Often, when we look back at design trends of the past, we're forced to shake our heads and wonder, "What could we possibly have been thinking?" But it's much harder to spot an out-of-control design idea in the moment.
We all know that lurking out there somewhere are some ideas as misguided as the pink plaid wallpaper and the green-and-mustard tableware showcased in these '70s show homes. And what's worse, such soon-to-be hideous design elements are almost certainly currently disguised as cutting edge, not-to-be missed office innovations.
How can you avoid the modern day equivalent of avocado and burnt orange? The simple answer is to ask an expert, which is just what I did, emailing a handful of experienced office design pros for their take on the most misguided design blunders they see companies committing today. Their responses were remarkably consistent, so consider yourself forewarned that hype has probably far exceeded reality when it comes to these five trends.
1. Reclaimed wood
There's nothing inherently wrong with reclaimed wood, according to Michael Horton, senior project designer at lauckgroup. The problem is that it's so trendy it's popping up in places where it really isn't appropriate.
"There should always be a greater concept and specific rationale behind materials and furniture chosen for a project," says Horton. "For example, the reclaimed wood trend is everywhere right now. While it's certainly the right choice for specific spaces and brands, many times it is the type of trend implemented in the moment, but it does not make sense for the brand and the long-term of longevity of the space."
2. Over-the-top fun
According to almost all the experts who shared their thoughts, many companies have gone too far in the direction of "fun" workspaces. "Climbing, sliding down poles or slides, or anything other than just taking an elevator and walking down stairs is just plain lame. I get it, we want to be playful, but how quickly will that become old?" wonders Scott Lesizza, principal at Workwell Partners.
"It's easy to get caught up in wanting a fun workspace," Horton agrees. "However, it's most important to pay attention to the space employees are actually working in, and what they need to be successful."
Plus, all that "fun" can come across as gimmicky and crowd out any possibility of a space that conveys a company's actual brand. "The vibe is deadened by too much 'stuff' that says 'this is a fun place to work!' It's the people who make the place fun and cool, not the toys," cautions David Branham, director of merchandising at Poppin.
3. Office as dorm room
"All of a sudden, we saw the sanctioned appearance of non-office furniture in the office. Think: lawn furniture, old sofas and chairs," reports Steve Delfino, vice president of corporate marketing and product development at Teknion. Humanizing the office is a great impulse, he allows, but many companies have taken this campus chic look way too far.
"I've seen many workplaces trying to emulate a college-campus vibe. While it makes me feel younger and brings back some good memories, it also makes me wonder whether people are here to work, or are they here to play hacky sack?" complains Lesizza.
4. Standing and walking desks
Sitting is horrible for you, so treadmill desks sounded like a good idea. The only problem, according to Delfino, is that, once installed, mostly nobody actually uses them. "The reason for their existence was very real," he says, but "the treadmill has been replaced with sit-to-stand stand desks, free address offices, and more. All methods of achieving the same goal of having employees change postures and move more throughout the day."
Jeff Miller, vice president of design at Poppin, also notes that "recent studies suggest standing at a desk burns few more calories than sitting" and "people who stand at work compensate with less activity when they get home."
5. Imitating Google
"Enough!" Christopher Blackadder, director at Scott Brownrigg, wants to say to Google-obsessed clients. "Why do people think that a Google-like space is right for them?" he asks. "It is better to build a workspace around your culture rather than someone else's. Also, do you really work that way?"
Would you add any other stupid office design trends to this list?