Office style should make good impression on customers

First impressions are key when doing business. The areas that clients or customers see should be considered first when considering an office makeover.

"When you decide to renovate your office, you can start small by choosing an important area like the reception space or conference room and putting your renovation budget there," said Colleen Baader, creative director for Rieke Office Interiors of Elgin.

"First impressions are very important, so companies need to look well-maintained and inviting, including everything from the landscaping around the front door, to the walkway signage, to the reception area. Curb appeal is just as important with a company as it is with a home," she explained.

If you don't have much of a budget for improvements, consider replacing the carpet, repainting the walls and replacing the acoustic ceiling tiles and bad fluorescent lights, Baader suggests.

"Believe it or not, you can make the biggest impact by replacing those 1980s ceiling tiles and the bad fluorescent lights. They can just kill a space," she explained. "There are new direct/indirect LED ceiling lights which offer a clean light spread and are not expensive, so I would add those. I would also replace the old two-foot by four-foot acoustic ceiling tiles with more modern two-foot by two-foot Armstrong 'Second Look' tiles which can fit in an existing ceiling grid and give a totally modern look."

Once you have made these basic changes, Baader suggests that companies gradually make other improvements to bring their office up to date.

Today's updated offices feature gray and white for a sleek look. The warm tans which were popular in the past have all but disappeared.

"It all began with Apple and their white and gray monitors. People liked those and keyed off them for their cars and in their homes and offices. In addition, these cooler tones reflect LED light better in large workspaces where there aren't a lot of windows, whereas beige walls absorb the light," Baader said.

The grays are not the cold, sterile grays of hospitals, but rather happy, medium grays of the silvers seen on today's automobiles and the brushed nickel which is popular for plumbing and lighting fixtures.

"People spend a lot of time in their offices, so you want them to be comfortable. You don't want them to have to work in a dark, dreary office. So we advise our clients to choose cool, comforting tones which relax people and foster collaboration," she added.

The furniture you choose when you replace your outdated furniture depends on the age of your workforce, Baader said. If you have a mixture of ages, you probably want to choose desks with dark walnut wood laminate on the sides and white laminate tops. If, on the other hand, you employ primarily millennials, workstations that are entirely made of sleek white or gray laminate are probably the correct choice.

"Everyone is moving away from natural wood desks because of the cost and also the fact that they are not as durable as laminate. I am not talking about the cheesy laminate furniture that was sold in the 1980s. Today's laminate is really great. The wood grain laminate even has a texture to it and really seems just like real wood and it is much less expensive," she said.

Once you have chosen the color scheme for your furniture, you need to add pops of color through accent walls and fabric tack boards. Often, according to Baader, these tie into the company logo color. Shades of bright blue, orange and lime green are especially popular.

"These fabric boards are inexpensive and easily swappable. So if you want to change them out for a new look in five years, you can easily and inexpensively do that," she stated.

As for furniture configuration and floor plan design, Baader said that she generally arranges workspace groupings in clusters along the perimeter of rooms so that there is ready access to power and data hookups and floors don't have to be cored to bring those services to workspaces in the center of large rooms. But she uses lower walls to separate the workspaces from one another in order to encourage collaboration. She also tries to make sure that traffic hallways between workspaces are a minimum of five feet wide.

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