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What is the defurbishment office design trend all about?

As you know, our team of workspace consultants and interior designers have a keen eye for industry trends and have noticed a new focus on the ‘defurbished’ offices that became synonymous with the Shoreditch tech and creative sectors a couple of years back.

Back up North, in Manchester and Liverpool, we’re noticing yet another wave of growing interest for design schemes which expose and enhance a building’s original features by ditching dated features like suspended ceilings and plastered walls.

Global property company, Savill’s have dubbed the trend ‘corporate to cool’ and now we want to offer our two-pence on the topic…

What is a defurbished office?

As with all office refurbishment and commercial design projects, there really isn’t a prescriptive, one-size-fits-all solution. It really does depend on a whole host of variables such as requirements, time constraints, budget and any existing workplace issues.

That said, the defurbishment trend does come with a certain set of recognisable design features, including:

  • Exposed brick/concrete walls
  • Exposed vents and pipework
  • Original structural features such as pillars and beams
  • Original flooring (i.e. tiles, concrete or wood over carpet for example)
  • High ceilings (as opposed to suspended ceilings)
  • Maximised use of natural light sources over artificial lighting
  • Exposure of steel and metalwork

This type of design also often comes hand-in-hand with open plan spaces and biophilic elements as it lends itself to both the organic natural trend and the industrial, urban aesthetic.

Of course, when creating a workspace design scheme which requires a stripping-back of the existing space, you will most likely need to go back further in the office fit out process. Processes like resurfacing walls, exposing pipes and removing suspended ceilings require more than just surface aesthetic work as they will need to be made safe too.

Why defurbish a workspace?

It might sound a bit silly and it might not seem like the most substantial of commercial design trends on the surface but dig a little deeper and defurbishment does have a number of benefits…

Appeal to the modern workforce

As we have said many times before, your workspace is normally the first physical embodiment of your brand and business that anybody gets to experience. For this reason, it’s important that is makes the right impression.

Upcoming generations entering the workplace are coming to expect modern, inclusive workplaces which abandon tradition in favour of unique identity. Creating that raw, urban aesthetic that defurbishment lends is just one way to turn the heads of young talent.

If you provide employees with somewhere they want to work and enjoy spending time in, this is only going to have a positive impact on other surrounding factors such as:

  • Productivity and motivation
  • Job satisfaction
  • Wellbeing and employee experience

Attract and retain

Making your working environment and company culture (as we know, the two are intrinsically connected) appealing to the talent of today will also contribute towards an improvement in your attraction and retention.

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Maximised use of space

It seems obvious to say but removing suspended ceilings, partitions and raised flooring instantly creates more space. Today, space is as valuable commodity as time and talent for businesses so if you can get more of it without having to relocate then great.

A chance to express your brand identity

Moving away from traditional, corporate design which made uniform offices the norm gives you room to experiment with personalised workspaces and expressing your brand culture and personality through the look and feel of your environment.

A word to the wise…

One thing that is worth keeping in mind when considering the defurbishment trend is that it isn’t necessarily a cheaper, nor quicker option.

As the design process generally tends to involve a more ‘undone’ aesthetic, it’s easy to see how some people would think it might cost less than ‘doing an office up’ with a traditional refurbishment. However, sometimes the cost attached to things like exposing surfaces, removing ceilings and uncovering original flooring can be more expensive.

Cost of a defurb project can only really be determined on a job-by-job basis so we would advise speaking to an expert first. In the meantime, head on over to our blog post on how much an office fit out costs for some initial guidance.

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