Island workstations, smart appliances, accessible cabinets, touch faucets, lighting innovations—the list goes on and on for what’s new in kitchen design! Eric McRoberts and Jessica Jack attended this year’s Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS) to see the latest innovations and products that manufacturers are featuring, especially since their top picks are typically based on consumer demands, color trends and emerging technologies. The following are a few of our favorite concepts which can be applied to kitchens of any size.
Physical workspace is an important, often overlooked, component of employee satisfaction – not only for recruitment of new employees, but also for maintaining your existing workforce. The evolution of the WELL Building Standard reflects growing awareness and interest in creating healthy workspaces that promote employee engagement, productivity, health and well-being. Launched in 2014 by a former Wall Street veteran, Paul Scalia, WELL originated to promote a healthier version of the modern office.
Breakfast bars are the perfect complement to today’s popular open floor plans by allowing for easy interactions and casual gatherings. Whether considered a breakfast bar, island or peninsula, this extension of cabinets, countertop and sometimes sink or appliances, serves as a visual foil between the kitchen and other living spaces while maintaining a sense of openness. This kitchen workhorse also provides much needed storage and counter space in what is arguably the busiest room in the house from both a functional and social standpoint. And of course, the breakfast bar serves as an additional eating area, particularly for quick and casual meals – like breakfast!
Since our team works with a lot of senior living communities and college campuses, we are frequently challenged to provide design solutions to make individual residences “live larger” than they really are. Incorporating ample storage is critical to achieving this goal. Finding the right storage solutions is particularly of interest this time of the year when many of us strive to declutter living spaces in our homes. There are so many options out there, it can sometimes be overwhelming, but here are a few guidelines we have developed for these critical functional spaces.
As we approach the time of year when baking and family dinners are a priority, let’s take a look at the epicenter of activity – the kitchen. Once relegated to function behind the scenes, the kitchen has benefited greatly from today’s open concept floor plans. Kitchens are now a gathering hub, used for both cooking and entertainment. Even if you won’t be hosting any family dinners or consider yourself more of an eater than a chef, don’t overlook the importance of melding form and function to create an appealing and accessible space you will likely use several times a day every day.
Color Trends: When it comes to color, today’s cabinet selections represent opposite ends of the spectrum. White cabinets are still popular and pair nicely with today’s dark wood flooring options. We have found some great ceramic tile and vinyl options that provide the look of wood but easier maintenance and durability, particularly for commercial applications. In recent years, darker wood cabinets in natural cherry, walnut or mahogany and dark stains like espresso and clove, have become increasingly popular. These are often paired with white countertops and lighter flooring selections.
Do your reception area and lobby create a positive first impression that reinforces your organization’s brand? From the moment they arrive, people start making assumptions about your business and the products or services you offer. There is no one-size-fits all solution, since the best solutions are unique to your brand, location and profession. (Check out these unique office lobbies at The SquareFoot Blog that reflect the brands of the companies they represent.) However, there are basic rules that apply to every lobby space, regardless of your organization’s business focus.
MAKE IT A POSITIVE EXPERIENCE: You want to create a lasting impression, but make sure it’s a good one. This starts with the basics of making the front door easy to find and then providing a clear indication of where to go once inside. Have you ever gone into a restaurant and been forced to pause in the foyer unsure of where to go next? We’re all about creating a “wow”, but the first priority must be to make everyone feel comfortable and welcome as soon as they open your front door.
YOU ARE INVITED: Create an open, inviting and fully accessible experience. Seating areas should feel intimate, but avoid cluttered or segmented vignettes that compromise circulation and visual access to other spaces. Optimally the lobby should provide views to adjacent areas to help with wayfinding and reinforce a sense of positive energy and hospitality. In our office, a gallery featuring local artists provides a nice transition space between the lobby and work areas.
HOW MAY WE HELP YOU? The front desk should emulate hospitality venues with the visible functionality of a concierge desk rather than an office work station. Table height is preferred. Any equipment should be screened. Think respectful, welcoming gesture versus imposing barrier.
THE QUEST TO IMPRESS: Create a focal point (like our before/after example below) that reflects your organization’s brand and typically is not the front desk. This could be a fireplace, water feature, distinctive artwork or even a vase of fresh flowers. If you opt for flowers, just be sure someone has responsibility for keeping them looking fresh.
LIGHTING THE WAY: Light levels should adapt to avoid glare issues when entering or exiting the building. Maximize natural light and outdoor views whenever possible. Decorative lighting can be a simple, inexpensive solution to easily adjust light levels throughout the day and reinforce your design style.
BRAND LOYALTY: The lobby should define your organization’s brand; with updated furnishings, finishes and accessories. If the physical setting of your lobby conflicts with your brand or lacks impact, then the consumer experience is one of confusion and uncertainty. Recognizing that this is typically a high traffic area, finish selections should be not only esthetically pleasing, but also durable and easily maintainable to avoid looking dingy or “tired” over time.
This article from Homedit highlights the endless possibilities for reception desks including the Chic and Basic Hotel front desk pictured at left. We also like the recycled books used for a library front desk.
UNIVERSAL DESIGN: Stylish yet functional furniture should accommodate users of varying ages and abilities. This makes a positive impression by signaling your organization’s commitment to serve the needs of all individuals including those with limited mobility.
In today’s marketplace, attracting consumers and meeting their expectations starts with making a positive and lasting first impression. More examples of noteworthy entry spaces can be found at Office Snapshots.
Charlotte Stoudt, IIDA, LEED AP, has 16 years of experience as a commercial interior designer. Her appreciation for the value of a “wow” first impression goes all the way back to the 7th grade when she stepped into the foyer of the Philadelphia Academy of Music. She strives to create that kind of lasting impression for our clients today, for projects large and small.
Based on our project experiences, industry research and, perhaps most importantly, numerous post-occupancy evaluations over the years, we have developed very specific guidelines for our designers to reference when making seating selections. These considerations, designed primarily to support older consumers, can be useful for a wide range of commercial applications such as restaurants, medical office waiting rooms, hotel lobbies and other public spaces.
Embracing the concept of universal design to accommodate individuals with temporarily or permanently reduced abilities often results in more comfortable, inviting and user-friendly spaces for all. For example, our designers primarily specify seating with arms since this makes it easier for an elderly person who may have diminished mobility and upper body strength to get up from the chair. Most people, not just seniors, find chairs with arms easier to “exit.” Likewise, a back recline from the seat of less than 100 degrees is typically comfortable for people of all ages.
The first consideration when selecting seating is the dimensions. Public spaces are not the place for overstuffed or oversized chairs that can be difficult to get in or out of and are often tempting for young children to climb. However, it’s important to note that it is also a good idea to specify 10 to 20% of seating in bariatric sizes which are different from what we’re showing here.
Pull up a Chair
Especially in dining venues where chairs are moved constantly, it’s critical to specify the appropriate glides based on the flooring types. We recommend casters, preferably two in the front, on carpeted surfaces to aid in moving chairs in and out. Cross-support stretchers between legs provide stability and help prevent the legs from loosening due to the constant pushing and pulling by diners.
The seat should be removable for ease of cleaning and made of a firm foam material rather than using down fills. Supportive cushions prevent the bottom of the seat from sinking much lower than the height of the occupant’s knee to maintain comfort and ease of mobility when exiting the chair. There are a wide range of moisture-resistant fabrics available to provide the desired durability and easy care without compromising comfort or aesthetics.
Perhaps the most important universal design consideration when making seating selections is recognizing the one size will never fit all. Therefore a variety of options should be provided whenever possible. For The Harvest Table at Garden Spot Village in New Holland, Pennsylvania we incorporated seven types of seating options. This includes traditional two and four-top tables, a 12-seat farmhouse table, traditional booth seating, banquette seating, circular booths and comfortable “hip-height” bar stools at the ice cream counter. And that’s not even counting the comfortable chairs and sofa by the fireplace leading into The Harvest Tables or the café tables along the main street corridor.
Some good resources that provide more information on this topic are: Beautiful Universal Design: A Visual Guide by Cynthia A. Leibrock and James Evan Terry and Residential Design for Aging in Place by Drue Lawlor and Michael A. Thomas.
Derek Perini, IIDA, Senior Interior Designer, has 17 years of experience providing interior design solutions that support the needs of those with physical challenges. He has also served as an adjunct professor at the Pennsylvania College of Art and Design in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, as a jury member for the Environments for Aging Design Showcase and a grader for the International Interior Design Association, National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) exam.