Can the office ever truly be a home away from home? The post-Covid era is accelerating the pre-pandemic trend to recreate the office as an inspiring ‘destination’, while it has simultaneously intensified employee desire to work from home for much if not the entirety of the work week. Many employers still desire a degree of presenteeism at the office. Can these competing objectives between employer and employee be resolved?
Perhaps the ideal solution for our new normal is a happy medium: a hybrid, ancillary office that complements an adaptive work-from-home space. Together these become a ‘symbiosis of space’: complementary atmospheres employees are happy to commute between. Tangible benefits deployed in both spaces are ‘ancillary furnishings’ that include handmade rugs.
Google executives made headlines in 2022 by suggesting employees could be lured back to the office with ‘food and swag’ coupled with extravagant experiences such as Google’s private concert by rap artist Lizzo. But perks of this type don’t exceed, much less equal, the long-term benefits of embedding ‘residential comfort’ at both the onsite office and the home office.
‘Ancillary is the new primary’ was the theme of Interior Design magazine’s 2018 industry roundtable. The event successfully forecast growth for the ‘ancillary workplace’—a commercial office or home office fitted out with the furnishing category known as ‘ancillary furnishings’. This category merges residential and hospitality values to create furnishings that encourage flexible working. Comfort is prioritised and realised through design, craft and considered, natural materials. Ancillary design objectives intentionally overlap for both commercial and domestic offices. Furnishings are designed to encourage collaboration or to ‘break apart’ to allow for focused solo work. Flexibility is enhanced by in-built tech such as smart device power options.
US company Coalesse (a division of the design studio Steelcase) creates crafted, sustainable, ancillary workplace furnishings. A pre-Covid leader in predicting workplace change, it was prepared for the changes that came in March 2020. ‘Furniture [including rugs] is our medium to help people feel as good, if not better, at the end of the workday,’ says Coalesse’s director of global design, John Hamilton. ‘We’re designing for work that’s more comfortable and restorative, because happy, healthy and humane environments are going to inspire more accomplished, engaged people.’
Area rugs are critical to the concept. To achieve the desired restorative experience at work and at home, permanent wall-to-wall carpet and carpet tiles made from inorganic materials that release harmful chemicals are out, and ancillary, organic area rugs are in. Coalesse collaborated with Spanish rug company nanimarquina—known for its sustainable and restorative approach to handmade rugs—on a certified Care & Fair rug collection. Described by Coalesse as being designed specifically for ‘ancillary workplace settings’ the six tufted patterns (wool and recycled polyester are the two fibre options) allow office designers to add warmth, texture, acoustic absorption and ‘residential comfort’ to commercial and domestic workplaces.