People generally assume that a business might have interior designers selecting furniture and fabrics, but not everyone knows that outstanding workplaces are carefully mapped out through space planning – an essential step in the interior design process that results in employee productivity and engagement, client retention, and increased creativity and innovation. Space planning is an essential part of the design services that Frost-Barber offers its clients during the furniture specification process. Having interior designers on staff, and partnering with interior designers from around the state, allows us to do much more than sell furniture; we can create work spaces that provide maximum functionality, beautiful design and lots of inspiration. Recently we spoke with one of our own interior designers, Kathryn Miller, and asked her about space planning and why it’s so important.
A Q&A with Kathryn Miller, interior designer at Frost-Barber
Have you always been interested in design?
Yes, I have always loved design! My mom would frequently have on HGTV when I was growing up and I always enjoyed watching them transform spaces and even house hunt. When I got older and realized that design was an actual profession (and not just on TV) I decided to pursue an education and career in it! I graduated from LSU with a Bachelor in Interior Design in 2017 and have been with Frost-Barber for over 2 years.
What do you enjoy most about interior design on a day-to-day basis?
I enjoy the transformation of a space and the creative process that it takes to get to the finished product. I always enjoy a project that allows for some creativity and conversation surrounding each iteration of the design. That is when you are led to the best solution for each client. My favorite part is hearing the client say that the layout we designed is perfect for them!
What are the key issues that space planning can address, and how important is it to have a professional involved in the process?
Space planning is very important in a good design. It lends to the overall flow as well as how occupants feel in the space. It’s crucial to always have an open dialogue with the client about how they wish to use their space, the number of people occupying it, and what activities are taking place. Professional space planners or designers will consider the level of employee engagement, employee health and level of collaboration taking place. The type of industry and business must be taken into consideration. Whether or not the business has areas that will be open and used by the public or by customers is important to consider also. Do spaces need to be multipurpose, flexible or reconfigurable? It’s important to consider the security and privacy certain spaces require. Professional interior designers will also consider the relationship of the spaces to each other and help determine if creating a sequence of spaces makes sense for that particular business. We always like to understand the goals of the organization before getting anything drawn out or ordered.
It is also important to have professionals involved because there are many ADA guidelines that need to be adhered to. A professional will have valuable experience and knowledge which will guarantee all codes are met. For example, furniture height clearances and walkway clearances always must be accounted for in the design so that the space is functional for everyone.
What are some things that can often get overlooked or forgotten about in spaces that aren’t professionally planned out?
Workflow is very important to understand in a busy office or reception setting. In a waiting room chairs can often be too close together with very little aisle-way between them. Functionality of conference rooms and private offices are always very important to the client. Adequate seating, technology, and entertaining space are all things that add to a well designed conference room. Private offices should always have functional storage that fits each occupant, a meeting area and perhaps a comfortable space like a small lounge area to take a break or a phone call away from the desk while still in the office.
How would someone know that they need to have their space professionally planned out? What challenges might they be experiencing?
A company should consider investing in professional space planning and interior design when they want to increase their workforce and increase day to day business and productivity. The comfort, ergonomics and usability of the workplace make a huge difference in the way employees feel about their career and employer. As the number of employees increases, a business will generally need help maximizing their usable space and making it more functional. Also, we often we get clients saying that they have run out of space altogether or need better storage. These are signs that re-working the space is a good idea.
Many business also need professional space planning and design when they are looking to update their work style. They might want to move from a very separated private office setting to a more open plan that encourages more collaboration and socialization. They might want to move from individual desking to benching in order to maximize their space and accomodate more people. They might want to move to a more nomadic work style, where employees can float to different work stations day-to-day based on the type of work they are trying to accomplish that day. They might need to incorporate more media access and install a media wall that will allow for more online collaboration with people who are working remotely.
The office vibe, including furniture, lighting, finishes and color scheme, is another great way to brand your business and attract new employees and clients. A well designed workspace can create an immediate positive first impression that can attract the kind of people you want to work with and do business with. It also shows a willingness on the company’s part to invest in both client and employee satisfaction and happiness.
In the current climate that we are all experiencing, what are environmental workplace changes that are important for people to consider?
3 important things to remember right now are the geometry, density and division of your space. Geometry of how the furniture is arranged, density of how many people are using a space at one time and division of the space using panels, dividers and screens if necessary. We are redesigning communal and ancillary spaces to allow for more social distancing. We are seeing the use of more enclosed “spaces within spaces” like pods, where people can meet in small groups or remove their masks. It’s very important right now to give people choice and control over their environment in order to make them feel safe. Employees need to feel safe in order to do their best work. This is an important time to get a professional involved in your workplace design!