Office design has never played a more integral role in the success of a business as it does today. With each passing year, new technologies are implemented and new trends are adopted in office spaces around the world. This constantly changing landscape leads to new and exciting office design opportunities and workplace experimentation. The world of workplace design is ripe with change in 2018. The trend towards office optimization is forecast to increase exponentially as we head into 2019 and beyond.

Innovation is part of any successful business strategy. Successful companies keep a keen eye out for new, game-changing ways to gain a competitive advantage while improving the bottom line. This blueprint led to an influx of cutting-edge products and best practice innovations that help boost employee morale and wellness. Creativity-enhancement strategies, wellness promotions, and experimental design initiatives benefit the entire business.

In 2018 we saw office design trends that focused on innovative workplace designs and the creative use of workspaces. The trends of 2019 build upon the trends of yesteryear. Shining an ever-larger spotlight on employee and customer happiness, they maintain a focus on all things green.

In this hyper-competitive workplace environment, attracting and retaining top talent is a key driver of success. It’s more important than ever to understand what potential recruits are looking for in a workplace environment while taking into account the expectations of current employees. Ambius has reviewed the literature, analyzed emerging workplace trends, and determined which trends have staying power. Drawing on our elite design team that covers large, small, and emerging markets throughout the United States and Canada, Ambius has identified the macro and micro trends that are driving workplace design into the future.

As workplace design planning begins to target 2019 and beyond, these trends stand to make the most immediate and significant impacts on the future of office workspaces.

Macro Trends:

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Design by: Maugel Architects, Inc. | Photo by: Keitaro Yoshioka

Experience-Driven Spaces:

Incorporating direct experiences into your business model is common practice within industries like retail and hospitality where customer and guest experiences are crucial to success.  In one of the fastest growing trends on our list, the thirst for experience in our everyday life boils over into corporate America (and beyond) with the new Experience-Driven Spaces movement.

The trend incorporates a host of characteristics, all of which orbit the “human potential” aspects of space optimization, the goal of which prioritizes the employee experience at work. Experience-Driven Spaces are highlighted by employee-focused and specialized enhancements aimed at developing overall wellness, cultivating happiness, community-building, and boosting morale for everyone from interns to top-floor executives.

These on-site features are usually embodied by the spirit of the company rather than a one-size-fits-all, uniform approach.

These Experience-Driven Spaces include (but are not limited to) features such as:

  • Massage therapy and chiropractor consultation spaces
  • Meditation areas
  • Acupuncture and holistic medicine offerings
  • Yoga studios and walking/jogging trails
  • Rock climbing walls
  • Espresso and cocktail bars
  • Game rooms and virtual reality gaming spaces
  • Corporate sports tournaments and active spaces (indoors and outdoors)
  • Theater and music stages  
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Free-Range Cohabitation Spaces:

Co-working spaces are already booming in 2018, so why is it on our 2019 trends list? Here’s why.  It’s how these workspaces will evolve in 2019 and beyond that is changing considerably. Traditional co-working spaces, popularized by tech startups, bring multiple companies under one roof. The various entities operate separately and often remain closed off from one another. In the new cohabitation spaces, the walls are coming down and allowing companies to share the same space, resources, and sometimes even talent.

The core features of the design all share the goal of maximizing collaboration, creativity, flexibility, and promoting innovative ideas. These open-format office spaces often share some of the same design tendencies that we associate with large silicon valley corporate offices. The “tech incubator” idea came to light in that very environment.

Idea generation and constant interaction aside, all of the features represented in a free-range workspace are designed to attract millennials. Cohabitation spaces have evolved beyond the tech sector and are now being integrated into businesses of all shapes and sizes. This is especially true with companies that prize the benefits of coworking spaces. Coworking spaces offer increased innovation, creativity, resource efficiency, collaboration, and flexibility. Essentially, cohabitation spaces are the sharing-economy in its most realized form.

Characteristics of the cohabitation space include:

  • Open plan office design
  • Dynamic, multi-use meeting areas
  • Technology resource spaces
  • Unconventional creative spaces
  • Lots of glass
  • Plants and greenery
  • Portable green wall dividers
  • Lightweight, mobile furniture
  • Plenty of desk space / no cubicles
  • Comfortable couches and chairs
  • Coffee & espresso bars

Old Meets New:

The cyclical nature of fads and trends in culture is well-documented. What falls out of favor will rise once again to popularity. The Old Meets New trend follows this cyclical phenomenon, injecting new life into fantastic old buildings with venerable craftsmanship traditions, bringing once dilapidated steel and brick structures and warehouses in serious disrepair back to life.

This promising trend is leading to the re-opening of new business parks in areas previously devoid of any such activity. Areas such as old fishing yards, meatpacking districts, deserted manufacturing plants and warehouses, and abandoned waterfront areas of major metropolitan areas are gaining a second lease on life in a newly designed role.

These “Old Meets New” spaces often balance the ageless features of the old buildings with modern furniture and decor. Cutting-edge technological expressions and rough, worn, sturdy aesthetic combined with innovative yet unconventional spaces, creates a design that moves effortlessly into the future while maintaining its inherent connection to the past.

The Old Meets New design features include:

  • Antique and weathered textures
  • Smooth and soft textures
  • Old-world craftsmanship
  • Modern design accents
  • Glass and Metals
  • Carpet or wall coverings with abstract designs
  • Modern furniture and office equipment

Second Nature:

The Second Nature trend is the “plants and biophilic design” trend reaching its true pinnacle, the point where “fashionable” has been transcended and the trend becomes firmly embedded in the design philosophy of the culture and has become “second nature” to us. Biophilic design and the plants that are part of the philosophy have become standard practices that will carry on throughout the ages as a necessity – as fundamental to a design concept as windows or staircases in building design.  

Without the mainstream success and acceptance of biophilic design within our cultural consciousness, biophilic design wouldn’t be having the success that it’s having today. Everything from office buildings to hotels to malls has added living green walls, plants, trees, or flowers to their interior and exterior landscapes. The trend favoring interior greenery, like we saw last year with the Biophilically Designed trend, has evolved from a trendy fashion statement to a near-necessity in design economics.

Including this trend on the list for 2019 is more than just a testament to the staying power of plants. It is also proof that the architectural and interior frameworks associated with the designs continue to evolve in new and fantastic ways. This is a very encouraging position to be in for those who work in office buildings. Designs of the future are finally taking the needs of those working within the building’s walls into consideration.

But what is Biophilic Design?:  Biophilic design, at its core, uses nature as an architectural framework to weave the patterns and forms of nature into the built environment through the use of textures, patterns, natural lighting, and live plants.

Characteristics of the Second Nature trend:

  • WELL certifications
  • FitWel certifications
  • LEED certifications
  • Living green walls
  • Plants
  • Natural materials – biomorphic forms & patterns such as wood and stone
  • Natural lighting
  • Thermal comfort and high-quality ventilation
  • Visual connections with nature

Micro Trends:


Moss Walls:

Green walls continue to grow in terms of popularity as the “Second Nature” macro trend continues to captivate our collective imaginations. However, some smaller offices and businesses are unable to participate in the green wall resurgence. This is often due to circumstances beyond their control like property contract conflicts, inadequate lighting, unsuitable irrigation, and budgetary constraints.

Enter Moss Walls, the perfect green wall alternative. The demand for Moss Walls has grown rapidly over the past 6-months and things are only just beginning to heat up. Recent popularity aside, Moss Walls have been accessible for commercial applications for nearly 6 years, but only recently have they came into their own, being added as statement pieces everywhere.

Moss Walls are popular for businesses because of their design versatility. These walls offer low and no-light feasibility, ease of maintenance, and cost savings. They are especially popular for use in brand signage and event spaces, small accent situations, and even large-scale moss installations. These walls are created using an assorted variety of preserved mosses that are arranged into a seemingly infinite number of design patterns. The most frequently used species of preserved mosses include:

  • Reindeer moss
  • Sheet moss
  • Mood moss

Additional Moss wall design features include:

  • Tillandsia air plants
  • Wood accents
  • Ferns – living and replica are common

Abstract & Geometric Patterning:

The days of plain, single-solid color walls are in the rearview mirror. Evocative, abstract patterns and geometric forms are making their way into the hallways, meeting rooms, and lobbies of offices everywhere.

“We’re beginning to see in office spaces a rise in abstract geometric shapes added as accent designs in places like kitchens, break rooms, reception areas, creative spaces, and more,” says Ambius design expert Laura Burns-Lambert. “Areas that have traditionally been very conservative are undergoing a transformation with the addition of patterns and warm colors mixed with pastel or bold patternings. We also see a fair amount of black and white contrasted with shades of soft grays to really make things pop.”

As part of the renewed push for office creativity comes a rise in office “personality.” Workspaces are beginning to wear the spirit of the company and its various cultural cues on their walls. These can be seen in the colors and patterns that are chosen. The overarching design characteristics that are being instituted convey a company’s culture to potential prospects, clients, and even current employees. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and apparently so is design.


Hand-crafted & Unique Containers:

In an era of handcrafted, artisanal, locally sourced and fair trade everything, the demand for mass-produced and boilerplate materials is dwindling. Companies are expected to participate in the fair trade economy by purchasing materials from small businesses, local artists and designers, and by sourcing materials from small business vendors. Office spaces are not spared from these growing localized sustainability initiatives.

“Expect to see more organic and earth-based products popping up in workspaces,” says Burns-Lambert.  “Woven baskets from Africa, clean-lined terracotta and modern ceramic containers, and hand-crafted wooden stands with one-of-a-kind vessels are just a few of the new-concept containers that are soon going to be everywhere.”

Fiberglass plant containers have always been the most sought-after containers on the market. Although fiberglass still reigns supreme to this day, the new wave of hand-crafted containers is challenging industry stalwarts and driving change. By creating products that are unique and more in-line with the designs of the times, the small business, fair-trade container artisans are causing a minor revolution in container design. We are just now beginning to feel the ripples of this change.


Green Branding & Natural Cues:

In an effort to align themselves with the trends of the times, companies are playing a more active role in environmental sustainability efforts and other green initiatives. These roles not only benefit the planet but also their brand. More and more companies are taking up the cause and devoting themselves towards a greener, more sustainable future. The next step is to ensure that customers and employees are aware that the business is committed to making a change.

Associating a brand with charitable acts and environmental activism is nothing new. As consumer demand for corporate social responsibility continues to increase, favoring brands doing more over those doing nothing, the more imperative it becomes for brands to adhere to the new consumer standards. For this reason, there has been a substantial uptick in the use of green walls, plants, and natural materials to highlight company logos, taglines, and other brand awareness projects, creating a bridge between brands and activism.

Using greenery and other biophilic elements and materials to differentiate one brand from the next is part of the greater use of plants, containers, and natural aesthetics that companies are working into their cultural identity. By integrating natural cues or accents into workspaces, companies are actualizing their mission statements and sustainability goals.

Here are some of the way businesses are tying their environmental sustainability efforts into their branding:

  • Installing green walls with their logo embedded
  • Accenting the office space with plants
  • Furnishing office spaces with sustainably-sourced materials
  • Integrating biophilic elements into the interior and exterior of their offices
  • Introducing biophilic elements into the design using wood, stone, clay, and other natural materials into the workplace


*This article was written in collaboration with Ambius design expert, Laura Burns-Lambert.


If you want to enhance your workspace with these designs or discuss how plants can help revitalize and invigorate your employees and improve production, contact your local Ambius office today.