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Omaha Magazine

Out With the Old, In With the New: How to Breathe Modern Life into Dated Office Spaces

Jul 30, 2021 10:29AM ● By Sean Robinson
woman on deck in blue cardigan

Photo by Bill Sitzmann    

Murky green fish tanks in the lobby. Dying plants wilting behind conference room tables. Office decor that looks like it belongs on the set of The Bob Newhart Show.

The appearance of where the day-to-day work gets done sometimes takes a backseat. Before many companies know it, their once trendy and cutting-edge offices are showing their age. Wrinkles in the form of wallpaper or bad yellowish lighting hang overhead like graying hair.

Older firms may have the experience clients want, but if their office space is dated, it can send the message they’re stuck in the past. In today’s competitive world of work, that’s the last thing any business wants. Innovation is important to potential clients and potential employees. To attract the best, a company must look their best too.

“An office space can speak volumes for potential employees and clients,” said Melinda Stanton, director of business development at Office Interiors & Design. “If it’s dark and drab versus if it’s full of light and energy, and the overall look and feel of the space [is] welcoming.”

After spending 40 or more hours every week year after year in the same space, it’s only natural to become desensitized to the reality of that environment. In cases like this, it’s good to ask those who know the office best. That’s right, it’s time for yet another employee survey. 

“To assess whether a remodel is necessary, I would start, number one, with those who work for you,” said Breanna Cortinas, a commercial designer with jh Interior Design Studio. “You want it to be somewhere they feel comfortable and don’t dread coming to every day. Ask what they like, what they don’t like, what they want to see. At the end of the day, they are just as invested in seeing your business succeed.”

Success can start with ensuring a company’s office space gives a strong first impression. However, that doesn’t mean businesses need to constantly chase décor trends to keep up with the latest and greatest. According to Stanton, a company should consider freshening up every 10 to 12 years. This allows enough time to stay relevant amidst changing styles and maintain a modern look without blowing the budget. 

Or, instead of a set number of years, a business may call for a facelift well before another decade passes. As a company grows, it’s inevitable that the office space it occupies should evolve as well. Whether a rebrand has taken place or the company has ballooned and needs to make room for new hires, it might be the right time to remodel.

No matter the timeline, when it comes to hiring outside design help, sooner is always better once the decision to redesign has been made. 

“We have many years of experience under our belt, so what may seem like a daunting task to some, we can make the process easy and fun and offer suggestions to save money and time along the way,” Stanton said. 

As for what needs to change throughout any given office space, that depends on the client, budget, and space. It can be as simple as swapping outdated furniture for more modern pieces or as complex as taking out walls and restructuring layout. Professionals such as Stanton and Cortinas are experts when it comes to assessing a business’ unique set of constraints or opportunities then moving forward to create a workplace that wows. 

When there aren’t thousands of dollars at play, little changes can make a big impact, too. 

“The number one cheap fix is paint,” Cortinas said. “It can 1,000 percent transform a space. Plus, you can have it turned around in a week. It’s cheap and it’s fast.”

Another solution that doesn’t break the bank is to adjust lighting. That can mean changing bulb temperature, adding overheads or lamps to dim corners, and making better use of windows with blinds that don’t block sunlight from filtering inside. 

In fact, one of the biggest trends right now is biophilic design, or finding creative solutions to bring the outdoors in. This includes incorporating more natural light into an office as well as adding outdoor areas, refurbishing with stone finishes, and adding plant life wherever possible. 

“Paint color plays a part. We are seeing lots of natural tones. More blues or greens with a mix of grays and browns. Offices are getting away from warm tones,” Cortinas said. 

Whether inspired by nature or things technologic, many workplaces are saying goodbye to the stuffy cube mazes of the 1980s. Just like the services and products produced inside the space, today’s office aesthetics are next level. 

That goes for coworking places, too, such as Stories Coffee Co. A former client favorite for Cortinas, this local Omaha eatery strives to be more than just a place to grab a cup a joe. They wanted to attract people to come in to work, collaborate, relax and even stick around for live music at night. 

This isn’t a typical coffee shop—and they don’t look it either. What was once a Little King deli and dance studio was renovated top to bottom into a contemporary yet cozy chic coffee shop. 

“It has a welcoming feel to it that makes you want to come back,” said Brooke Loutzenhiser, co-owner with husband, Dan. “This also attracts new guests. Our clients are younger and trendier—the type of clients we might not have had otherwise.”

It’s true what they say: Looks aren’t everything. But if Stories serves as proof, they certainly are something when it comes to running a
successful business.

Visit jhdesignomaha.com and oidinc.com for more information.