How to Decorate a Modern Office Space
Savvy designer strategies for creating a comfortable and stylish work environment
A well-designed modern office is more than just a great-looking place to work — it's an essential marketing tool, telegraphing a company's brand identity to anyone who walks in.
"It helps attract and retain quality employees," says Kriste Michelini, a San Francisco Bay Area-based interior designer. "When employees feel good coming to work, they are proud of their environment, and they are more productive. It really can affect the organization's overall morale and well-being." Michelini's expertise in modern office furniture is evident in the many commercial office spaces she's designed in Northern California. She shares modern office lighting ideas, key considerations when outfitting a commercial work space, the critical role stacking chairs play and what the future holds for your desk (answer: a built-in treadmill).
YLiving: What are the most important considerations in decorating a modern office space?
Kriste Michelini: It's important to understand the culture behind the organization. What makes it tick, how does it operate, what is its mission statement? A designer also needs to understand the specific needs within the departments. For example, marketing may require more open, collaborative spaces, whereas accounting needs more privacy. When you address a company's needs while shaping an aesthetic that reflects their brand, you create a successful workspace that resonates with employees, management, and clients.
YV: How do you select modern office chairs for an entryway?
KM: When you walk into a commercial office, the entry area sets the tone for the company. It's like a foyer in your own home — it's about putting your best foot forward and making a good first impression. Think about what you want to say about your brand to your potential clients, vendors, and employees. You definitely want people to feel invited as well as comfortable. There should be a place for people to sit down to wait if need be. The Repos Chair paired with the colorful Kalahari Boudeaux rug from Missoni would work well. The Tuxedo Bench is low and elegant and perfect for a more sophisticated setting.
YV: What are your suggestions for modern office furniture in communal work areas?
KM: You want the furniture to take up minimal visual space to keep it light and airy and be easily rearranged based on how many people are using the space. You could do a grouping of Amoeba chairs with a few low Saarinen side tables anchored with a rug or FLOR tiles.
YV: What roles can stacking chairs play in a modern office space?
KM: These are great when you need flexibility in the workspace — for example, to conduct trainings, seminars, and large meetings. They save room, are comfortable, and can do double duty if you need to pull them into a conference room or the cafeteria. The Caper chair is a light, clean design that comes in great colors — a nice way to introduce color into a neutral space. They're easy to move and can be set up to create row seating in a larger room. The perforated holes in the seat and back help keep the user cool. Another good stacking chair is the Spark chair, a comfortable, colorful, and durable design that can be used indoors and out.
YV: What modern office chair and lamp combination do you think works really well, and explain how you'd use it and why.
KM: The EYHOV Rise Desk is perfect when you need to keep your files and cords hidden, organized, and off the ground. I would pair it with the Pablo Pixo Table lamp because it is sleek and designed for movement. It also adds vibrant color and personality into a space. These I'd put with the Sayl work chair, a new classic for the office.
I'd use the Groupwork Flip Top Table in a training room; the wheels would come in handy, allowing it to move into various configurations. I would recommend the Maui soft armless chair. This chair has some nice upholstered detail to complement the simplicity of the table, and simple legs that offset the wheels on the table.
The Float Height Adjustable Desk is clean and simple and gives you the flexibility to work sitting or standing. It would be perfect in a modern setting paired with the elegant LaPalma Pass armchair, which is upholstered and almost cocoons the occupant. I would add the classic Tolomeo table lamp to round it all out — a very handsome trio.
YV: Stand-up work stools are a rising trend. What's great about this, and can you suggest one or two that you think would work well at a stand-up work station?
KM: People get tired of sitting in a chair all day; it's much easier on your back to be at a stand up workstation. The Setu is an extremely comfortable stool that seems to always win our clients' "sit tests." Steelcase's Sit-to-Walkstation can be moved from a seated position to a standing or walking position. I want this for my own studio. How great to walk on a treadmill while getting work done!
YV: Soundproofing is an important consideration in an office space. What is your favored approach to acoustic control?
KM: Acoustic control is critical in an open floor plan. There are amazing products on the market that can help absorb sound as well as create additional privacy. The BuzziMe chair is the office equivalent of a wing back chair that can provide a quiet place in a noisy environment. It offers employees a great spot for a private phone call, or you can have a private meeting by placing two of the chairs together.
The Buzzi screen is an amazing tool because it's flexible, absorbs and reduces noise, divides any space, and can also do double duty as a pin board. I like how it can be configured into many lengths just by adding additional panels.
— By Jaime Gillin