Desk drawers? Check. Lockers? Check. Extra pods for overflow? Increasingly, designers are working storage options into office style. Yes, it's utilitarian, but incorporating shelves, cubbies, or bins can allow an architect a lot of flexibility in shape, style, and color. Vitra Citizen in Weil am Rhein, Germany, included flexible fabric bins for storage into its office design.
Consider it taking cubby holes one step further. Glass-paneled pods are taking the place of cubicles in newly designed offices, as is – gasp – no assigned desk space at all. At Vitra Citizen, workers can choose to sit anywhere for the day, or for the hour. Individual brightly colored nooks allow ducking away with one's laptop. And the stacked-up, layered box look at Pallotta Teamworks in Los Angeles perfectly embodies the trend Marc Kushner refers to as "boxes within boxes."
Despite the proliferation of cube-like solo spaces, a lot of office architecture is moving toward open-feeling central areas. Multi-purpose areas – part lounge, part conference-room, part café – are simple to create. And they can morph into more private spaces when a little seclusion is needed. Check out what architects from FLATarchitects created for the Nije Gritenije foundation: 20 workstations divided by flexible walls in a design that "can be customized and completed by the users."
A dingy couch in the waiting area is not what we mean. This is about making employees – not guests – comfortable. From break rooms to meeting rooms to hallways, comfy chairs and design-conscious couches and ottomans abound. Big River in Richmond, Virginia, chose to perch soft sofas and country-style chairs around its office for a living-room vibe.
It's not just exposed brick anymore. And forget the expensive granite surfaces. Plain wood-grain, natural fibers, walls made of succulent plants, and, heck, even raw concrete, are each great to incorporate. At IPEVO in Taiwan, a "Central Park" is made entirely of dried elements: dried Taiwanese grass lawns as walls and closet doors, recycled camphor trunks and silk foliage as custom "tree table" hybrids.
Forget soundproofing, and forget spending a ton on overhead renovations. Exposed piping, heating, cooling, and, well, whatever's up there, is no longer seen as an eyesore. A coat of white paint should do the trick. Kushner's theory is that people are comfortable today knowing how their building functions – what's making it cool or hot and powering that overhead lamp. Lehrer Architects transformed a crowded 5,400 square foot warehouse into an airy, flexible workspace in 2005, and found no need to mask what was overhead.