Your restaurant, store or office is the space where you and your employees spend a remarkable amount of time every week. It is also the place where your customers come to enjoy your products and services, hoping for a pleasant experience. This is why an interior that is conducive to both physical and mental health should be one of your priorities. It is also why knowing how to create healthy commercial spaces is a skill every designer should develop.
A space and ambience that promote well-being increase the chance that your customers feel good and return, but also improve the productivity of your employees and your own ability to enjoy your work. The immense amount of time that the pandemic forced people to spend indoors taught us all about the importance of a living space that promotes health – and designers took notice. But this is nothing new: The interest in creating spaces that foster well-being are as old as the practice of feng shui in the Chinese culture or the Greek architectural harmony.
The good news in a modern world overwhelmed by stress, loneliness, working demands or media overload is the fact that you have the opportunity to offer your clients an oasis of happiness and relaxation, or create a competitive working environment that attracts excellent employees. There are a few proven methods that you should keep in mind when trying to create healthy commercial spaces. Some have to do with measurable factors such as fresh air, light and sounds, others with that indefinable vibe that makes your visitors feel welcome and relaxed. We call this mindful commercial interior design and we use it in all our projects.
1. Use good lighting
One of the most important elements in commercial design, light plays a crucial role in the good functioning of the human body, as it regulates the circadian rythm. Natural light is a high commodity in interior design, and you should allow for as much as possible to enter your space. It fosters a sense of well-being, reduces stress and makes a space look more inviting. Dark spaces or interiors inundated by blue-light-emitting digital screens and LED lighting are depressing, exhausting and often disruptive to health.
However, when natural light is not sufficient, well-illuminated spaces with a strategic combination of ambiance, accent and task lighting offer a layered look that feels warm and enticing. In offices, calibrating the light according to the time of the day or allowing employees to control the lighting in their personal working area can help comabt some of the shortcomings of artificial sources.
2. Create beautiful views
In order to keep your customers interested and your employees energized, your space need to be a delight for the eye. This doesn’t necessarily mean having great views and large windows to enjoy them: Many times this is not an option. However, even the smallest space on the most restrictive budget can turn into a veritable work of art under the able lead of a creative designer.
Think colors, textures, accents, and creating a sense of being at home. In places that are supposed to be stimulating and exciting, like ice-cream parlors, game rooms or even mid-century diners, bright colors are the right choice to stimulate the brain, captivate the attention and create a dynamic response. For the same reason, it is recommended to use vibrant colors in break rooms or lunch rooms where socializing is encouraged. By contrast, natural tones are more suitable to office spaces to keep distraction at a minimum.
Contact with beauty has an immense influence on mood, happiness and mental health. Bring in rich textures, beautiful patterns, or accent pieces that invite the eye to take a second look. Comfortable seating and the addition of a fireplace can help you create a cozy space that makes your customers feel at home.
3. Use the right sounds
The proper use of sounds in commercial design has reached the level of a veritable science. Sounds can influence your customers’ behavior in a subtle, but decisive way. For instance, slow music can increase customers’ “dwell time” in your store, and make them take their time browsing your shelves. French music increases the sales of French wine, while loud music increases sales in bars. In restaurants, faster background music makes customers eat faster, while slow music makes them linger. In beauty parlors, the sound of the ocean waves induces a state of deep relaxation and even sleepiness.
When designing your office, do your best to reduce noise pollution by using noise-absorbing materials for your walls and thick insulated windows and doors. However, do not assume that perfect silence is the best strategy for an office. In fact, soothing music such as classical pieces is conducive to deep thinking and can help mask other distracting noises. The chirping of birds is a relaxing sound, very fitting for an office.
4. Offer sensorial abundance
An uninspiring space where none of the senses are stimulated leaves the employee in a state of stupor and the customer unable to enjoy or remember your business. By contrast, an interior where all the senses are awakened have an energizing effect and offer an immersing experience. In offices that step away from the typical impersonal design, sensorial stimuli increase cognitive function, creativity and enthusiasm.
While we talked about the importance of colors, sound and visual beauty, don’t forget to add pleasant scents to the mix. While you shoud be mindful of sensitive individuals and do it in a subtle way, essentials oils can offer you an excellent opportunity to help your customers relax. Stay away from artificial candles, however, since they contain harmful chemicals. In a restaurant, mixing other fragrances with the smell of food may be problematic, but allowing the smell of freshly baked bread and cookies to infuse your bakery is generally a fast way to convince your visitors they reached the right place.
Finally, don’t forget textures. Even when not touching, the visual clues that a soft upholstery, a warm and grainy wood surface or a cold and refreshing metal finish will send your customers are enough to keep their senses awakened.
5. Preserve air quality
Allergen, VOCs, mold, contaminants and high CO2 levels are only a few of the consequences of using toxic materials, harmful products, outdated HVAC systems or an inefficient cleaning and maintenance schedule. These come with the unpleasant effects of absenteeism in the workplace and an uncomfortable or even dangerous experience for your customers.
However, most of these problems can go away with a proper commercial HVAC installation able to control temperature, humidity and the quality of air in large areas, or if you take a step as simple as upgrading your HVAC filter. If you are building a new business or updating your old one, choose non-toxic materials and plan for good air flow and proper ventilation. In addition, use natural cleaning products and make sure that you solve all maintenance problems as soon as they appear.
6. Keep an optimal temperature
A space that is too warm or too cold leaves your employees unable to concentrate on their tasks and takes your customers’ enjoyment out of visiting your business. In fact, studies show that indoor temperature seriously impacts customer behavior. The optimal one encourages them to take their time and navigate your store, browse and explore. Pleasant temperatures even lead to more impulse buying and to a more positive perception of your products. By contrast, a cold, uncomfortable environment makes your customer rush through the whole experience and see your products as less desirable.
7. Bring in nature
One of the surest way to create healthy commercial spaces imbued with a sense of relaxation, comfort and security is the addition of plants. Plants do not only purify the air, but respond to an instinctive human need for food and shelter and create rejuvenating oases of natural beauty. In an office, plants break the rigidity of a formal environment and bring life into an artificial setting. In a restaurant, a few herb containers suggest a homemade meal and raise the appetite.
Using natural materials such as wood, stone or marble in the design of your space brings your customers and employees one step closer to nature, connects them to the calming effects of the outdoors and makes them feel more comfortable and relaxed. Don’t forget water features that not only add a dynamic element to the design, but create pleasant, soothing sounds.
8. Create well-designed functional areas
Defining your functional areas is not only a question of looks or smooth working processes. A place where every area has a purpose and a meaning appeals to the human need for order.
By contrast, imagine a restaurant where there is no clear traffic path and where visitors have to slalom between tables. Or a dessert shop where customers in need of a few napkins wonder unsuccessfully about the location of the self-serve area. Finally, imagine a cluttered store with unappealing shelves, messy counters and no storage system, or a messy office that irritates employees and cuts their productivity. Such spaces spell chaos, raise the cortisol levels and only become memorable for the wrong reasons.,
Well-defined functional areas and a well-thought and harmonious layout create a sense of order that brings the cortisol down and appeals to your customers’s need for structure and meaning. Keep clutter under control, your storage solutions updated, and the visual pathways clear.
9. Promote both interaction and privacy
A space that promotes well-being is a space that fosters good social interactions. Workplace loneliness is a serious issue that can be mitigated by creating fun spaces such as inviting walkways, game rooms, or lobbies with strategic seating. Allowing employees to come together in such spaces encourages communication and the exchange of ideas, creativity and problem solving, as well as team building and good office relationships.
At the same time, it is important to create private spaces for those who want to take a break from the challenges of constant social interactions, or who need to get away to to think. Privacy seating and creative partitions can help you come up with separate, intimate spaces in a large open areas. In restaurants, such partitions can create a sense of intimacy and security and make your customers feel more relaxed.
10. Promote relaxation and movement
In offices where employees are forced to sit most of the time, a few additions may make all the difference between an energized workforce and one that is spent and unmotivated by noon. Adding a relaxation room, with privacy seating that allows your employee to temporarily escape, or a fitness or yoga room for those interested in using their muscles after a few hours of sitting is an excellent way to reenergize your employees and make them feel valued.
In offices, standing desks, or even treadmill or cycling desks can motivate your employees to move while working. Exercise balls are a simpler way to support some form of exercise and movement with little cost. Another way to break the sedentary office culture is encouraging people to use the stairs by positioning them centrally or making them a fun place to be. Providing a place where your employees can leave their bikes, or even showers to freshen up when they arrive can go a long way towards keeping them healthy and productive.
If you are thinking to open a new business or are in the process of rebranding and remodeling your existing business, contact us to get a free consultation from Mindful Design Consulting. Click HERE to price your project design.
Also, take a look at the “Branding By Interior” e-book, the only book written on this subject at this time. It brings insight into how you can turn your business into a market-dominating competitor by using human cognitive responses.