June 28, 2016 By Suzanne Robertson

We recently reached out to small business owner Lauren Webb, an interior designer and co-owner of Form Collective in Vancouver, BC.

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Webb and her partner, Josephina Serra, pair form with function to ensure that spaces not only look beautiful but also work to make life a little easier. We asked for tips on how a small business owner can easily create a beautiful and functional office. SmartBiz: What type of plan should a small business owner make before redesigning their workspace or office? Lauren Web: Anyone planning on re-designing their office should consider the function of their space first. They should start by asking themselves:

  • What is working?
  • What is not working?
  • What type of storage and functional spaces are missing?
SB: Once you’ve determined these answers, what is the first thing to do to get started? LW: Evaluate your equipment, paperwork, books, binders, furniture, old technology and other items and sort into piles to be disposed of, donated, or recycled. Remove all items that are unnecessary or not used at all. Once the space has had a serious purging, take an inventory list of the remaining furniture, equipment, paperwork, office supplies, etc. that will need to be integrated into a fresh look. It’s best to take note of the nitty gritty on this one, the more detailed the list, the better the outcome. SB: Is there a way to get employees engaged in this process? LW: A brainstorming session with employees can be fun. Once the inventory list of existing items is complete, ask your team to help you create an ultimate ‘wish list’. Questions to spark ideas might include:
  • How many people will need to work at the office at one time?
  • How flexible does the space need to be to accommodate for future employees?
  • Do you have client meetings within the space? If so, what equipment will you need to comfortably conduct these meetings? A presentation screen? A large display table to layout materials? A round table to sit around and have discussions?
The list goes on and on…. It will be unique to every business and your inventory list can help shape this discussion. SB: What about branding? Can an office space reflect a company culture and product? LW: Absolutely. Take a look at your signage. That’s the best way to incorporate your branding or corporate image right up front. Once you’ve determined how that will look, you can integrate it into interior design of your space. SB: Small business owners are crunched for time. What are the best options for someone looking to design their office quickly? How can you make the most impactful change in the quickest way possible? LW: The best option for anyone looking to quickly upgrade the aesthetic and function of their office is to start with by getting rid of unused items and de-clutter. Purchase a label maker from an office supply store. Label shelves with the names of what goes where, making it easy for employees to find everything. The purpose of these systems is to keep the office looking tidy and clean. Clear surfaces reduce dust and distractions. Organized systems create a more efficient working space. SB: Speaking of storage, do you have recommendations? LW: If additional storage is needed, a fantastic, affordable and approachable option is getting creative with the Ikea Kitchen Components. A good plan for a new storage system will take a few hours on the online kitchen planner, and will offer a sophisticated and functional storage option for a fraction of the price. Use the plain, flat, white door and drawer systems to save on the overall cost – the Veddinge Collection is the most affordable. SB: Most people associate ugly fluorescent lights with offices. What can a small business owner do when it comes to adequate but aesthetically pleasing lighting? LW: Install clean, light-filtering window treatments that can move up and down and stop at multiple heights. A nice sheer roller shade is a great choice and will last many years. The shade store online is a perfect resource for this. You can also offer layers of lighting. The option to turn off the overhead lighting and work near a soft task lamp on the desktop is a perfect way to dramatically change the feeling of an office space. There are multiple resources for this type of lighting online. Check wayfair.com, lumens.com and lampsplus.com If you plan on being in the space long term, consider installing a new lighting system entirely. A warm, dimmable, LED track light system custom fit to each working area is a wonderful choice. SB: How about color? LW: Neutrals win - plain and simple. It may seem anti-climactic, but a nice, subtle tone that creates a calm backdrop to your workspace is always the best choice. If there is a desire to add branding colors to the space, consider an impactful wall in the entryway, waiting area, or kitchen - places that won’t distract the eye where the work happens. To foster creativity, create a wall space where employees can collaborate and write messages to one another or track the progress of a project. Chalkboard paint is awesome! Benjamin Moore offers a chalkboard paint that can be any Benjamin Moore color. SB: What if all of this is just too overwhelming for a small business owner? What do you suggest?

LW: To deal with clutter and organization, hire a specialist. The National Association of Professional Organizers is a good place to start. Look for someone experienced with workspaces. If you want to change the space and office look, invest in an interior designer to review your wish list with you, create a priority list and form a plan of attack. Offer to manage the project to save costs. An interior designer has a trained eye and a professional opinion on where to invest in order to get the most bang for your buck. It’s well worth the investment!

Form Collective offers “Elevate Ikea” online interior design plans for office spaces, kitchens, and bathrooms. We provide a flat-fee price for the project, we ask our clients to send us pictures and measurements of the space along with their wish list, branding, and inspiration images and we create a “do-it-yourself” design plan to follow. It’s as if you have a recipe book to follow to create the office of your dreams (or close to it within your budget!)


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