The Natural Order of Things in Today’s Office

 

If Covid 19 has not touched your life personally then you probably have found lockdown and the related ‘working from home’ a somewhat relaxing experience. It perhaps has given you a chance to take stock of your life and the world around you in a way that you have not experienced before. It wouldn’t be surprising if you didn’t sometimes take your laptop outside and get a little fresh air while you worked at home, or spent a few hours on the balcony or in the conservatory. Not having to commute each day has given us all a chance to do more walking in the park, in the woods or on the shore or to spend a little more time gardening. As March 2020 turned into April and May and Summer evaporated into Autumn then Winter we all have had more time to notice and enjoy nature’s changes. We witnessed leaves and flowers unfurl fresh and dewy then fall tired and crumpled at the end of their lives and with their coming and going a change in the wildlife around them. As a nation we have become one with nature during this last year and so perhaps it is not surprising that many of us are not so excited about going back to the stuffy air, grey walls, hard surfaces and static shocks of our offices. There is however good news on the horizon. The Pandemic has not only changed us but it has changed the way designers see the future of the modern office.

 

“Adopt the pace of nature. Her secret is patience.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

 

Nature is about shape 

 

There is a general buzz about ‘bringing nature in’, but what does this really mean? Well for one thing we are not talking about installing an obligatory fish tank and a dust collecting cheese plant. No, we are talking about something much more fundamental and organic that flows with the ease of nature throughout the very fibres of our office environment. This also does not necessarily mean that everything we put in our new office has to be natural… although that would undoubtedly make for a very healthy work space. What it means is that we are going to extract from nature, to copy it and study its forms, its colours and shapes to produce an office environment that ‘feels’ more like the outside. This might not be as hard has you think. Nature has a reputation of being ‘random’ but in actuality it is not, it is in fact very mathematical and ordered. The rhythm of natural world beats to the drum of 2-4-6 or 3-5-7. Almost everything in nature is based on these numbers producing spirals, circles, oblongs, hexagons, triangles and a myriad of branching structures in a very fluid way.  As creatures of the natural world, embracing these shapes in your office design can make us all feel more ‘at home’. A spiral staircase, round, wave-edge or hexagonal tables and desks, curved walkways, work areas connected in a branching manner will all mimic the order of the natural world and will subsequently bring calmness and interest into the office environment.

 

 

Nature is about texture

 

The outside world is a tactile one, we love to touch it. The roughness of bark, the softness of fur and the smoothness of stone, these are the textures that we should aim to introduce to our post lockdown world. Wood and bamboo floors, marble and granite surfaces, seagrass and wool carpets are the materials of the modern 2021 office. But, what if your budget or situation does not lend its self to such indulgences? Well, that’s where digital photography comes in to play. There are many, very clever and durable products out there today that are embossed and photographed with natural patterns and textures, fooling even the most experienced eye and hand.  Melamine table tops and LVT flooring both can mimic wood and stone very well. How about mixing it up by choosing both a wood and stone LVT for your floor to delineate different areas in your office space… wouldn’t that be interesting? The idea is to bring the relaxed feeling of nature into our offices, not necessarily the real thing. Of course if your agenda is to go ‘all natural’ then there is a huge amount of choice at your fingertips these days. Tree root coffee and end tables with glass tops are popular items, as are small tree ring tables, natural branching hat stands can take the place of pegs and a mini table top water feature can replace the ‘old school’ fish tank, at the same time adding the soothing sound of moving water. Think rattan as an alternative to plastic and how about gracing the dowdy boardroom with magnificent live edge table? Wow, now you are cooking!

 

Nature is about light 

 

The natural world is as dependent on light as are we. Try and maximize the amount of natural light that enters your work space. You can do this by adding windows and skylights. Plants thrive in light too so bring in some huge potted plants to provide natural screening, add drama and improve the air quality of the room. If you are lucky enough to have a view of a garden, a park or a wild space embrace it by painting the window frames in a soft sage green or brown which will blend with  the view and bring the outside in. Let the light flow, introduce glass walls, doors and work surfaces so the light can infuse the whole office and the world beyond. If you are lacking in natural light then make sure you provide plenty of lighting that is as close to natural light as you can get. There are many lamps that are made from natural wood, clay and rock. Some really attractive ones have bases constructed from little stone cairns and others from pieces of driftwood. In low light situations you can purchase artificial plants and succulents, they are extremely well made these days and fool the eye. Nobody will ever be able to tell!

 

Nature is colour

 

Don’t forget the natural world is not all rock and wood, it’s coral and shells, flowers and leaves and berries. It’s the sky and the sea and the sand. You can harness these colours in your office decor. Buy natural wood blinds but trim them with curtains with natural designs… floral, foliage or animal prints are striking! The same goes for wallpaper. Big patterns are in and a statement wall with a large tropical leaf pattern would blend wonderfully with your plants. Choose rugs and carpets that reflect the patterns of waves, deltas and natural landforms. Pick prints and art work depicting organic shapes and forms. Finally, study the natural world around you and lift the colours you see to transform your walls in soft, muted, wonderful nature based colours.

 

Most of all have fun with your project and it will all fall into place…Naturally!