Fashionable flooring

Human-centred design isn’t a new concept, but with a growing body of research highlighting its important role in boosting workplace productivity, it has become a key consideration for architects and interior designers, writes Laura Light, Interface Concept Design Team Leader.

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rguably, the benchmark of a successful office space nowadays is how it meets the wants and needs of end-users. Naturally, this has had a significant impact on the flooring trends we’ve seen emerge in 2018, and it will continue to do so throughout 2019.

However, creating a space which is optimised to promote employee wellbeing involves much more than simply removing barriers, such as relocating a noisy printer or replacing uncomfortable seating. There are significant opportunities to drive positive improvements in productivity and performance by focusing not only on reducing the negative but also by actively creating positive and inspiring spaces.

Inevitably, this is a trend that business leaders are tuning in to and means they are under increasing pressure to provide ‘experience-driven’ spaces which are also flexible, adaptable and nurture creativity. This might involve having a meditation area, coffee bar or an area for collaborative working – but the point is that we now require the office space to act as a multipurpose environment.

How this works in practice when it comes to design all hinges on the key concept of flexibility. We’ve seen a real move this year towards using flooring to create different zones which fulfil different functions. As a concept design team, we are getting more involved in coworking and learning spaces which require more diverse landscapes across the floor. This can be achieved by mixing colours and textures and smoothly transitioning from hard to soft flooring.

Puzzling shapes

Interconnected geometric shapes within flooring provide one way of creating these diverse patterns and are a great way of catching a person’s attention as they walk in a room. The beauty of these shapes, which we’ve seen more and more of this year, is that they can be used across a small area to mark out a breakout or lunch space, or they can be used more widely to create bold, dramatic patterns that really make a room stand out. They also bring an additional dimension to flooring, elevating it from a flat surface to something much more engaging and interesting.

Perfect imperfections

However, this bold approach isn’t for everyone. As humans, we’re naturally drawn to the imperfections we find in the world around us. In order to translate this into flooring design, we’ve seen an increase in the use of artisan and handmade products which offer a variety of textures and patterns. These surfaces are more tactile and create a sense of warmth and homeliness in a space which could otherwise appear cold and clinical. By mixing these subtle textures, you can also create patterns within a floor to demarcate different zones and areas within a building which have different uses.

Colour is key

No analysis of trends would be complete without a delve into the world of colour. This year we’ve seen real variety, ranging from monochrome contrasts to muted tones and faded colour flow. Using a monochromatic scheme allows businesses to add contrast to a space, while maintaining an overall air of simplicity and calm.

This minimalist approach can also be achieved by toning down the colour palette and opting for something more low-key.

Each year, there are distinct influences when it comes to colour trends. A number of big brands will announce their ‘colours of the year’, which interiors will then be shaped around, and magazines will curate collections of furniture, fabrics and flooring which provide inspiration for future trends.

Of course, these colours can also be used in a very different way, and next year we expect to see even more deliberate clashing of colours and textures to create engaging and inspiring spaces.

Building on biophilic design

Finally, there’s one key trend which just isn’t going away, and we expect it to continue to grow in 2019 – and that is biophilic design. This takes us back to the need to create spaces which really benefit end-users, and that applies across the board to offices, hotels, restaurants and, of course, our homes. At Interface, we’ve championed biophilic design for a long time and strongly believe in the health and wellbeing benefits of reconnecting people with nature through design. Although the principles remain the same, the way it is being translated into spaces is evolving. For example, we are seeing natural patterns being used on a larger scale, with enhanced colours and integrated technology. The true impact of this approach will be quantified for the first time through BRE’s Biophilic Office research project which is well underway and due to be completed in 2020. There’s no question that biophilic design is here to stay.

One thing is certainly clear from the trends we’ve seen emerging this year and those that will continue to develop throughout 2019; they are focused on people. Without considering the impact of colours, patterns, textures and light on people, a designer will struggle to create a positive space which makes end-users happier and healthier.

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