The Confluence of Workplace and Hospitality Design: an IIDA Panel Discussion at Room & Board

As we near the end of the decade, we look back and understand that the confluence of hospitality and workplace has been the most significant movement in commercial interior design—a decade defined by the breakdown of barriers of design typologies in commercial interiors. And this convergence will likely continue and become more pronounced in the coming years. That was the premise to begin a November panel discussion that I moderated, hosted by Room & Board at its New York showroom.

More than 125 design professionals attended the lively event, with panelists Tim Duffy, Ind. IIDA, national key accounts manager for Room & Board; Annie Lee, IIDA, principal at ENV, and current IIDA New York Chapter president; Krista Ninivaggi, IIDA, founder of K+Co; and Barry Richards, IIDA, principal at Rockwell Group.

Wong Photography

From left to right: Panelists Tim Duffy, Krista Ninivaggi, Annie Lee, John Czarnecki, and Barry Richards. Photo by: Josh Wong Photography

The panelists explored the influence of hospitality design in creating welcoming workplace interiors, whether for established clients or co-working spaces—a work setting that, in many ways, supplies an “amenity base” for employees. With a client’s brand expressed in the interior, workplaces are designed for community and face-to-face interactions as well as productivity and employee wellness. This evolution has changed how designers specify contract furniture, with ancillary furnishings now representing the majority of furniture for a workplace interior.

“In the past, workstations and office desks were considered the main portion of the furniture order defining the overall office mood and character,” Lee said. “More and more, specialized social hubs for eating, meeting, and brainstorming have become the cultural focus, similar to what is found in hotels and restaurants. What was once called ancillary spaces are just as important, if not the main feature.”

“This influence of hospitality is infiltrating the workplace and challenging the notion of how we work,” Ninivaggi says. “Can we improve our relationship with ‘work’ by orchestrating the day-to-day through the built environment?”

More than 125 design professionals filled the Room & Board New York showroom for the event. Photo by: Josh Wong Photography

With a labor market that is still highly competitive, the design of the workplace matters to attract and retain employees—just one important element for building employee loyalty. And somewhat similarly, in hospitality design, a savvy interior that responds to today’s needs helps to build guest loyalty. As technology and travel enable work to be anywhere at any time, the panelists discussed how the design of hospitality interiors is allowing for collaboration and casual productivity within hotels.

“With the help of improved mobility in technology, the workplace can be anywhere,” Ninivaggi said. “Now, the lobbies of hip hotels shift the paradigm from ‘out-of-office social places,’ to the new yet familiar feel of informal ‘collab rooms.’ The business hotel as we knew it is gone, and it has been replaced by the warmly entertaining hotel.”

How is this change influencing furniture specifications for hotels? “Tables are the new sofas. We cannot put enough tables in our projects across the board,” Ninivaggi said. “People tote their technology everywhere and can easily be immersed in their occupations so long as they find a well-placed seat and table to perch.”

Featured image: Speakers listen as Annie Lee, IIDA, describes the influence of hospitality on her workplace projects. Photo by: Josh Wong Photography 

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