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Exploring the Core Principles of Contemporary Office Interior Design

Contemporary office interior design is an effective way to curate dynamic workplaces that harmoniously blend form and function whilst embracing modernity and simplicity.

Employees’ needs are at the very heart of design decisions, with visually pleasing interiors helping staff to flourish in an uplifting, productive and ultimately comfortable environment. This may be achieved via an open floor layout with natural materials and ergonomic furniture plus exclusive amenities such as wellness zones, breakout spaces and healthy food options (living herb wall, anyone?).

Contemporary office interior design is also ever-evolving, creating spaces geared up to adapt to the changing needs and size of businesses.

Why is contemporary office interior design so important?

In a post-COVID era characterised by hybrid working and changing employee expectations, it’s vital that offices are inspiring places. Staff members want to be enticed back into the office by a unique set of benefits that remote working just cannot replicate (from co-worker camaraderie to on-site yoga classes).

Aesthetically appealing offices lead to happy, content employees who feel valued and motivated. This innovative environment helps businesses to attract new talent, impress visitors, and foster creativity within current teams.

COEL specialise in people-centric workspaces, helping businesses plan and design safer, healthier and more engaging environments that boost productivity, efficiency and Return On Investment.

“As well as attracting new talent we work alongside our clients to ensure we create the right environment for retaining staff. The built environment will be unique to each client and we work hard from the outset to ensure we have asked the most relevant questions and created a robust return brief.” added Katie Oldknow, Senior Design Associate, COEL.

Understanding Contemporary Interior Design

a. Embracing Modernity and Innovation

Modern interior design incorporates the principles of simplicity, functionality and comfort, with spaces characterised by clean lines, minimalism, natural materials and plentiful natural light. Innovative additions such as opening glass walls between spaces to maximise light and create separate sound-proof areas enhance this model.

b. Balancing Aesthetics and Functionality

Which is more important: looks or practicality? As it turns out, both are essential to a thriving office space. A workplace needs to be functional, ensuring employees can perform their jobs in an effective and organised manner, so each element of the space should have a purpose. That said, if your employees are working in a bland, lacklustre environment, they are less likely to stay productive and motivated. Carefully designed aesthetics can boost productivity and create a positive vibe, especially when coupled with functional elements such as ergonomic workstations and collaboration zones.

c. Incorporating Sustainable Practices

With the world in the grip of a climate crisis, it’s crucial that we are environmentally responsible and utilise sustainable practices. This can be achieved by incorporating energy-efficient heating, lighting and appliances; installing effective insulation; choosing materials with the lowest environmental impact (look for an FSC label on wood products); using recycled furniture; and designing for longevity with flexible office elements that can easily be adapted.

The Four Pillars of Contemporary Interior Design

1. Minimalism

One of the most fundamental aspects of contemporary interior design, minimalism embraces simplicity, paring down visual elements to create a serene, clutter-free environment.

a. Streamlined Aesthetics

Minimalist interior design is the antithesis of busy décor which often features ornate shapes and flamboyant flourishes. It demands a streamlined look, which is open and spacious, with simple lines and only essential furniture, to create a calm, harmonious flow.

b. Decluttered Spaces

Just think how overwhelming it feels when your desk is piled high with papers, and how once that stationery war-zone is cleared, your mind feels cleansed. Minimalist interiors are characterised by a lack of clutter, so desks, worktops, shelves, and tables are kept clear of unnecessary objects. Only a select few items with significant purpose should grace these areas.

c. Neutral Colour Palettes

A neutral backdrop is essential to creating a tranquil and timeless interior. A limited colour palette, spanning whites, blacks, greys and beige, forms a great foundation, allowing the furniture and key elements to take the limelight. Pops of colour can be added through accent pieces to create a balanced look.


2. Functionality and Ergonomics

In contemporary office interior design, creating a functional and cohesive space is crucial. This helps you achieve a balance between usability and aesthetics. Here’s how:

a. Creating Efficient Workspaces

Contemporary interior design favours multi-functional workspaces, which can adapt to a myriad of uses. Desks should be comfortable, have plenty of room for inspiration, and a good source of fresh air and mood-boosting natural light. Work zones should incorporate desks gathered together to fuel employee collaboration, solo booths to provide privacy and quiet areas for intense concentration, and breakout zones for brainstorming.

b. Ergonomic Furniture

Ergonomic furniture, which helps employees work smarter and healthier, is essential to contemporary office interior design. Furniture options, including height-adjustable desks and chairs (to ensure hips are parallel to knees when seated), ergonomic chairs with lumbar support, adjustable keyboard trays, and pivotal screen monitors with filtered screens to help prevent eye strain, help ensure employees remain engaged and reduce the risk of back and neck conditions.

c. Flexible Layouts

Designing a workspace that promotes flexibility encourages employees to move around the office throughout the day, reducing stress and enhancing output. It gives employees options and means a space can be adapted easily depending on the current focus. It’s a good idea to include modular furniture, which can be simply reconfigured to meet changing needs.

3. Biophilic Design

We are all innately connected to nature, and biophilic design is a clever way of bringing Mother Nature’s bounty into our indoor environment, leading to a greater sense of wellbeing.

a. Connecting with Nature

Biophilic design literally rejuvenates and reinvigorates an office environment helping employees to feel connected to the great outdoors.

b. Integrating Natural Elements

You can mimic the sights, sounds and smells of nature within the office environment by incorporating flourishing plants, lush living walls or fresh moss picture frames, plus adding water features and diffusers that mist floral aromas. Harness the power of abundant natural light with large windows, maximise views onto bucolic landscapes, and create outdoor break areas flanked by potted plants to escape computer screens and take a breath.

c. Enhancing Employee Wellbeing

Going for a short stroll in nature or doing a spot of ‘forest bathing’ always leaves us feeling refreshed. Similarly, incorporating biophilic elements into the office environment has been known to enhance productivity, boost mental health, lower stress levels and spur creativity. Having plants dotted around the office also improves air quality as they absorb toxins and airborne nasties, whilst putting water vapour back into the air.


In COEL’s design and fit-out for WaveBreak (formerly Wren Therapeutics), bountiful elements of nature were included throughout, including a stunning biophilic arrangement hanging overhead a long elegant table in the communal area, plus ambient LED lighting.

More on this project here

 4. Technology Integration

Technology plays a crucial role in contemporary office interior design and has become especially important since the pandemic to facilitate hybrid working.

a. Smart Office Features

Within a smart office, technology seamlessly integrates into the environment to speed up workflows and make communication more efficient. Smart features can include desk booking technology, which can collect and share data on the way office spaces are being used, and allow staff to reserve work spaces. Other options range from smart printers which automatically order new ink when running low to mobile app-controlled coffee machines!

b. Digital Connectivity

Digital connectivity facilitates time-efficient working practices whether employees are based in the office or remotely. It ensures excellent audio and visual access to video conferencing so staff can continue to collaborate wherever they are. It also powers interactive whiteboards and touchscreens, virtual reality and AI applications, which are growing ever more popular.

c. Adaptive Lighting and Temperature Control

Thanks to technological advances, the days of switching the lights off at the wall are numbered! Sensors can be used to monitor and adjust air quality, temperature and natural light levels to optimum levels. Employees can even personalise their own environment by accessing their light and temperature levels via smartphone apps, leading to a more contented and comfortable workforce.

Tailoring Contemporary Design to Office Fit-Out and Refurbishment

Having discussed the core principles of contemporary interior design, let’s look at how these can be incorporated into office fit-outs and refurbishment. COEL has a team of professionals who work with businesses, from initial plans right through to final fixtures, to create elegant spaces that maximise efficiency and encourage collaboration.

Here’s some office layout considerations to bear in mind:

a. Open vs. Closed Spaces

Your type of business will dictate what type of space should be incorporated within the office blueprint. Open plan spaces are fantastic for work that requires collaboration and flexibility. Also, they often include areas where employees can congregate, including open kitchen areas, breakout seating and couches. Closed office spaces are ideal when work needs extra focus and privacy and may feature fixed walls or movable screens.
COEL has a team of expert space planners that can analyse how businesses work to find the most efficient office space solutions.

b. Collaboration Zones

Collaboration spaces are separate rooms or areas within an office where employees come together to exchange ideas, solve problems and get creative! They can take many forms, from formal meeting rooms to breakout areas with squishy sofas. They should be designed in a way that allows employees to feel relaxed and able to speak freely. Large tables encourage communal work and interactive displays spark ideas.

c. Private Workstations

When you’re on a tight deadline, you need peace to concentrate, and the stress of a noisy environment can seriously erode your ability to cope with work demands. So versatile spaces where individuals can work alone are a key office design component. COEL specialise in amazing acoustic booths which are reconfigurable, modular and removable. Available as enclosed phone booths or meeting pods, they are quick and easy to install and avoid the expense of building extra walls or partitions.


Leading independent law firm Mishcon de Reya commissioned COEL to create a neutral, sophisticated, high-end space in Cambridge. As the client deals with highly sensitive information, enclosed acoustic booths were incorporated along with high back booths, affording an element of privacy.

More on this project here

Materials and Finishes

The materials and finishes included in an office fit-out or refurbishment create a sense of character and must be practical to a business’s requirements. Are they easy to clean, durable, sustainable and do they fit with the company ethos?

a. Sustainable Materials

With the design industry moving increasingly towards planet-friendly practices, sustainable materials are a popular choice for office interiors. These include recyclable and renewable materials such as reclaimed wood, bamboo, recycled glass and natural textiles made from organic fibres. Eco-friendly finishes, including non-toxic sustainable flooring along with upholstery, rugs, cushions and curtains with natural and biodegradable materials, are another consideration.


Sustainability was a top priority in COEL’s design for global software company Altium. An impressive 50% of the furniture was reused and the remaining pieces were sustainable.

More on this project here

b. Durable and Low-Maintenance Surfaces

Always consider the price and durability of finish materials to ensure these components stand the test of time (and don’t bankrupt the business!). Finish materials should be as long-lasting as possible and in colour schemes that will not rapidly fly out of fashion. Individual carpet tiles are a good option for offices with high footfall as they can be replaced individually. Vinyl flooring is water-resistant, durable and easy to install, whilst laminate countertops are practical and cost-effective.

c. Acoustic Solutions

There’s lots of clever ways to decrease the noise levels reverberating around an office. Acoustic solutions that can fuel better concentration by absorbing sound effectively include acoustic booths and acoustic panels, partitions, carpet, perforated ceilings, soft furnishings and furniture, plus plants and living walls (which soften the interior and are a great talking point, too!).

Lighting and Colour Schemes

Lighting has a direct correlation with how we feel because when sunlight enters our eyes, it stimulates the brain to produce serotonin, which regulates mood, emotions and appetite. Similarly, different colours directly influence our feelings and performance.

a. Natural and Artificial Lighting

Lighting levels are crucial to productivity. With natural light flooding into an office via large windows or skylights known to boost Vitamin D levels, it increases our general happiness and regulates circadian rhythms, making us more alert and productive in daylight hours.

Where natural light is in short supply, full-spectrum lightbulbs can mimic the appearance of natural light and special energy desk lights can help combat Seasonal Affective Disorder. Smart lighting systems also allow for easy control and customisation, whilst mirrors and reflective furniture can amplify light.

b. The Psychology of Colours

It’s worth researching the best colours for your office fit-out. Whilst some hues create a sense of serenity, others can leave you feeling stressed. Here’s a quick run-down:

  • Green and blue are the most productive colours, promoting innovation and creativity so can be used extensively.
  • Lilac is a calm shade so it’s great for chill-out areas.
  • Lively yellow and orange have an uplifting effect on mood (perfect for collaboration zones).
  • Red can raise mental energy flow (ideal for meeting rooms) but beware as too much can create anger!

c. Task-Specific Illumination

Particularly useful for laboratories where intense work takes place beneath microscopes, task lighting is versatile and efficient. Illuminating specific areas allows precision work without the cost of lighting the whole office to the same level. This is great for employee well-being, improving productivity whilst reducing fatigue, eye strain and the occurrence of headaches.

How can COEL help your business?

We’ve explored a multitude of inspiring design elements which enhance contemporary office interiors, creating vibrant work places where collaboration flourishes. However, we know that achieving this fine balance of form, function and modernity can be tricky.

This is where COEL comes in, working with clients to overcome these challenges and formulate a comprehensive plan bespoke to individual needs.

Before we even think about choosing colours or finalising aesthetics, we will craft a step-by-step strategy. We will explore budget constraints and consider how we can adapt and tailor-make designs to work within those figures.

Our expert team will work with you to understand your business needs, employee preferences and productivity goals. We will analyse your current space and how it is used and consider what your future space needs will be, providing an office fit-out or refurbishment plan that has longevity and is future proofed.

All this adds up to delivering a space that is authentically ‘you’, creating your ideal environment at the right cost and within your timeframe.

To know more about how our team of passionate professionals can design and deliver your optimum contemporary office interior, click on the link below.

Contact us

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