Time Travel in Office Design

So pleased to have been asked by Carmen Natschke of The Decorating Diva to be a part of their month long series on what inspires me.

My inspiration was an office project I worked on with the most wonderful creative client. I had so much fun designing his office, music room and music library at a Fairfield County church.

To read more click here The Decorating Diva

How to Design for the Graying Population in Your Office: The Baby Boomers

Baby Boomers, the largest and most well known portion of the American landscape. Born from 1946 to 1964, boomers continue to influence the way we work. Not yet obsolete and, due to the economy, either staying in the workforce or returning in droves, boomers bring special needs and also vast knowledge and experience to your company.

So who are they?

74.6 million strong, boomers are still the economy. They were optimistic and felt that education was their birthright. With a buy now and pay later take on life, they were the wealthiest and most physically fit generation redefining the landscape and developing the suburbs. They expected that life would get better over time and for many years that was the case. They are products of the 60s and the early 70s, the Vietnam War, Watergate and the deaths of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr.

How do Baby Boomers Affect the Design of your Workplace?

Generally in the workplace, Baby Boomers are workaholics and team players who work to live. They value raises and promotions but not feedback. They are collegial, like to meet in person and, with their cell phones at hand, are available to talk with you any time. Boomers value efficient and functional workspaces and meeting rooms as well as acoustic privacy.

When I was working at what I now jokingly call a small little-known insurance company (AIG), my favorite story well illustrates the overview of Baby Boomers in the work place. Design reflected hierarchy in AIG (and most offices in Wall Street). Where you sat, who you sat next to and how your office looked was a major deal even into the nineties when I was there. It was a happy day when I moved from my cubicle next to the copy room (how many times a day do you think I was interrupted to make coffee or fix the copier even though I was the marketing manager!) and moved to a small but private office near human resources.

But on to the story… Hearkening back to the late eighties, the manager in question was recently promoted and given a brand new office.  He entered the newly designed space and promptly called in the designer demanding his ‘fuzzy, wuzzy wall’. Where was it and why was it not installed? Still cracks me up…

The Graying Workplace

You may be more familiar with universal design in the home – kitchens that accomodate wheelchairs, accessible appliances, roll in showers with grab bars etc. Workplaces must also take into account the needs of an aging population. Primary concerns are loss of hearing, loss of vision and loss of agility.

Solutions include:

  • Boomers need to be provided with quiet office spaces where they can concentrate as not only do they have aneed for acoustic privacy but also some have the beginnings of hearing loss.
  • Contrasting colors on flooring and in signage.
  • Accessible bathrooms, hallways (passages wide enough to accommodate side by side wheelchairs), cafes and kitchenettes.
  • For new construction, offices are required to provide accessible bathrooms. Please check with your local  government for public accommodation laws.

Capture their Knowledge and Experience

As boomers are beginning to retire, companies are realizing that they will lose a tremendous resource of knowledge and experience.*

As an employer, it is important to focus on capturing that knowledge via technology and encouraging a knowledge sharing collaborative culture. Design can help via shared offices, collaborative spaces and provision of appropriate updated technology.

I am passionate about bringing my client’s brand to bear through the design of their space. Not only do we improve employees’ productivity and the functionality of your space but we ensure that your clients experience your company’s brand through your office environment.

*For more information on capturing the knowledge of the Baby Boomers, read ‘Surviving the Baby Boomer Exodus’ by Ken Ball and Gina Gotsill.

How to Play at the Office: A Labor Day Tribute

As I rest and relax with my family on the beach, at the pool, with a game or two of mini golf squeezed in, my thoughts meandered to the meaning of Labor Day. Labor Day was declared a federal holiday in 1894 post Industrial Revolution to celebrate the economic and social contributions of workers.

Usually, I post about the way we work, but today in honor of Labor Day, I want to focus on the importance of play. Whether it’s time taken on vacation, a hobby on the weekend or break in the office day, play is more important than many of us think.

If you have forgotten how to play head over to your local playground and watch the children invent all sorts of games. If you are really daring, swing. It’s an unbelievable feeling. As a ‘cure’ for my vertigo, my ENT recommended I swing on my daughter’s playground. It’s very effective and a lot of fun! And your kids will love it if you get out there and play with them.

How we define play may be vastly different. I love to take photographs, listen to music and play scrabble or solitaire and other card games. My perfect day would be spent curled up in a comfortable chair with a cup of tea and a good book. My husband prefers to play guitar or golf to relax.

“I get it; I love it; I want it; Where is it?”

In ‘The Element’, Sir Ken Robinson defines the element as the “meeting point between natural aptitude and personal passion”. Being in the element people feel “more alive, more centered and more vibrant than at any other times”. Sort of sounds like play, doesn’t it? Robinson contends that we are all capable of finding this.

Most of you will know Dr. Paul Samuelson, first American to win the Nobel Prize  in Economics. He states that “As precocious youngster, I had always been good at logical manipulations and puzzle-solving IQ tests. So if economics was made for me, it can be said that I too was made for economics. Never underestimate the vital importance of finding early in life the work that for you is play. This turns possible underachievers into happy warriors.”

Some offices, usually tech, have figured out the importance of play and have offices that encourage it. These are often the offices most interested in attracting Generation Y (add link). These companies recognize that Generation Yers  have a different work style. They won’t be slotted into a traditional 9 to 5 job.

Bastard Store Corporate Office


You Tube

Traction Marketing Group

You Tube

Love to hear from you! Which office idea sparks your imagination?

Have a productive week,

Read more about Sir Ken Robinson, the author of The Element, or Nobel Prize Winner Dr. Paul Samuelson

(photo credits: all photos from my board Office Play on Pinterest, credits are listed on each photo)

Commercial Design and Architecture Inspiration – Shaw Contract Design 2012 Award Winners

Earlier this month, Shaw Contract Group announced the winners of the 2012 ‘design is…’ Contest. Shaw Contract Group “produces carpet, hardwood, laminate, ceramic tile, area rugs and synthetic turf for residential and commercial applications” and is the leader in post consumer recycling.

“Design is merged”

B/S/H/ HUISHOUDAPPARATEN in the Netherlands was designed by D/Dock in a cradle to cradle building. If you are unfamiliar with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), the term cradle to cradle is a “biomimetic approach to the design of products and systems…based on a system of lifecycle development”1. The term was first coined by Walter H. Staedel in the 1970s. The clients’s goal was to house their five main product lines in one building: “one culture, one brand and one vision”. Sustainable elements include a Building Integrated Photovoltaic (BIPV) roof and a living green wall in the main atrium which recycles grey water (water that comes from laundry, dishes or bathing).

Gensler designed the Shore Hotel in Santa Monica CA, a LEED Gold project. Working closely with the client (a family), the “vision was to use the natural landscape and vibrant urban life to blend the two while taking in the beauty of the sea and embracing the pedestrian activities of the area”. The U shape of one of the buildings beckons pedestrians in.

“Design is a Revival”

Shimoda Design Group created the new Steelcase WorkCafe in the global headquarters in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “The first challenge of the project was to connect the space with the rest of the building.” They created a grand staircase to accomplish this. They provided a variety of seating choices with different levels of interaction, allowing Steelcase to “test ideas about nomadic workers.”

“Design is Nourishing”

The grand stair was built by a local boat builder.

The client’s design goal for the Nanaimo Cruise Ship Terminal in British Columbia was “to reflect the values and attributes of the region for cruise ship passengers”. Designed by Checkwith Poiron Architects, the building was finished in just twelve months in time for the first cruise ship to dock.

“Design is Striking”

Built on relaimed land, this First Nations (aboriginal peoples of Canada) screen tells the story of the site.

Colacion Studio designed a new corporate headquarters for Tamdeen Group in Kuwait. The goal was to create a “dynamic and forward-thinking interior to reinforce Tamdeen’s brand and mission statement, “Deliver the Promise,” and to celebrate the firm’s cultural heritage and diversity.” The office needed to reflect multi-cutural workforce as well as accomodate a variety of workstyles.

“Design is Agile”

With a large skylight and a vertical garden in the reception area, the building is flooded with natural light.

Love to hear from you – what inspires you? How can we help you have a more inspiring office?

Have a productive week!

All photos from Shaw Contract Group. Click the link to see more…

1. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cradle-to-cradle_design

How to Wake Up Your Office – Update the Flooring

Have you looked at the floor in your office lately? Even if you haven’t, your clients have. Is it worn and threadbare and in need of a change? What is your office flooring saying about your company’s brand?

Think of your standard office and you think of that multi-color bland carpet that is there solely to hide the dirt. And hiding the dirt is not a bad thing if the dirt isn’t twenty years old. Different companies have different needs for office flooring. Below are just a few…

Retail stores need floors that are easy to clean and maintain that will stand up to a lot of foot traffic. Their floors must convey the image of their brand – your more upscale stores are likely to sport wood or marble flooring while your budget houses will most likely have easy to maintain and inexpensive linoleum or poured concrete. Keep in mind your employees who will be standing on their feet all day – how would your calves feel after eight hours on concrete?

This Spa at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas has a cork floor – durable, sustainable and fairly easy to clean – cork helps aborb sound and is easier on the legs, feet and back. Imagine giving massages all day and you can guess that the cork floor is a real blessing for their employees.

Rubber acoustic flooring for gyms is a great solution. Easy to clean, easy on the knees and being acoustic it helps to muffle the noise in the very busy gym.

Someone has a great sense of humor! And at a law firm to boot. I want these folks to represent me. “Stacks” of legal books make up the pattern on this carpeting.

One can’t discuss commercial grade carpeting without showing an example of Flor carpet tiles. You can make your own pattern and designs. They are easier to install and if one gets a bad stain, you can replace one without taking up the entire carpet.

Music and theatre flooring is an entire science (and art) unto itself. Suffice it to say as a music aficianado, I bet the acoustics in here are divine with that expanse of wood floor.

A dentist’s or medical office has hygiene as the primary need. A floor that is easy to keep clean is a must. But why should it look boring when there are so many great vinyl options out there. In the dental office project that I recently worked on, we used wood look vinyl flooring. This flooring was so high end that if you touched it, it had grain. It looks phenomenal too and effectively communicates the message to the clientele – we know you want to visit the best dentist and you want an environment that feels homey (and not too clinical) but professional.

Love to hear from you – which flooring do you like the best for your office?

Have a productive week!

(photo credits: bergdorgoodman.com, contempofloorcoverings.com, archiexpo.com, legalwatchblog.com, floordaily.net,  octobergallery.com, averydesigninteriors.com)

Travel Inspiration – Hotel Xeriscaping in Phoenix, AZ

Last week, our family took a once in a lifetime trip to the national parks of the West with a Tauck Bridges tour. One of the best parts of travel is the opportunity to see different types of design. I particularly enjoy design that reflects the local landscape and culture.

Our first stop was the Four Seasons in North Scottsdale. While my husband played eighteen holes at Troon, I snapped these shots around the hotel. I particularly loved how the pots were incorporated into the landscaping. This is xeriscaping from the greek word, xeros, which means dry. The primary purpose of xeriscaping is water conservation. I love its subtlety of texture and color.





Photos taken by and property of Catherine Avery of Avery Design Interiors at the Four Seasons Hotel Scottsdale, AZ

How to Wake up Your Office – a New Desk

Last week, I gave several pointers for keeping your desk clean. This week, now that your desk is clean how about some great new desk ideas for your office?

This floating desk from Rotsen is one of my all time favorites – both modern and masculine with a bit of a rustic edge.

Whenever I see this desk from The New Traditionalists, I think of a sunset. It seems perfect for a beach office to me.

I was in the New York Design Center last week and fell in love with the Ceniza desk from Dennis Miller. With leather on the front and reclaimed wood on the back, it marries two gorgeous textures.

Irwin Feld Design does not disappoint when it comes to wonderful mid-century modern. Imagine this showstopper of a desk in your office. Aptly named the Cosmopolitan, I imagine drinking a Cosmo or two, after hours, in this office –  my Mad Men meets modern moment. Of course I only ask that you please don’t set your drink on my new desk!

Whenever I see the Soho Desk at Profiles I am reminded of my client who wanted a grey office with a bright white desk and orange accents. And yes her office looked great! I would love to warm her space up with the wood in this desk and of course, the big sell would be those orange lacquer drawers.

Which is your favorite? I love to hear from you – please feel free to post a comment below!

Have a productive week!

What Does Your Waiting Room (or Lobby) Say About Your Business?

Your clients’ first impression of your business and what you stand for happens as they walk in the door. What image is your lobby or waiting room conveying?

This dentist values providing his patients with the latest in dental care. He and his staff are in a constant process of continuing education ensuring that they are up to date on the latest methodologies in dental care.

As you can see in the before photo (right), his waiting room looked just like any waiting room in any doctor’s office. It was outdated and uncomfortable and in no way reflected the state of the art dental practices and equipment located just beyond the waiting room door.

The manager of the practice had very distinct ideas for how she wanted the space to function and look. She asked me to improve the layout and help her convey the image of their company.

My first concern was the small size of the waiting room – it was not going to be large enough to accommodate the required eight seats for waiting patients. I reworked the layout of the office space to add the needed square footage. This allowed us to add an additional sofa by the reception desk. The walls will have photographs in sleek frames to complement the furniture.

We chose a more modern look and added conveniences not often available in a dental office – an internet bar where you can check your email while you wait as well as a coffee/water bar tucked in a small unused space (as shown in the photos below).


I am passionate about bringing my client’s brand to bear through the design of their space. Not only do we improve employees’ productivity and the functionality of your space but we ensure that your clients experience your company’s brand through your office environment.

To set up your complimentary consultation for your waiting room or office, please contact us at info@averydesigninteriors.com or 203-273-0898.

Three Tips to Productivity at Your Desk

I am a visual kinesthetic – that is my learning style and that is how I function. I am happiest when I am looking at colors or graphing/drawing a project or touching the fabrics, tiles etc. You are probably wondering how this relates to productivity at work. For me a happy desk situation is one in which I can see my files and be able to put my hands on them immediately. I have vertical files and each has color-coded files within it – seeing a visual pattern here, aren’t you? I have yet to meet an organizer who doesn’t go insane with glee over my color-coded file system.

So I am color-coded but I am also a piler. I know lots of pilers. I also know filers and filers would tell you that the worst thing you could have is a pile of paper on your desk. In fact, they would say it is even better to scan all of that paper and only have it on your computer. But I am not sure that that is entirely true. And what do we call those folks – scanners? Hmmm…

Malcom Gladwell states that “Paper enables a certain kind of thinking. Picture, for instance, the top of your desk… The  piles look like a mess, but they aren’t… The pile closest to the cleared, eighteen-inch-square working area, for example,  generally represents the most urgent business, and within that pile the most  important document of all is likely to be at the top. Piles are living,  breathing archives. Over time, they get broken down and resorted, sometimes  chronologically and sometimes thematically and sometimes chronologically and  thematically; clues about certain documents may be physically embedded in the  file by, say, stacking a certain piece of paper at an angle or inserting dividers into the stack.”

So if Malcolm Gladwell is cool with my pile of paper then you can be too. Just sayin’. Those piles of paper are super important but sometimes they can get super big. So how do you tackle it? Here’s my methodology.

1. Set a timer. I hate filing. There I said it. It helps me to have a tongue in cheek timer if for no other reason than to have a chuckle while I set it. I have had a cow and a pig but my new favorite is this bomb timer. Really. And yes of course it’s fake. If I set a timer for 15 minutes and know that I only have to clean up my desk for those 15 minutes then I will do it. And you will too. By the way, I am a big fan of that circular file underneath my desk – aka the trash can. What you will surprisingly find is that you are likely to set that timer for another 15 minutes and keep filing because your mind is going to free up as your space does and then you will rock your work. You will. Just trust me on this.

2. Clear your desk before you leave work for the day. Grab that timer again and take the last 15 minutes of your day to organize your desk for tomorrow. Reviewing today’s to do list and then making tomorrow’s is a super productive thing to do at this time too. Overnight, your subconscious mind is going to be hard at work on some of those items on tomorrow’s to do list. And you are going to wake up in the morning with a great idea. Or maybe you will come up with one washing your face or taking a shower. I don’t know what is in the water but that is some powerful idea-generating stuff.

3. Work from left to right. The natural propensity, if you are right-handed, is to work from left to right. So sticking with the visual piles here, place your inbox on your lefthand side. Keep the center portion of your desk clear for the project you are working right now. No, not the project you are working on next – keep that in your inbox. And then on your righthand side place your outbox for your completed projects. If you are lefthanded it is the reverse.

Does your office or organization want to learn more tips on how to make your workspace more productive? Please feel free to contact me about my signature talk “How to Take Your Office from the Stone Age to the Tech Age”.

Have a productive week!

Read more…‘The Social Life of Paper’ by Malcolm Gladwell

Three Tips to a More Comfortable Day at Work – aka Desk and Computer Ergonomics

Workplace ergonomics. Sounds like this big heavy complicated concept doesn’t it? And yet nothing could be more important when you are sitting in front of a computer eight hours a day. Whether you are working in corporate America or running the latest and great entrepreneurial venture from home, it’s well worth it to consider the effect of your office setup on your health and wellbeing. Why? Because the economic costs of occupation related injuries are greater than the cost of providing an ergonomically correct workplace. Workplace injury costs can include lost wages, medical bills, insurance administrative costs and the cost to the other employees who have to pick up the slack.

Is this you?

What is ergonomics? According to Medword.com, “ergonomics is a science that addresses human performance and well-being in relation to various types of jobs, equipment, tools, and environment.”

1. Buy a comfortable chair. I cannot emphasize the importance of this enough. It must have the proper support, be height adjustable and have a tilting mechanism. If you are in a home office, a great ergonomic chair is the first investment I would ask you to make.

Here’s how to find the right one: Go to a local store and sit in many. Ensure that you can sit all the way to the back of the chair so that the back rest supports your lower back. Make sure your chair fits so that your knees are just a bit forward of the seat. Follow the 90-90-90 rule – that means that your hips, elbows and knees are each positioned at a 90 degree angle.

Other tips: Keeping your wrists straight when positioned over the keyboard will help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive wrist injuries. Keep your feet flat on the floor. This will minimize pressure on your back. If you are a little bit height challenged (I am) a foot rest works wonders.

2. Prevent eye and neck strain by positioning your computer screen at eye level. The center should be 15% below your line of sight and no more than 20″ from your eyes, just about an arm’s length distance. The eyes lead the body – if you position the monitor so that you are comfortable you will have better body posture. Using a document holder is far better than looking down at paperwork on your desk. Every thirty minutes take a break from staring at the computer screen. Blink your eyes to prevent dry eye. Focus on something not in your immediate vicinity – look out the window or at the art across the room.

3. Get up and move around every thirty minutes. Need an excuse to get up? Place your trash can out of reach. Make sure to stretch. When you are shifting tasks, do neck and shoulder rolls or wiggle your fingers. This can help prevent repetitive task injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome.

Finding workplace ergonomics all too overwhelming? Contact us for a stress-free workplace consultation at info@averydesigninteriors.com.

Have a productive week!

First in a series of three on health and wellbeing in the workplace

(Photo credits: pinterest.com, ehow.com, wikipedia.com, thecollaredsheep.com)

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