First there was working in the company office. Then there was working in your home office. Then there was Starbucks and the rise of the “third space”. Now the three are merging in the growing trend of “resimercial” design.
When well executed, resimercial design can have a positive impact on wellbeing, collaboration, ideation and overall productivity in the workplace. Rather than merely placing residential objects in a commercial setting, well-executed resimercial design is carefully customized for the needs of a specific client and culture and implemented with products and materials especially designed for the unique purpose. Two recent implementations illustrate how well done, resimercial design can transform a workplace.
After a decade in Atlanta, in 2016 the consumer products company Newell Brands announced its headquarters move to Hoboken, NJ in order to consolidate executive leadership, e-commerce and design teams following its acquisition of Jarden Corporation. The combined company’s new Hoboken headquarters stands between River Street and Frank Sinatra Drive overlooking the Hudson River and across to New York City. Not long before the Hoboken move, Newell had made an Atlanta head office move and a fresh design approach that recognized a shift from teleworking back to in-office work: a move towards the resimercial style which the company has now carried forward to its New Jersey offices.
The three floors of Newell Brands’ Hoboken space each display a distinctive personality and showcase elements of the company’s culture and brand: a playful, colorful creative style; a warm, inspiring collaborative culture and a clean, efficient, uncluttered work environment. Immediately upon arrival, Newell Brands’ new reception area provides visitors with an immediate sense of all three elements. Visitors are drawn forward by the room’s hardwood floor and brown wood beams dropped from the ceiling and which together with the wood floor a sense of warmth and intimacy. The reception area features several comfortable seating areas and the entire setting is flanked by a floor to ceiling inner glass wall exposing a conference room that draws daylight from an equally grand window view onto the Hudson.
Each floor includes spaces that provide for different modes of activity as would be found in any home environment. As in a home where there are living areas in which residents can casually interact – perhaps over a shared meal or a cup of tea – each floor has intentionally-placed social zones such as break areas and coffee bars throughout. In one such space, a large herringbone patterned tile backsplash runs the length of the wall and supports two equally long wooden shelves for glassware. Across the room, kitchen-style seating areas line the stretch of windows onto the water and a nearby park.
Similarly, recognizing the need for different work and meeting spaces for different moments, moods and methods, Newell Brands’ headquarters includes a blend of casual huddle areas with brightly patterned area rugs, leather lounge chairs and soft fabric couches as well as immersion rooms and conference rooms for more intensive discussions. There are also several spaces for Newell Brand employees to work in quiet, private zones – such as personal seating niches and two-person seating clusters. Also, because of the collaborative design and hands-on prototyping work of Newell Brands’ creative team, the building’s 12th floor has specialty areas for product development.
Resimercial design can bring a light-hearted, friendliness into the workplace – an antidote to institutional formality while still maintaining professionalism. In Newell’s new workspace one way this sense of playfulness is articulated is by using the Company’s own products in its décor. The back wall of one conference room, for example, features a mural of a young woman with hands on hips leaning slightly backward and looking across a landscape of undulating shades of blue. From a distance, this appears to be a painted mural. Upon closer inspection, he effects has been created through the use of 26,000 Prismacolor® colored pencils – one of Newell Brands’ premier product lines. This astonishing “pencil pointillism” readily sets a creative-thinking tone for meetings in that conference room. The back wall of a nearby conference room is covered with fishing lures from Pure Fishing – one of the brands gained through Newell Brands’ acquisition of Jarden.
Like Newell Brands, Carters is an iconic American brand of baby clothing that includes many other classic, kid-clothing brands, like OshKosh B’gosh, as subsidiaries. The company’s products have a heartfelt place in U.S. homes so it was natural for Carters new Atlanta corporate headquarters to incorporate resimercial design. In fact, at 275,000 square feet of office space serving 1700 employees, a resimercial approach was essential to creating a close community in a large commercial setting.
Like at Newell Brands’ new headquarters, Carters’ reception area features a hardwood floor – which actually run throughout the office space – and a wood panel drop ceiling. On either side of reception, there are two living-room-style areas designated by area rugs and comfortable coach and chair seating. A wall of windows behind the reception desk provide daylight and that is bolstered through a combination of sconces, track lighting and linen-shaded, drum chandeliers. Carters’ CEO asked that this space evoke the feeling of family comfort to the extent that “you want to sit down and have a bowl of oatmeal.”
That home-style feeling is sparked throughout the space by the use of simple details, textures, materials and accessories that, together, enliven all of the senses of its occupants. Photos of happy children wearing Carters clothing adorn the walls like the collection of proud parents hung from the walls of so many households. Cozy spaces to collaborate, work or recharge are abundant. These den-like areas include flat weave wool rugs and a variety of seating options – each of which looks and feels like it could be in any fine home but which is nonetheless commercial grade – built specifically for such a resimercial application. In these gathering areas, wood paneled walls envelope the space. Shelving and niches in the wood hold books, baskets and pottery and drum chandeliers – like those in reception – hang from above.
Nearby, sliding wood barn doors provide passage to a series of meeting rooms. Details that distinguish this as a resimercial space, rather than an institutional one, can also be found in these areas. Storage units in Carters’ training room, for instance, look like armoires with forged black iron pulls rather than the typical stainless or small wire pulls found in many commercial environments. These tactile textures and nuances are important components that support the intention of a resimercial design.
At either end of the building, along a wall of windows, are wooden stairs with custom-crafted black metal bannisters connecting one floor to the other. These stairs allow the workspace’s resident to have friendly interactions with co-workers while providing opportunity for health-promoting physical movement. Break areas are also arranged to create a homey vibe and to encourage casual conversation among team members. In one, resembling a traditional farmhouse kitchen, a white tile backsplash runs along one wall along with shelving that holds five square canvases espousing Carters corporate values. Glass cylinder fixtures sporting Edison bulbs brighten the kitchen island which doubles as a snacking spot and workspace. On a sidewall someone has written “Home Sweet Home” in chalk on large blackboard.
Ideally, resimercial design engages the “whole employee” in the work environment – not just the intellect that comes to work. At the same time, a resimercial designer’s challenge is to balance the desire for the materials, colors, textures, fabrics, and patterns that render a feeling of warmth, familiarity and security with the pragmatic productivity and commercial durability required in the workplace. As the lines between living and working continue to blur, people are attracted to physical environments that feel less like 9-to-5 institutional factories and more like a home-away-from-home where they can be their best, most productive selves. Resimercial is a big step in that direction.