Explore the latest projects from the UK’s commercial interiors industry, featuring the best of workspace, hospitality, residential and public sectors.

An elegant, luxe workspace for Capital Sprints

The DSGN Studio has developed two schemes in one for the investment and advisory company, using artwork and sculptural elements to create a minimal, quietly confident space.

22/09/2020 5 min read

Interviews, opinions and profiles from industry experts

Creating a workplace that supports mental health: Rob Stephenson

The physical workplace is, for many people, a big part of what keeps people well, says the InsideOut founder.

22/09/2020 8 min read

Key industry articles and insights looking at the latest news from the world of commercial interior design

Schools back? How COVID-19 is affecting education property

The chaos surrounding A-level grading and university admissions in late August crowned a chaotic year for the UK’s higher education sector, David Thame considers.

22/09/2020 5 min read

Discover the latest and most innovative products curated by Mix Interiors.

New: Debut from Svensson

Marking the beginning of a new era for Svensson, Debut is manufactured from recycled ramie which is woven together with a wool mixture, merging together to create something different from a distance.

15/09/2020 2 min read

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Designing for people not pandemic: Tony Antoniou, Rainbow

Next up in our series is Tony Antoniou, Managing Director at Rainbow and Partner at workplace analytics experts Yowse.

01/09/2020 5 min read
Editor’s note: This article is part of a series of opinions on designing for people, not pandemic. Read more on the issues and challenges the industry is facing due to Covid-19.
For years now we’ve spoken with leading designers and end users about putting people at the heart of workplace design – so is there a danger that this will be thrown out of the window as businesses consider how to re-address their workspaces in light of the pandemic?
Is there also a danger that company ethos and culture (think sustainability, wellbeing etc) will be discarded in an effort to make spaces safe and suitable for people to return?
Is there a solution – or a series of solutions – that can help businesses ‘have it all’ – to allow their people to work safely, together, while not forgoing their company culture and beliefs? We believe there are – and we know the very people who can provide the answers.
Next up in the series is Tony Antoniou, Managing Director of Rainbow and Partner at workplace analytics experts Yowse.

Office furniture has been my industry for 33 years and I’ve witnessed some huge changes – but none quite compare to the current climate.

Over the past two months I’ve had conversations with business owners, manufacturers, clients and designers about the changes and their impacts on the post-C19 lockdown workplace. Each concluded that there will always be a need for an office. After all, it’s the place where ideas happen, the company’s soul is forged, friendships are formed, problems (business and personal) are discussed, where clients visit, decisions are made, where loyalty and trust is established. It’s where people notice if anyone’s feeling out-of-sorts and needs help or support. How can any of these things be achieved if everyone’s at home?

The overriding feeling from my conversations, and my own belief, is that the long-term changes will be very positive. The offices that emerge from this will be great places to work and be even more people-centric. As I’ve said for years, companies who look after their people will be the ones who thrive; something that’s more relevant than ever.

The biggest change resulting from the lockdown will be the uptake on homeworking. The technology has been around for years, but the stumbling block was always trust. However, lockdown overcame this immediately; there was no time for what ifs. Everyone that could, simply had to work from home, there was no alternative – and it turned out well for most.

Whilst the lockdown has shown that homeworking is viable, for a huge amount of people it’s also made them realise how much they miss their office. Therefore, if the offices can be made even better, it’ll have a very positive effect on everyone.

There have been such positive steps that it’s a shame this progress has been ignored in order to rush out products that will only be used for a short while.

At Yowse, we collate data from workplaces to show what occupancy is like throughout the day during a set period – normally four weeks. From this, we discovered that offices already have an abundance of empty desks (an average of 30-50%) so if homeworking becomes more popular (even if it’s only one day a week for each person), there would be a reduction of a further 20% occupancy. This kind of data is vital for any company looking to adapt their workspace as it provides a good indication of the opportunities available for creating a fantastic new office.

The biggest changes won’t be because of new products. There’s been a lot of investment in product development over the past few years; much of it quite proactive in terms of use and design, and these will be excellent for the new offices going forward. Right now though we’re witnessing a lot of reactive product designs, especially regarding screens that separate people and spaces.

Not only that – they’re also produced with materials that aren’t easily recycled. This is disappointing considering the progress that’s been made. This includes manufacturers using FSC certified wood, or metals and other components made from environmentally friendly sources like fishnets and plastic bottle caps. Many also ensure that once the product’s life has expired, they’re easily recycled. These have been such positive steps that it’s a shame this progress has been ignored in order to rush out products that will only be used for a short while.

The real opportunity going forward is for interior designers to create amazing spaces that cater to the post-lockdown requirements. There will be no need to have a workstation for everyone – so removing some will be the first step of the metamorphosis. The reduction in people also helps provide social distancing and subsequently gives designers a canvas to create something incredible.

However, the space will need to be even more sociable. Whilst this seems strange at the moment, people still need interaction, especially for those that take up homeworking as they’ll want to catch up with colleagues. This must be encouraged by businesses, as these places are where people bond and the company’s culture forms.

This leads into the issue of wellbeing and, as lockdown has shown us, there will be a need for an increased awareness of people’s physical and mental wellbeing. Spaces should be allocated where mental wellbeing can be considered, nurtured and looked after. Office hours will also need to be reconsidered as part of the issue of wellbeing as many people won’t want to travel during peak-time.

Outdoor spaces should also be utilised. Rainbow is working with clients to make these more practical, so they’re not just for eating lunch or having coffee, but also to hold meetings and presentations. The amazing weather has probably helped people consider this – but whatever the driver, it makes complete sense.

I really hope that companies take this opportunity to engage with an interior designer or design company to create a place where social distancing can be incorporated, and create spaces that cater for all types of work, be it concentrating, collaborating, video conferencing, meeting formally or informally, or even socially. Most importantly, it needs to be a place where people enjoy being and look forward to visiting. The reward for the people and the company will be very worthwhile.

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