In this moment of mixed remote working and physical presence, companies and designers are investigating the formulation of the necessary objects, aware of the fact that products created for the office have to take on a new more domestic, personal appearance, along with new proportions and uses. We talked it over with Gemma Riberti, Head of Interiors - Color, Design and Product Development of the trend forecasting company WGSN.
“The first significant change in the post-pandemic market is that office furniture companies, mostly operating b2b, have to create direct connections to the final client, not just in terms of e-commerce but also with reference to current needs, considering the fact that their products are entering the homes of individuals. There is an accent on personalization, to make consumers feel like part of the selection process, included and heeded. This is not just about the 'domestication’ of the office, a phenomenon already in progress for several years now, which has led to the gradual unification of collections for the home and office. It is more like a change of mentality.”
Office furnishings are getting homey. “The process involves specific uses of colors and textures. The big names are investing in the tactile aspects, creating partnerships with textile makers, to offer a wider range of personalization possibilities in terms of hues, finishes and materials. The prints and colors are livelier, unusual for the office sector. The proportions of desks and seating get smaller, to adapt to the spaces of the home, and the pieces are lighter, to facilitate movement from room to room. We can observe unprecedented softness in the padding, an almost crafted ‘feel’ and workmanship in fabrics, which in the case of seating often take on other functions, not just for work, so the covers have to be easily removable and washable. These functional implementations stem from new requirements.”
Versatility. “Lightness and flexibility are the basic characteristics of small storage cabinets that are useful for filing papers, for example, but also as bedside units. Drawers, foldaway worktops and wiring channels appear in domestic tables, designed for quick clearing of devices from the top. The ability to rapidly change the setting is a must, not only because not all of us have the privilege of a separate room for working, so we often need to literally get away from our labors. Versatility can also be seen in technical lighting solutions, with the rising use of portable and rechargeable table lamps, eliminating the problem of electrical outlets. And the light is warm, replicating the temperature of natural lighting.”
From the emergency to new design queries. “After a full year, and given the continued reliance on smart working, people are investing in more thoroughly honed and efficient products of high quality. Products that work well in the home and can remain on view, in stylistic tune with the rest of the environment. For this reason, on the part of companies we are seeing a major focus on quality, durability, even the resistance to wear of materials and fabrics, involved in this change of lifestyle and the new necessities of safety and hygiene. Wood is favored for the structures, due to its warmth and natural image, and because it improves with age, blending in with furnishings acquired in the past. If the structures are in metal, in most cases they are powder or rubber coated, which ‘warms them up’ and attenuates the industrial image.”
Portability. “To work from any location, you have to set aside areas in which to create a private space. Therefore we are seeing a return to mobile partitions or divider screens, previously a rather obsolete type, but one that has now been reinterpreted with crafted wood and fabrics, to create refined, far from banal constructions. New terms have also been invented, such as 'shoffice' – meaning a ‘garden shed-office’ – or ‘cloffice’ – a closet office, when a wardrobe becomes a mini-office that can be closed.”
Outdoor. “Open-air spaces are now perceived as extensions of the home, for domestic functions as well as work. Some interesting suggestions have been advanced for their design: from biophilia to influence physical and mental wellbeing, to year-round outdoor living. Apart from collections that also enable outdoor working, we are witnessing a new 'styling' of furnishings and electronic devices which, for example, become lighter and are made to cope with the glare of natural sunlight.”
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