This design trend has a name (originally coined by journalist Kyle Chayka) – Airspace. Its premise is that all our interiors look the same regardless of whether you’re at home, in the office or your favourite café.
But do you really want to work in a space that looks like your living room?
It’s about finding the right balance, according to Julie Ngov, founder of sustainable and customisable sportswear startup Adrenna, who said: “There’s definitely something to be said for casualisation of the workspace – it’s friendlier, lets people be more honest with themselves and to each other and it’s simply more comfortable. On the other hand, it can be very hard to focus and be productive when your environment is too relaxed and homely (or if you have the fridge staring at you).”
“Ideally, you want to be in a place that has struck the right balance between the two – somewhere to build genuine connections and relationships, while also smashing your business goals,” Ngov added.
Subdividing your workspace into different areas can help you to achieve this balance, as Jade Richardson, junior service and user research designer at healthcare and wellbeing startup Mindwave Ventures, explained: “Working in a space like Huckletree, I want my home to look like my workplace! At home, I have a dedicated desk that I use. But, in the workplace, I enjoy having multiple little areas that are ideal for working alone, with another person, or in a group.”
The aesthetics of the space can further boost productivity and creativity, as Richardson added: “Just because it’s your workplace doesn’t mean it has to be boring and corporate. Being from a healthcare and wellbeing startup, I think that the workplace and its atmosphere play a huge role in our daily wellbeing. Homely spaces give us a unique setting to feel comfortable and open and encourage creativity, idea sharing and ultimately innovation.”
This idea of comfort in the design of our workspaces is important. Matt Beatty, CEO and cofounder of home/workspace mashup Spacehop, said: “The home environment is one that allows the workers to relax, and focus on their work for the day. It’s clear to see that many coworking facilities have successfully mirrored the look and feel of the home office environment in a bid to achieve the same zen.”
The aesthetics of home and office may also be merging in response to changes in the way work is done. “There is a much larger expectation for a greater work/life balance than before, this combined with ubiquitous mobile and social technologies and a pressure on businesses to control real estate costs have all lead to the rise of the mobile or remote worker.”
“It is natural that these people would have somewhere nice to work in their home when the occasion calls for it. I think the future will be much more flexible, people will have more choice in terms of where and when they want to work,” Beatty added.
A home from (someone else’s) home
If you really crave a homely environment – you could rent out someone else’s home to work in. That’s the concept that’s being developed by Spacehop and it is, for all intents and purposes, the AirBnB of the working world. This premise turns the idea of Airspace on its head. Instead of mirroring the aesthetics of the home, why not just work in a home?
The Spacehop concept also offers a high degree of flexibility. You can find more spaces in more locations, you can find a space that is good for photography one day, book a different space for a group project the next and then find a quiet space for some solo work when the occasion calls for it. “There is no need to tie yourself to one space and we believe people should be free to work in a space suited to what they have planned for that particular day,” Beatty explained.
There are also many coworking spaces eager to adopt this domestic vibe, such as MAKERS, whose space is designed to provide be homely minus the isolation of working from home. Its community manager, Sharis Kevin, said: “We often describe our space as ‘shabby chic – bringing the comfort of home to the office’. We try our best to create a very comfortable, relaxed atmosphere that also encourages productivity and professionalism.”
The space was designed with retrofitting in mind as a lot of the furniture was either refurbished, handmade or repurposed. The space’s coworking desks are actually made out of an old gym floor that were cut into two different lengths to convert them to usable desks.
The space’s large lounge area is the first thing that you see when you walk through the front door. A room full of comfortable couches, chairs, a community kitchen and a community dining table creates the sensation of being welcomed into someone’s home. Kevin said: “The owner, David, and I do daily walkthroughs of our space and we receive member feedback to improve the experience and feel of the space, which sometimes means rearranging furniture every few weeks or completely reimagining a space.”
Home-focused spaces all seem to provide comfort, amenities, access to good quality food and drink, reliable technology and, most importantly, they give you a sense of control over your workplace environment by providing a range of areas to kick back or knuckle down, just as you would have at home.
In truth, no one wants to work from home all of the time. It can be lonely and distracting
Simple, beautiful pieces of furniture and carefully selected textiles also make such spaces feel more comfortable. Tactile fabrics and soft interiors are slowly replacing the Airspace-esque minimal designs that litter our public and professional spaces.
An emphasis on community is also important to build a welcoming environment. Kevin added: “The biggest piece of feedback that we have received is that MAKERS is that it ‘feels like an extension of my living room but professional enough to have meetings and meet clients’. Quite a few members have come to us from larger, more corporate coworking spaces because they are looking for a community, not just an office space.”
In truth, no one wants to work from home all of the time. It can be lonely and distracting – but it can also provide a safe haven to work, free from distractions (not to mention the zero-hour commute).
If workspaces can mirror the best of home and workplace design, we could be onto a winner where workers feel comfortable and at home in a space – but can still use it to work effectively and efficiently.