Choosing paint colors for office space is both an art and a science, and both creativity and caution are required. There are a number of considerations, and just as many creative ways paint can be used — to signal to occupants the purpose of a space, for wayfinding, to provide splashes of color to accent furniture, carpet, and other interior design elements.
But for facility managers hoping to get the most out of an interior space, choosing color wisely is imperative. That's especially true as the trend in office design has moved from heads-down cubicle farms to more open office space. "The change is really that open offices are becoming more open," says Sim Nabors, an associate with Ratio Architects. "The panel height at workstations is coming down or panels are going away all together."
What this does, he says, is totally change the views employees have at their desks. "There are new opportunities to create better and more exciting views," he says. Mostly gone are the days when facility managers would slap a coat of eggshell white onto the walls and call it a day.
"People like color," says Trish Secor, principal designer with Archetype International. "More and more, people are choosing bolder colors in office space." But not thinking strategically about how those color choices affect how occupants and visitors may perceive and be productive in a space can do more harm than good. The wrong color, or too much of the right color, can ruin even the best-designed interior space.
What works for one type of space, organizational culture, or general demographic of occupants certainly may not work for another. But even if there are no hard-and-fast rules regarding color, there are some definite guidelines that can help facility managers make the best decisions if they're thinking about using color to reinvigorate a space.
Some facility managers have a tendency to err on the side of throwing caution to the wind when it comes to color. More colors mean a more interesting space, they think. But that's not necessarily the case. One mistake is to assume that the colors of a corporate logo or corporate branding should be used in the office space itself. This can work, but it may be tougher than expected.
"It's difficult to translate the pantone colors of corporate logos to interior paint," says Secor. "Colors like, say, bright green, are tricky for interior space."
Nabors agrees: "The strategy of color is really everything. I have a tendency to be shy about using corporate colors. They often look great on a business card, but look terrible on a wall."
But while using the colors of the corporate logo may not be the best idea, using color to express the culture of the organization in general or the individual departments within an organization specifically may make more sense. Doing so effectively, however, requires conversations with the people who work there. Don't just assume a marketing department wants bright, busy colors or that an accounting department would want muted ones.
"In open office plans, color can really have a psychological effect on occupants," says Secor. "It's important to look at the activities and goals of the space. This requires dialogue with the occupants, as well as taking into account the age of the occupants."
What's most important, she says, is determining how color choices contribute to the overall goals of the space. It's not always the color itself, it's the placement of the color that matters. For instance, poorly chosen colors can often deter occupants from using parts of a space. She says, for instance, "people don't want to stand next to a purple wall."
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