The modern office doesn't have to feel cold or formal. In fact, as the trends showed at NeoCon 2018, we're leaning toward warmer office spaces and layouts that have a residential feel to them, or at least provide more layers of comfort.

Although your sea of modern workstations won't be infused with meaning or a fascinating back story, story-driven office furniture pieces can be a great conversation starter for visitors, potential employees and the media. Today, the office and its amenities should be notable, and a great story about a certain conference table or entryway lighting can help achieve that.

For example, Freedom, a Kansas City-based company specializing in corporate, government and education industry furniture and design, uses signature pieces strategically around their 7,000 square foot office space to continue inspiration and add focal points. They have a hammock from Brazil, and the wooden bar countertop came from a tree on a the UMKC campus. The team makes use of five of the former Westport post office's original doors, which were removed from the building's exterior to install a glass storefront. They also showcase a large work of art created by the artist that inhabited their office space prior to their company. It sits prominently in their lounge area and can be seen from all angles.

So what are some ways in which you can blend story-driven, unique pieces in with your commercial office space so it still appears professional and streamlined? Here are our recommendations:

  1. One single large piece over several small pieces. Choose a unique and one-of-a-kind conference table, reception desk, entryway painting, or employee lounge tiered bar instead of trying to fit too many mismatched pieces into one smaller room. This singular piece will draw the eye, have the focus and anchor of the layout, and prompt a conversation.
  2. Mix bold colors with nature-inspired surfaces. A large yellow handcrafted lamp that was passed down through generations to the CEO will look beautiful next to a natural wood wall or surrounded by fresh plants.
  3. Encourage employees to bring in one signature piece each for their dedicated workstations. Or have a contribution day where employees can "loan" their favorite works of art to the office during their time of employment, in a similar fashion to a museum or gallery.
  4. A little quirk leaves a big impression. By displaying a strange clock, out-of-place storage unit like a school locker, or a set of sculptures in the middle of the cafeteria can remind employees and visitors of your brand's originality.

The key to a great story-driven piece of furniture or office accessory is that it ties back into the brand's values or origin story in some way. Make sure that all of your pieces connect to your company, its culture and its people.

Published on: Jul 26, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.