Commercial Fitouts: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Fitting out a commercial property is a unique, challenging and exciting enterprise both for the fitter and for the business owner. It’s an opportunity for creative collaboration. A chance for an experienced fitter to translate an entrepreneur’s ambitious ideas into a tangible reality. An opportunity for entrepreneurs to bring their brands to life and wow their customers. Commercial fitouts can be creatively stimulating and a whole lot of fun… But they can also be nightmarish when they go horribly wrong. Sometimes key design elements can become lost in translation or despite a fitter’s best efforts an entrepreneur’s vision was not accurately brought to life because their idea was too nebulous and non-specific.

There’s a lot than can go wrong in the commercial fitting process… But there’s also a great deal that can go right. Join us as we take a tour through the good, the bad and the ugly of commercial fitouts from all over the world…

The good

The synergy between an entrepreneur’s vision and a fitter’s expertise has led to some stunning examples of retail stores, restaurants, cafes and offices all over the world. Design concepts that bring the brand to life in real and tangible ways that bring joy, comfort and convenience to customers and employees alike.

Check out Google’s offices if you need an apt example. Here’s a brand that, despite its technological roots embraces the natural world and the effect that it can have on employee productivity. Workspaces have huge floor to ceiling windows to admit as much natural light as possible while just a few steps take employees into walkways lined with plants, trees and shrubs.

The Inventionland Design Factory follows a similar ethos. The language of nature has often given many a struggling creative the spark of inspiration they need to accomplish greatness. Perhaps that’s why the brand’s offices include workspaces with treehouses and rockpools (and even a pirate ship).

Nokia’s offices also create the perfect synergy between brand and workspace. The combination of clean lines, geometric shapes and vibrant colours makes the workspace look as though its employees are bustling around a giant replica of one of their phones.

The same goes for Apple’s flagship store in Chicago. The pine effect roofing and completely transparent glass walls truly exemplify the simplicity that is at the heart of the brand’s ethos. The store takes the unassuming layout that’s seen in all Apple stores to the next level and lets the products truly speak for themselves.

The bad

For all the incredible examples of commercial fitouts gone right… There are also a great many where either the essence of an idea was lost in translation amidst the fitting process… And there are some where the idea was never that good in the first place.

For example, Facebook’s California office has an open plan layout yet employees are bunched closely together with little, if any, separation between employees’ individual workstations. While this is perhaps intended to help to engender a collaborative and open environment it affords its employees absolutely no privacy.

The same goes for the offices of Axiom Law in New York, whose Kubrickian office design is a cavernous and pristine white workplace interspersed with bright orange partitions. Despite the quirky design and cavernous space, the workers are all packed in together a little too close for comfort. It can all conspire to make employees feel more like drones than valued individuals.

There’s also been a trend towards integrating games and toys into office design. Sure, all work and no play makes the Jacks and Jospenes of your workplace dull boys and girls… But some businesses can go too far with it. Take a look at Lego’s offices in Denmark where it seems you can’t throw a stapler without coming across a slide, a foosball table or giant Lego structure.

The ugly

There are some instances where well intentioned commercial premises designs just don’t carry the same aesthetic appeal in practice as they did in theory. Take Pionen’s White Mountain offices, for example. In theory it represents the perfect synergy between the natural and manmade worlds… In practice it looks exactly like Dr. No’s underground layer. Now, that’s a great look if you’re in the global terrorism business, not so great for anyone else.

That said, believe it or not there are some brand that voluntarily embrace conventionally ugly designs in order to create a strong and distinctive sense of brand identity. They might apply it to their products in order to make them stand out on crowded shelves and apply the same branding to their workplaces… With mixed results.

Whatever you have in mind for your office fitout, hopefully this post will highlight the importance of creative synergy between brand, business owner and fitter.

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