International companies are starting to incorporate eclectic vernacular elements that contextualise their office spaces to distinguish their regional offices from each other.

A subtle blend of vernacular elements at First Equity

A major trend in interior design is to incorporate eclectic vernacular elements that contextualise the space. Therefore, international companies are able to distinguish their regional offices from each other, while retaining their corporate identity.

This is the view of Dorethe Swiegers, Senior Designer at Trend Group, an interior design and build fit-out specialist for businesses. It is currently completing a major design project for Oracle at its new Woodmead head office. “The fact that the company has so many global offices means that contextualising it locally is important, while not diluting the brand in any way. This is increasingly being achieved by including cultural influences that speak to the people working there, and which resonate with them.”

Completing her Master of Architecture degree in 2014, Swiegers began her professional career in London, where her first major project was interior retail design. “The trend in the UK has shifted towards interiors rather than new build. This is where all the exciting and interesting designs are taking place at the moment.”

International companies are starting to incorporate eclectic vernacular elements that contextualise their office spaces to distinguish their regional offices from each other.

An example of agile workspace design at Uber

Swiegers was able to follow this philosophy further when she joined Trend Group upon her return to South Africa. “It is very exciting and inspiring to work with Trend Group. It has established an organic, non-traditional model that I feel is better suited to the industry than the traditional consultancy practice. The fact that we offer a turnkey service means the client has a single point of contact. Hence we work closely together to meet our clients’ requirements to get them into their new space and operational again.”

What continues to invigorate her about the interior design industry is that every client is different. “There is no single recipe. We get to know the client and the company, what we have to work with, and then we translate that into a design brief.” This is the approach that Trend Group has adopted with all of its Blue Chip clients, from Uber to First Equity. The latter is a major advocate of ‘agile’ workspaces, Swiegers notes.

“Agile working is the hot topic at the moment. Neither does it seem a fad, and is likely to be prevalent for a long time. It translates simply into streamlining your business, and providing your employees with options to work differently, with an emphasis on collaboration and flexible office space.

“The focus has shifted from employers to employees, especially as they strive to retain talent in today’s highly competitive work environment. This poses a challenge for us to come up with designs that are more people-focused. It is an exciting process to sit with clients and thrash out what specific workplace strategies work best for them.”

Swiegers explains that the trends towards globalisation is reflected in the fact that employees are no longer desk-bound in offices. “Advances in technology have resulted in people being a lot more mobile. However, sustainability and best practice are still key criteria. Another challenge we are finding is having to deal with the requirements of a multi-generational workforce.”

International companies are starting to incorporate eclectic vernacular elements that contextualise their office spaces to distinguish their regional offices from each other.

Vibrant use of colour and texture at Unilever Africa

This means that the requirements of both millennials and older-generation employees have to be taken into account. “How you cater for everybody in such a context is an important consideration. Not all people appreciate a ‘chill zone’, for example, so private and more reflective spaces also have to be accommodated.”

Another major design trend at the moment is what Swiegers terms “the revival of Art Deco”, which is particularly prevalent with cutting-edge furniture designers. Here the emphasis is on geometric shapes and forms that fit together, and an overall muted palette with hints of colour. In terms of colour, Swiegers adds that rich ruby red is already emerging as the Pantone trend for 2019.

“It is interesting how the interior design industry follows suit with both the high-end fashion and architectural industries when it comes to colour. So, we are now looking at rich ruby reds, contrasted with flamingo pink, for example. That can be balanced quite effectively with emerald green, which links back to the theme of nature.”

Commenting on the state of the local interior design industry, especially compared to trend-setting regions such as the UK, Swiegers notes it is “definitely on par, if not one step ahead, in terms of innovation. A lot of the best designers, from furniture to architecture, come from South Africa.

“Returning home, I was excited to rediscover the local talent and availability of quality craftsmanship on the market. Yes, there are certain areas where we trying to catch up, but these are systems or technology driven. From a design element and an aesthetic perspective, we can benchmark ourselves with the best in the world,” Swiegers concludes.

Top Design Trends for 2019

  1. Localisation of global brands by incorporating eclectic vernacular elements
  2. User-orientated and experience-driven spaces accommodating the requirements of a multi-generational workforce
  3. The ongoing evolution of agile workspaces
  4. Advances in technology promoting mobility
  5. The revival of Art Deco, particularly in furniture
  6. Rich ruby red as the Pantone Colour of the Year

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