‘Resimercial’ design – the blending of residential and commercial design – continues to gain momentum
Words by Cathy Hayward
For years we’ve talked about the blurring lines between work and home and this has accelerated recently as millennials rise to leadership positions and adopt more informal office cultures. As people start to come back to the office after a period of working from home thanks to the coronavirus outbreak, these lines will be more blurred than ever before. The trend of deformalising offices is now key to ensuring stress-free environments, featuring less-structured areas with softer designs and non-corporate styles, which can blur the boundaries between work and life, says Jason Holmes, head of design textiles at Forbo Flooring Systems.
‘The choice of furniture, surface decoration and design layout of an office can contribute to creating a less formal and relaxed environment, and floor coverings play an important role in being able to adapt to these spaces.’
People want to see a hybrid blend between comfort and practical, says Angela Love, director at Active Workplace Solutions: ‘The idea of resimercial caters to this and flooring is very much part of this movement.’
'Grey carpets used to be the ubiquitous choice for office flooring but this domestication has not only seen a change in colour and textures but entirely new flooring choices', she says.
Texture and colour have a key role to play in creating a more homely feel. Offices are moving away from traditional grey carpets and linear, hard geometric styles and instead moving towards softer and warmer, more domestic tones
Traditionally offices were carpeted because of their acoustic properties, but thanks to the proliferation of acoustic panels there’s been an increase in the use of timber and poured concrete floors and other hard flooring throughout offices, says Natasha Christian, managing director at CMI Workplace: ‘Carpet products are also evolving with woven finishes and pile heights creating texture, giving a less formal finish to offices.’
Andrew Sadler, specifications sector manager at CTD Architectural Tiles, has noticed porcelain being specified over and above stone, carpet and vinyl due to its design, sustainability, durability and technical performance, specifically in relation to slip resistance. ‘Especially popular at the moment is the resurgence in encaustic/patterned tiles, used as a zoning tool for break and lunch areas,’ he says. Love concurs: ‘We’re seeing less concrete and polished bland surfaces, and instead witnessing an increase in woods, carpets and painted materials.’
Texture and colour have a key role to play in creating a more homely feel. Offices are moving away from traditional grey carpets and linear, hard geometric styles towards softer and warmer, more domestic tones, says Holmes at Forbo: ‘The patterning is more abstract, and shapes are softer and less defined. And as colour becomes softer and more naturally inspired, there is a greater focus on earth tones and nature-inspired hues, which underline the organic trend.’ It’s not just the flooring materials themselves, but how they’re used that reflects this domestication, says British Institute of Interior Design council member May Fawzy from MF Design Studio: ‘We’ve introduced more domestic laying patterns for timber flooring such as the chevron and herringbone.’ While timber can be sometimes technically challenging due to floor levels or accessibility issues, luxury vinyl tiles (LVT) have become a good alternative. LVT replicates the look of the timber and offers domestic patterns such as the double herringbone, basket weave, pleat, chevron and many others.
Love agrees. The advancements in vinyl means it’s a real contender in the commercial workplace of today, she says. ‘You would be hard-pushed to tell the difference between vinyl and real wooden or stone floors. It’s durable, easy to maintain and less expensive to install. It also comes in a wide array of colours and patterns, which are being used to help to create the desired “home-from-home” space.
There’s a distinctly kitchen table feel about Zebra Technologies’ office, which uses Forbo’s Tessera Layout carpet tiles and Allura Flex luxury vinyl tiles. Image Credit: Oliver Pohlmann
Perhaps it’s a bright coloured vinyl for a breakout space that looks like your kitchen at home or something more subtle like a warm carpet for your boardroom that’s more reminiscent of a sitting room. We are certainly seeing customers chucking out the old blue/grey tiles en masse in favour of these alternatives.’
But there are downsides to this domestication to office flooring. The speed of the fit-out process may be slightly longer, says Sadler at CTD Architectural Tiles. Some products can be more difficult to clean and maintain, such as rugs, while others – wooden floors and poured concrete – more hard-wearing and easier to clean. If carpets are replaced by hard surfaces and acoustics not considered either through wall or ceiling panels or some acoustic LVT, then noise can also be an issue.
At the same time, an office space that is too casual or too open might not work for everyone, says Holmes: ‘Someone working with intricate data, for example, might need a quieter or private space so they aren’t interrupted or distracted, therefore noise in open-plan environments can make concentration difficult.’
The lines between home, office, hotel and coffee shop are going to be increasingly blurred, he adds. ‘For example, it wouldn’t be uncommon to see a rug insert used in an office space, as well as in a boutique hotel or, as another example, a coffee shop in the reception of a large commercial office. We will also see workspaces be designed to look and feel like places where people spend their free time, such as hotels and coffee shops, therefore we will increasingly encounter office areas designed to reflect these spaces, blurring the boundaries further.’
That ‘second blurring’ is something Gurvinder Khurana, director and co-founder of workplace specialists Align, is also witnessing: ‘That desire to replicate the feel of hotels has increased ever since hotels began to offer co-working as a way to increase daytime revenue from their public areas.
Offices have begun to fight back, even on Cat A developer fit-out projects. We’re seeing a demand for more obviously ‘cool’ environments, featuring polished concrete and resin floors, but also more considered and warmed-up use of colour and texture when adding rugs, tiling or carpets on top.’ The tired old grey carpet tile’s days are numbered.