After snagging a piping hot espresso from the open-air kitchen, you saunter over and settle in on the soft, brown leather couch, flanked by houseplants and custom art installations. Kicking your feet up on the rustic wooden footstool, it’s time to get to work.

While it may seem that you haven’t left the comforts of your home, this quaint space is just one of the many areas for Dropbox employees to sit back, get comfortable and tackle their daily to-do list.

With the continual blurring of the lines between work and home life, companies are working overtime to make the office feel like a home away from home for employees. This trend is known as the domestication of the workplace, and it is on the rise. At two, we’ve partnered with Dropbox and other companies at the forefront of this, such as Zendesk, Stripe and Square. These forward-thinkers are rejecting age-old office design in favor of comfortable, cozy décor that harkens back to the home and embodies the company culture.

The domestication of the workplace was largely ushered in by the dotcom era, when companies such as Google introduced residential furnishings into the office environment. This shift differed from traditional office design processes by bringing creativity and comfort into office design and providing the opportunity to work with a multitude of manufacturers.

Previously, companies sourced office furniture from a handful of manufacturers, where options were limited and products were expected to last 15 years. Comfort and uniqueness weren’t nearly as valued and creating a homey ambience was not on the radar. Now, due to the growing domestication trend, it’s not uncommon to see sofas, tables and accessories from well-known residential retailers--Restoration Hardware, West Elm, Wayfair and EQ3--in office spaces. 

While the trend lends itself to creating a more eclectic, comfortable space, it also works as a tool for recruitment and retention of employees. Ping-Pong tables and mini fridges don’t cut it as impressive amenities, nowadays. With the evolution of workplace design, cutting-edge companies are elevating their offerings to draw in top recruits and to keep current employees happy by prioritizing creativity and comfort. Custom art installations, themed conference rooms and cozy collaboration spaces are just a few of the design elements that top the must-have list. 

Thanks to laptops, cell phones and tablets, employees have the flexibility to unplug and set up shop just about anywhere. To accommodate, companies are building out dynamic spaces that offer employees the option to choose the space that best fits their needs, while inspiring and enabling them to work. With the heavy emphasis on collaboration and teamwork, these spaces have evolved from classic conference tables and desks to include bleachers, sectional couches and even hammocks! Stripe’s San Francisco office is a great example of the trend, considering it was outfitted, almost exclusively, with residential furniture, with the exception of individual desks. The payment processing company utilized previously overlooked space, including valuable “in-between” space. In one of these spaces, nestled between the staircase and workstations, greenery surrounds a sectional couch. Above, decorative pendant lights hang from the exposed beams. There’s no drab drop tile ceiling or fluorescent lighting in sight, making the space light, bright and airy. Because of these unique touches, it’s nearly impossible to discern whether you’re walking into someone’s home or office. Mission accomplished. 

With that being said, residential furniture does not always provide the function that commercial use requires. For example, a dining table from Restoration Hardware does not have the audio and visual hookups needed to run a conference call. To solve for this, many clients opt for custom pieces that are residential in aesthetics, but are functional in a commercial environment, marrying practicality and warmth to achieve the desired ambience.

As the domestication of the workplace continues to build steam, we can expect to see even more homey details being introduced into the workplace. Although the trend is most closely associated with tech companies, it inevitably will extend to reach a wider array of industries.

After all, home is where the heart is--so why not bring it into the workplace?

Published on: Apr 29, 2015
The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of