a big deal, but many offices that were refurbished in the late 1990s with laminate floors soon found that the constant sound of heels on the wooden floor became a real problem. Vinyl is also very hardwearing and water resistant and so is a good choice for offices looking for a modern appearance. There are even companies that produce vinyl floor tiles that look like steel flooring for an industrial effect, or you can even get tiles with holograms set within them for a futuristic feeling.

For advice on office interior design, give us a call and we can discuss how we can bring your space up to date.

How a raised floor can improve your office layout

Most new build offices will be designed with a raised floor, but what exactly is this and how can it help to improve your office design? Basically a raised floor is a series of metal floor tiles laid over a raised grid that allow you to position electrical floor boxes anywhere within your office. This can then allow for much greater flexibility of office layout design as it means that desks do not necessarily need to be grouped in spurs coming directly off an external wall. The “spur design” tends to be the usual layout for most 1960s office buildings as these were designed with open plan in mind, but without knowing that the computer would become the standard office tool, and therefore access to electrical and network points would become so important. The raised floor allows the office furniture layout design to dictate the location of the floor boxes , rather than the position of electrical access points dictating the layout, giving the flexibility required to allow for islands of desks within an open plan office.

So, what can you do to have a more flexible layout if you don’t have a raised floor? Well, the first thing is that in order to avoid trailing cables, your most practical layout is likely to involve spurs of desks coming from the walls. However, you can also use any columns in the office in the same way, as it is relatively inexpensive to trunk power and data supplies up through a suspended ceiling and then down a column. Another way in which this can be implemented is via power poles; these work in the same way, having their supply via a suspended ceiling, but they can be moved, should the layout need to change in the future.

As more offices are going wireless and battery technology is improving we may soon be able to work completely wirelessly, and simply leave our laptops to charge overnight in a docking rack. This will give us a truly flexible office space and will no doubt have further impacts on office design.

Bringing the outside in to an office

The previous blog post discussed maximising natural daylight through office design, and this is the first step to helping to bring the outside in. Once your office is naturally lighter and brighter you can look at introducing some natural greenery through a few hardy indoor plants, and there are actually a number of companies that can not only supply the plants, but also offer a full maintenance service, to ensure that they stay looking at their best. A few simple large plants always look better than lots of little pots, and will also be easier to manage. The jungle look is never a good look for a modern office, and plants can get out of hand if unattended regularly, so it is always best to keep to the odd pot in desking areas (perhaps to mask an ugly column or other feature), and have a few more in breakout areas, being careful to avoid messy or fast growing varieties. There are even some very realistic plastic plants available now, but even these need a little maintenance, as they so tend to gather dust quite quickly, but these would be a good solution where the natural lighting is poor.

Once you have livened up the office with a few plants, a fresh colour scheme would also help and the current trends are for very natural colours (soft blues, greens, browns, along with plenty of white or white shades) rather than brash primary colours, and through our 3d modelling service we can show you exactly how your office design would look in a series of colour schemes. We can even show alternative space planning options with different colour schemes to give you a useful comparison, so if you would like to know more about our office interior design service, just give us a call.

Maximising your natural daylight through space planning and office design

We are often asked how can we help to make offices a little less cold and sterile, and a great way to do this is to maximise your natural daylight resources. The colour, feeling and effects of natural daylight just can’t be replicated by artificial light, and yet so many offices have poor layouts that block daylight within the office. A key principal here is to ensure that windows are not blocked by storage cabinets; the simplest way to do this is by putting all storage cabinets against partition walls. Most offices though have more storage cabinets than wall space, so the best way to ensure that natural daylight is maximised is to only ever have cabinets lined up perpendicular (at 90 degrees) to any windows. This may seem obvious, but so many offices have a row of tall cabinets running through the centre of the office space, and so these are actually parallel to the windows. What this then means is that one half of the office gets good natural daylight in the morning, but very poor in the afternoon and the other side vice versa. Through keeping the cabinets at 90 degrees some light is obscured, but you avoid the dark and light extremes. Of course investing in better storage solutions would help further, particularly a system such as a rolling stack (as discussed in earlier blog posts), as this would allow you to keep your storage in one area and so keep the open areas open.

As well as re-organising your storage, you should also look at the positioning of desks. A common mistake is to put a single manager’s desk (which is often unoccupied) next to the windows, with the bulk of the staff deeper in to the office floor plate away from the natural light. By ensuring that the natural light resource is maximised to as many workstations as possible, the overall feeling of the space for the staff will be improved. There are occasions, such as with a very large floor plate, when this can’t be done, and so here you may need to look as specialised lighting solutions, such as daylight simulation bulbs for individual desk lamps, and using as many transparent or translucent materials as possible around the office, such as frosted glass screens on desks rather than heavy fabric ones.

If you would like us to redesign your office to maximise your natural daylight resources, give us a call.

Using storage to divide up open plan offices

There are many benefits to an open plan office design; better airflow, improved natural light, increased flexibility of space and a general feeling of more space. In reality though many offices have teams that require a quieter or more private environment, and rather than building partitions you can use your office storage to divide up open spaces. The advantages of this are numerous; firstly there is plenty of storage close to hand for the team, and most teams would always welcome more storage. The next benefit is that of sound absorption; a storage cabinet full of paper is actually a very good sound buffer; this can aid with the common complaint of open plan being too noisy. The cabinets make an effective barrier between teams, and as they don’t go all the way up to the ceiling, they also don’t restrict airflow. Many buildings that have extremes of temperatures (both hot spots and cold spots) have this problem as the original floorplate is usually designed to be open plan. As soon as you introduce partition walls and cellular offices the airflow is changed, and especially in buildings with air conditioning, this can cause real temperature control problems. To avoid blocking natural light storage cabinets should be placed perpendicular to windows, and it is important to ensure that they are still accessible by all staff, not just those that sit in front of them.

There are many ways that we can help you to improve your office design layout, and so if you would like to discuss how we can help, give us a call.

Office Storage Solutions

The design and layout of your office space can be dictated somewhat by the type and quantity of office storage units that you have, and the more open your space, the better it works. There are several systems available to improve your current office storage, and more and more companies are looking to implement wall storage solutions. These are full height (floor to ceiling) storage cabinets that are usually fitted bespoke to your office space and ceiling height. They make the most of the space that is available, look very smart and can be locked for added security. Usually the top shelves tend to be used for archive storage as they are more difficult to reach, but they are a good way of utilising all the available wall space, leaving the open space in the office to be open. Another alternative is a rolling stack system; this is basically a series of rows of storage cabinets with a single moveable walkway. Through eliminating the need for a walkway between every row of cabinets, a system such as this vastly increases the density of the storage in a space. The walkway is moveable as all the rows of cabinets are attached to a roller system that allows them to slide from side to side, and these can be controlled either by a large crank handle, or an electronic push button system. This can be a particularly useful way to remove the storage from within the open plan parts of an office, allowing for a much more user friendly layout.

There are many other options available, particularly if you are looking to replace the old 4 drawer filing cabinets with a more modern solution, or looking to group together existing storage to improve your office layout; give us a call to discuss your options and see how we can help.

Office storage problems

The one thing that we see time and time again when surveying offices is that most companies claim to be lacking in storage, yet the actual cabinets are often half empty. Effective office storage systems are absolutely critical to an effective office design layout, and the process needs to begin with an assessment of what actually needs to be stored on site. These days there are many office storage companies that offer archiving services that can allow you to store paperwork away from your office, yet be able to retrieve it quickly for a small fee. This can allow you to remove cumbersome storage cabinets from your office space and then open up the space improving both natural light and air circulation. There will always be some things that need to be stored on site, but with effective scanning systems every piece of paperwork can be catalogued and stored on your company servers. Not only will this reduce the need for office storage, but it also usually aids searching and retrieval as the scanned documents can be tagged with a wealth of information. There is also the added benefit that more than one person at a time can have a piece of information open, aiding information sharing, which is much more difficult when the information is held within a single paper folder.

It’s not just filing that takes up office storage though, as we often see large stationery store rooms. However these too are no longer as necessary as most stationery suppliers offer a next day delivery service, meaning that it is not so critical to maintain a large store on site. Even printed material can often be ordered via the internet on a much quicker turnaround than it used to be, meaning less space is required for its storage on site.

Call us to discuss your storage problems and see how we can help improve your overall design layout.

Current trends in office furniture

Office furniture has changed significantly over recent years; whereas a simple desk was sufficient in the pre-IT days of the 1980s, the 1990s saw ever increasing monitor sizes and therefore much bigger desks. As more staff were spending increasing amounts of time at their desks using the IT equipment, ergonomics played a bigger part in office design and the large corner desk became commonplace. However since the flat screen TFT monitor has become the norm, such large desks are less necessary, and with more offices going paper-less the actual workspace is now getting smaller. Most people now order wave type desking (rather than corner type), or even straight desks or benching. The space freed up by smaller desks can then be used to fit in alternative working zones, such as hotdesks and breakout areas. There are also changes to the trends in the furniture finishes, with a sleek minimal look being the current vogue. The shiny white “Ipod” look has become very popular replacing the standard pale wood finishes in many modern offices, and this is often offset with a few designer style chairs to give a contemporary look.

If you would like impartial advice on your office furniture, give us a call. We are fully independent and so not tied to any single supplier or product range and so can recommend the best possible solution for your needs.