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Interior design project: a new coastal inspired head office

It's time to share another recent office interior design project with you: a coastal inspired head office for a marinas company. The client is an independent business that owns and operates several marinas along the South coast of the UK.

Having recently relocated their head office, Studio SK was appointed to design an office interior for staff to enjoy and work productively in, and to impress B2B clients when attending a meeting at the new head office.

Interior design and all images by Studio SK

Design brief & interior inspiration

The new head office is located in a large and modern office building, so the site itself was a nice empty (and clean) white box for me to work with. Fortunately, the client wanted to avoid looking like a run-of-the-mill, uninspiring office with blue carpet tiles and brilliant white walls - they were conscious of staff well-being and productivity, wanting to create a work environment that staff looked forward to working in every day.

The client wanted the office interior to draw inspiration from their business (marina owner and operator) and coastal location, but not to fall into the realm of cliché sea/boat photos or a caricature of an industrial shipyard in a modern office space... Which they knew would end up being the case if they didn't have an interior designer on board!

An underlying driver for the project was to create an interior design scheme that implemented sustainable and eco-conscious materials wherever possible. The business is currently striving to tackle and reduce the environmental impact at each marina to become a sustainable operator, so the client wanted this business ethos to be included in the new head office.

There was also office logistics to consider with the layout and features of the overall space. A meeting room was required for external client meetings and in-house team meetings. The head office had a mix of permanent and part-time staff members so their needed to be enough desks for a full staff days, but ensure that the space didn't feel empty and sad on quieter staff days.

There also needed to be a breakout area area for lunch breaks and informal meetings between staff members, and ideally somewhere for external clients to wait briefly before a meeting if needed. Considering the overall square meterage of the office site, there were a lot of areas and elements to strategically slot together!

Project process

A full office interior design project at Studio SK is typically broken down into the following stages:

  • Stage 1: Concept design

  • Stage 2: Detailed design

  • Stage 3: Implementation

If you want to find out more about the interior design process and what's involved at each stage you can have a look here.

For this project my interior design services were mainly required for Stages 1 and 2 - these stages are usually a very collaborative process between Studio SK and the client. This way the interior design scheme is fully understood and any necessary changes to this are made so that the client is happy and the design is 'signed off'.

The client also wanted me involved with some aspects of Stage 3, such as checking that the build was running smoothly and liaising with trades people on site with any interior design queries.

Concept Design

After visiting the site to measure up in detail and get plenty of photos of the existing space, I begin most office interior design projects exploring the potential of the site's layout, and researching and collating images to create a mood board of the interior design concept.

The mood board(s) is an overview of the general look and feel and proposed interior design ideas so the client can understand what the interior for their independent business will look like. I also like to include a digital material board at this early stage to show suggested main finishes like paint colours, flooring, wall tiles etc so my clients can really get a feel for the proposed design.

What's great to note with this office interior design project is that almost all the key finishes were proposed not just on their aesthetics but also on environmental impact and sustainability credentials. For example, the main work area and breakout area has cork flooring by Recork and the meeting room carpet tiles are from Interface, a carbon neutral enterprise, and the tiles themselves contain recycled material and are fully recyclable at their end of life.

Detailed Design

Once the concept design stage has been 'signed off' by the client I then start working on the interior layout in much further detail - such as locations of lighting and small power points, floor finish types etc - as well as producing detailed drawings for bespoke joinery and 3D visuals of the interior.

As I mentioned earlier, there were a lot of different zones of an office to fit within the floor area, so I designed a breakout area with comfortable sofas located near the entrance to double up as a small waiting area for external clients arriving before their meetings, with refreshments being able to be quickly provided from the kitchenette opposite. (This encourages all staff to keep the breakout area and specifically the kitchenette clean and tidy everyday!)

I developed an office interior layout that utilised the existing site's proportions and elements, like having the partition walls to form the meeting room aligning with existing columns in the space, and placing the kitchenette by existing plumbing points outside of the office site to minimise the design's complexity and costs.

Bespoke low level storage with decorative planting on top have been strategically placed by the large floor-to-ceiling windows in the main work area - giving ample storage for staff, providing a layer of privacy from passersby on the main street outside, and helping to improve staff well-being with beautiful, luscious green plants.

To keep the bespoke joinery elements cost effective for the project, I designed them all with similar proportions and dimensions, and kept the door fronts as a simple flat, painted finish (then jazzing them up with beautiful leather pull handles).

Having detailed drawings of the bespoke storage units with notes on the various finishes and construction, as well as plenty of dimensions, meant the client could get accurate trade quotes and know how much of the budget would be spent on them.

Alongside the detailed drawings, I produced 3D visuals for the client so they could fully understand what the finished interior would look like (keeping scrolling down to see these).

3D visuals aren't always needed in an office interior design project, but they can be super helpful for trades people to see what you want the outcome to be from them, for use in landlord packages, and even for using on your independent business' social media channels to get customer excitement going during the build and lead up to the (re)opening of your independent business.

I also spent a lot of time with the client developing the material boards, ensuring they were happy with all the proposed samples. Seeing samples in person is something I always highly recommend before ordering anything, as colours, textures and scale of patterns etc can vary so much from the online images!

Where possible I always like to provide a couple of options for key finishes to make sure my clients are fully happy with the interior design scheme, and the options vary in price to allow some flexibility within the budget if necessary.

Office interior design outcome

Here's a look at the proposed design outcome for the head office interior via the 3D visuals. The interior design scheme makes many subtle references to the marinas and sailing/boating in general without the interior yelling boats!, the sea! at you, and it was this balance that, as an interior designer, I really wanted to get right.

Acoustics was another element of the project that was so important to try and get right in a pretty much open plan office interior. I chose a lot of key finishes and fittings based on their acoustic qualities to help with sound/noise absorption and improve acoustics - like the cork flooring throughout the main working area; the carpet tiles in the meeting room; the acoustic ceiling panels; the large dome shaped light fittings from Muuto; even the custom made hanging woven artwork installed by the work desks and breakout area.

Calming and grounding blue tones are used throughout the main work area and breakout area, with a zingier, mood-lifting aquamarine paint colour used on the meeting room walls. The feature bespoke work desks and meeting tables solid timber finish brings natural textures, tactility and warmth to an otherwise almost monochromatic blue colour palette.

The same goes with the upholstery colours I've specified throughout the head office - the tan leather desk chairs and chestnut brown leather pull handles on the bespoke joinery add warmth to the scheme's colour palette, creating a lovely contrast with the deep blue tones and developing a beautiful unique patina with regular use for years to come.

The breakout area sofas take their rich fabric colours from the sea, and the eye-catching coral fabric used on the chairs here and in the meeting room mimics the vibrant hues seen in setting skies over the client's marinas (as well as providing an energetic colour contrast in the meeting room).

The solid wood work desks, meeting table and break out area table were designed and built using traditional joinery techniques, giving a nod back to traditional boat/ship making and show an appreciation for beautiful craftsmanship.

The lovely solid oak finish has lots of character and texture that looks like it's been weathered by salty sea air, and gives plenty of visual interest throughout the office space on quieter staff days - much better than your bog-standard white office tables.

A few more subtle coastal references included using zellige tiles in the kitchenette (and breakout area coffee table) with their handmade, undulating gloss surface mimicking reflective ripples of the sea. Even my specification of the obscured glazing for the meeting room partition wall was chosen for its subtle nod to reflective ocean ripples.

The client really loved and appreciated these interior design choices that created a considered connection between the head office interior and their business and location.


If you're looking to start an office interior design project, check out my office interior design service page for more information. Or feel free to get in touch if you want to chat more about how working with an interior designer could benefit your independent business.


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