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RapidBlog: The changing face and future of design in Grand Rapids

In this week's RapidBlog, Brand Specialist Natalia Connelly returns, with thoughts on the changing face of office design in West Michigan and musings on some of the new, innovative spaces to work around town.


As West Michigan Design Week proved, emerging trends in interior design are changing the industry and interiors. The office renaissance has reached West Michigan, as co-working spaces multiply and corporate offices see a shift in shape and intent.

As work and workers adjust to fast and frequent changes in technology, the spaces in which they meet are evolving just as rapidly. Today, the workplace is an ecosystem of multiple generations, work styles, and types of work—all anticipating an uncertain but oncoming future. What’s more, the evolution of technology has made it possible to work almost anywhere. In light of these influences, we’re reflecting on the design elements changing the face and future of Grand Rapids.

To compete for the presence of employees, workplaces are establishing spaces that mimic the environments in which people feel inherently comfortable and connected—like coffee shops and living rooms—complete with the functionality of the workplace. Lounge and café areas, alongside conferencing and privacy spaces, provide employees with choice and control in where they work. For example, startup incubator Start Garden invested in a new space that allows for a range of work and work styles as diverse as its clients. Start Garden’s new work space hosts staff offices, conference and meeting rooms, open work spaces, a café, and touchdown areas, creating a place to brainstorm big ideas and host an ecosystem of entrepreneurs, developers, and community supporters.

Continuing the evolution, manufacturers with ethical business principles are thinking in new ways about how interior design and exterior environments should interact. Being in the business of improving environments—work or otherwise—manufacturers such as Steelcase and Camira utilize sustainable resources with recyclable qualities. While both of these organizations operate on a global scale, their West Michigan roots are growing in a garden of other like-minded organizations in the area. As interior designers request greener practices, finishes, and furnishings, the industry is rising to the challenge—especially in West Michigan.

With continued consideration for the future, rapid advancements to technology make designing for longevity difficult. To solve for uncertainty, designers are creating environments with the use of adjustable furnishings. Rather than installing walls and permanent fixtures without knowing whether they will need modifying in five years, designers use impermanent products to define environments within environments. For example, interior renovation firm Custer recently completed a showroom renovation of their own, using elements like a custom trellis, huge lamp, and statement furnishings to separate the space.

Further, glass architectural products allow for audio privacy without loss of visual transparency, and can be moved to meet new needs in the future. See Rapid Growth’s article on the renovation for photos and more details.

Known for our generous contributions to the interiors industry, West Michigan continues to develop creative solutions for ever-evolving needs. We’re working to keep you informed—even as work is changing before us.

Natalia Connelly is a Brand Specialist in Grand Rapids. Follow along at www.nataliaconnelly.com  & on Twitter @que_talia.
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