Better by design

A firm favourite of mine, The Great Interior Design Challenge is back on the BBC. I enjoy watching the ‘wannabe’ interior designers attempt to satisfy high expectations of both homeowners and judges, whilst working to a tight budget. The end results are, in the main, pleasing and a definite improvement on the original décor and room layouts. Occasionally though, they surpasses all expectations and homeowners are reduced to tears, or rendered speechless. I have noticed that these successes have occurred when a number of factors have come together:

  • firstly the designer has plenty of skill and flair – i.e. a good sense of colour, feel for materials, sound overall design concept;
  • secondly they have the ability to listen carefully and understand the client brief; they ‘get’ the client’s personality and lifestyle and are able to create bespoke life enhancing solutions; and l
  • finally they are responsive to the specific character and style of the property.

When all of these elements combine outstanding results are achieved.

To my mind, the recipe for successful commercial office interiors also involves these key ingredients.

There can be no doubt that corporate expectations of workplace design and fit-out are rising and the pressure placed on delivery teams is being ratcheted up. I recently attended a thought provoking half-day NLA conference entitled ‘What do commercial occupiers want from the London market?’ Many speakers emphasised that commercial occupiers now attach far greater importance to bespoke design solutions which enable them to gain business advantage from their space. Knowledge and awareness of what great design can achieve is growing. Appetite is increasing for smaller but more versatile, better quality workspace that is designed to enhance and facilitate the lives of the people working there. Themes of talent retention, staff wellbeing, good health, improved motivation and productivity are now of central concern to businesses, as reflected in recent JLL thought leadership papers: Forget the workplace… for now and Health, wellbeing and productivity in offices: the next chapter for green building.


Although corporate ambition for tailored design solutions is on the up, cost containment naturally will remain a consideration. Businesses might be prepared to selectively invest more but CFOs will need to be fully convinced of the investment return in terms of lower long term running costs or increased productivity / talent retention. The future challenge for designers and developers will be to meet growing occupier expectations to be ‘better by design’ at affordable cost and to create solutions that will harmoniously support the lives of building inhabitants over a full term of occupancy.

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