12 Days of Trends: Resimercial Design Persists

We’re counting down to 2020 by sharing 12 days of emerging workplace trends! Learn what trends our top global contributors are most excited to see evolve in the new year. 

Trend 1 of 12: Donald M. Rattner explores resimercial design’s mounting popularity as well as its underpinning in evidence-based design.

SAP Innovation Center and HanaHaus. Newport Beach, California. Architecture by H. Hendy Associates. Photography by RMA Architectural Photography and Troy Ament

Can a workplace design trend still be considered ‘emerging’ in 2020 if its roots can be traced back to the 1990s?

I would argue yes, one clue being that the term typically employed to describe the trend has yet to appear in any dictionary.

Such is the case with resimercial design, an amalgam of commercial and residential design elements that has become increasingly conspicuous in conversations about the future of workplace environments, despite having origins that date back decades.

One reason that the practice retains an aura of newness is that the seeds of its development were laid not in the workplace, but in the residential sphere. The first inkling of this change arrived with the advent of new technologies that enabled always-on communication between home, office, and the outside world. No longer tethered to the communal workspace, people began to utilize the home as a surrogate workstation, whether formally or on an as-needed basis. The traditional boundaries that once steadfastly separated space given to one’s occupation from space given to personalized experience began to erode in mind and fact.

This shift opened to the door to the importation of residential features into the workplace. The ubiquitous foosball games, ping pong tables, beanbag chairs, and other accouterments of home-style and dorm room living that became icons of the New Economy workplace of the 1990s constituted the first wave of an impending invasion of elements rooted in the freedom and playfulness of domestic life.

But these islands of diversion were just that — islands. Other areas of the workplace remained fixed in more traditional arrangements. Larger and more corporate organizations tended to resist the encroachment of home-like amenities altogether.

Those walls appear to be crumbling as we enter the new decade. Major players in the furnishings and equipment industry are launching lines that combine the durability of commercial products with the look and feel of residential offerings. Spaces drawn directly from the residential repertoire, from libraries and living rooms to shower, nap, and music rooms, are finding their way into program briefs. Artwork and adornments only peripherally related to the exigencies of work — some the handiwork of employees — are in increasing demand.

What I find most exciting about this resurgence of the residential in workplace design is that it could well fuel the next wave of economic innovation. As I learned in researching my book on the psychology of creative space, home environments can be enormously powerful catalysts of creativity. That workplace design professionals appear poised to harness this immense potential suggests that the decade ahead could be a fruitful one for all.

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