Office designers want the workplace to be more homey

February 26, 1992|By Imran Ghori | Imran Ghori,Peninsula Times Tribune

Ergonomics is in. Oak is out. Earth tones are in. Mauve is definitely out.

These are some of the latest trends in office design, according to several California interior designers. Ergonomics, the science that attempts to adapt the workplace to the worker, is becoming increasingly popular as more is learned about the bad effects of working long hours in front of computer screens and sitting in badly designed chairs.

"There's a real interest in employee comfort and satisfaction," said interior designer Ruth Soferenko of Ruth Soferenko Associates in Palo Alto, Calif.

Companies also are asking for colors that provide better lighting and reduced glare, she said.

Many companies are adopting a more residential look, said Pamela Pennington of Pennington Studios in Palo Alto.

"There's a cross-over of what you might use in your home and office," she said.

Ms. Soferenko said many of her clients are decorating their office with fine art.

"People want their work environment to be less hard and more inviting and comfortable," Ms. Soferenko said.

Pleasant surroundings tend to lower stress levels and increase performance, Ms. Pennington said.

Businesses are also becoming more environmentally conscious, many designers said. Many of them are buying furnishings from "green companies," companies that use environmentally safe products.

For instance, businesses do not want products that come from rain forests, Ms. Soferenko said.

Environmentalism is also manifesting itself in the colors used to adorn office space.

"[Workers seem] to be into the earth tones," Ms. Pennington said. "A lot of greens, golds and coppers."

In general, office colors are moving away from the "masculine" neutral colors like gray toward brighter colors.

Designer Linda Patch said she sees people moving away from gray and plain white to brown tones and golder and beiger whites. "Now, I see colors used in conjunction with neutral colors that are more intense colors," said Elaine Biser of Redwood City. "They're going away from grays and mauves and using more of the green and red-based colors."

As far as trends in furniture go, many designers report an interest in modular, space-efficient designs that are easily adjustable.

"The cost of office space per square foot is very expensive and it's not going to get lower," said Margie Herondon of Margaret Herondon Interior Designs in Palo Alto. "One of the main trends is more efficient use of space."

Wood furniture continues to be popular. Cherry, mahogany, rosewood and maple woods are in, while oak and walnut are out.

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