When planning a commercial project, how do you separate your personal taste from an objective view of the program for the business? This situation has occurred twice in the last year with my practice. Well, there can be blurred lines. There can be design elements that work in both environments. There certainly are offices that mimic residential living rooms – contemporary or traditional – modern or historic, but it should directly relate to the type of business and the brand of that business. What does the space say with regard to conveying the intent of the business?
The selection of materials comes first. The bones of the building – what’s exposed, what’s concealed, flooring, wall treatments, etc…The first project was a medical related business – corporate office for a product line. The neighboring space was a physician’s office and treatment suite. The common space had existing concrete floors. The woman leading the design decisions for the medical corporate offices wanted to continue the concrete into her waiting area and throughout the offices with area rugs in each room. A small-scaled water feature, in the form of a grey box, is located adjacent to the seating and a distressed chest and metal sculpture are also part of the scene. Her selection of chairs were heavy, gold tapestry, over-stuffed and tufted. They were placed around a round table in the center of the room. All I could see was a setting for a Victorian séance. It in no way reflected the clean, crisp, fashionable brand that they had established to represent their rejuvenating medical product line. Rugs invited tripping hazards and the look was in no way speaking the language, of the intent of the business or its brand. It spoke directly of the woman’s home, from which she replicated her eclectic taste in the office.
Next door, nearing completion, the physician’s group was being strong-armed into going the same route with the concrete floors. We love concrete floors in so many applications, but here – in these two spaces, they were existing, did not take the stain well and looked dark and dirty in the final polished presentation – NOT the fresh look of a sleek medical group. Not the finish to convey confidence and cleanliness. Treatment rooms had vinyl flooring for necessary maintenance, corridors and physician’s office had carpeting, but the docs rejected the contrasting finished product in the entry and restrooms and went back to the light tile flooring that was originally specified regaining the professional appearance of the intended design.
Faux wood porcelain boards are a fantastic contribution to the design offerings for both residential and commercial finish materials. Shown here on the exterior of a building by the ocean, the artsy peeled bark variegation of the pattern is striking and makes a commanding design statement.
It is carried through into the interior and back outside on the rear dining patio.
The idea is that a wooden building by a seaside is traditional – this is a stunning twist on that which was once a customary building material revisited with an invincible, high-design version. The use of wood for such a place would have been historically accurate.
The same is true when faux porcelain planks are used on the floors in the produce section of a grocery store – replicating a produce market or barn where fresh produce is collected and sold. Some high-traffic food-service establishments, bars or breweries often want the look of wood floors – to convey a context or scene – but are not durable and therefore not advisable. A home – almost anywhere including the obvious – in the woods or by the shore, with wood flooring might not be practical, but by using the wood planking porcelain, the look is conveyed while the durability and maintenance is made effortless.
Recently an owner wanted the “look.” That sleek modern look of grey porcelain planking. His business was one that dealt with automotive repair and restoration. In evaluating his brand and the nature of the business, real wood floors would never be the material of preference. So to use even a durable, invincible, porcelain version seemed out of place.
Concrete would be more the material of a garage environment. To make a corporate statement, concrete can be dressed-up. Porcelain tiles simulating concrete is an appropriate faux finish option – either way, preferable to creating an interior of grey weathered wooden planks. Watch for the completion of these projects in the coming months.
Adopting the use of materials merely because you like them or they are in vogue is not always the best approach. Consider the context, the intent, the statement materials make – how they “read,” what they say – what they convey.