Today's interview is with Gwen Billman, an Interior Designer & Space Planner for the Workplace Interiors division at Phillips. Gwen is also a member of our Social Media committee and an author on this blog! She explains a little bit more about what she does for clients looking to update or modify current office settings and also new trends in office design.
Q: Tell us about your experience in design.
A: I have a B.S. in Interior Design from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Since then, I've worked at Phillips for almost 2 years, and before that, 5 years at a different furniture dealer in Reading, PA. Steelcase, the furniture vendor with whom we are aligned, is great about keeping the designers trained on all the new products, and they do lots of independent research, which they gladly share with their dealers.
Q: What current trends are you seeing in requests for new workplace design?
A: Being located in Central PA, we as a geographic locale are slowly catching on to design trends that have been present in other parts of the country for quite some time. Lots of the trends have to do with the younger generation coming into the workforce. Companies are starting to realize that they are gonig to need to soon replace their employees nearing retirement, and the younger generation works quite differently than generations of the past. Technology is starting to become much more integrated into furniture, and more open, collaborative areas are being incorporated into workplaces. The younger generation tends to be more comfortable and more productive when working as a group in a collaborative setting, so employers looking to attract those workers have to be ready to adapt.
Q: What are the most popular fabric and finish selections for typical office settings?
A: Because I work primarily on Healthcare-based projects, cleanability is always key. This is especially important in public areas, such as waiting rooms and reception areas, which are subject to any number of potential messes from children, food or even bodily fluids (yuck!). We like to suggest a vinyl upholstery in this type of area, so messes can be cleaned up before they have a chance to permeate into the structure of the chair and cause damage.
Q: What types of concerns do you have from a design standpoint that clients should review in their space before beginning the task of space planning?
A: We always need to abide by the ADA Code, which stands for the Americans with Disabilities Act. This covers all aspects of design; everything from including braille on building signage, to the height of electrical wall outlets. For space planning purposes, we need to leave adequate width aisleways to accomodate a wheelchair path, need to provide a clear space in waiting rooms for a wheelchair user and need to consider table heights to allow wheelchairs to roll underneath.
Q: Not everyone can visually picture an office layout from a drawing. How do you help show clients what the space will look like?
A: We have access to a computer program called CET that allows us to create a color representation of the furniture we are recommending. We are able to draw up the actual building in the proper colors, and then show customers the exact furniture they'll be getting so they can have a better idea of their likes and dislikes. It has really taken a lot of guess-work away from customers and they feel more comfortable knowing what will be placed on installation day.