What’s your (office) problem? Part I: How to Design an Open Floor Plan

What’s your (office) problem? Part I: How to Design an Open Floor Plan

Coalesse_OpenOfficeThere has been a lot of discussion these days about designing offices to be more open. This has been the dominant style for office designers in recent years, though it needs to be noted that it can provide a better setting for collaboration and efficiency only if it is designed effectively.

Studies have shown that a poorly designed open office creates more distraction due to background noises causing the inability to concentrate. This includes (surprise) ringing phones, people talking (in person or on the phone), printers, computer or keyboard noise, and outside noise. Unfortunately, this type of distraction is not something people can grow accustomed to. Rather, it becomes more disruptive the longer someone is exposed to it.

How then, do we create a better floor plan for an open office? We asked Caroline, our resident interior designer about her best practices for designing the modern open office.

Caroline says:  “An open floor plan is the new way of the (office) world. It’s great for morale in the workplace and creating conversation. A well designed open office needs to start with the following:

1)  Accurate measurements. It’s important to determine how many individual workspaces will comfortably fit before you put any furniture in the office.
2)  Quiet areas. Make space away from noisy equipment for people who need to concentrate on tasks that require uninterrupted attention. These areas would be in the form of private conference areas or breakout meeting and collaborative spaces.
3)  Defined spaces to increase productivity. Be sure to create definition between the areas where people will be working and the areas where people gather or walk. A clear pathway will prevent any interruption or unnecessary distraction. This can be done subtly by changing the flooring material or using a different color. A band of carpeting is an easy but simple way to section off a lounge area.”


We are in the age of start-ups, which invite creativity, mobility and collaboration. For that reason, you’ll want to design your office environment to inspire this kind of culture. Think Apple, Zappos, and Google – we know you have all heard about or seen photos of their offices, which are pretty much the opposite of the traditional cubicle.

It’s important to think about your furnishings in addition to planning a smart layout. There is no longer a need for that whale-sized executive desk. The digital age has allowed us to reduce most of our storage needs, but there is still a role for storage when it comes to keeping your work area clutter-free.

We like Turnstone’s Bivi Collection for this reason. It offers mobility, room to grow, versatility and flexibility, and plenty of options for storage and cord management. Bivi can be customized to match your decor, with frame and finish options to choose from, and coordinating lounge seating and tables to complete the look. You can also add Campfire Screens for privacy.

For creating comfortable meeting spacesTurnstone’s Campfire Collection is the best option that we’ve seen. It’s great for impromptu meetings or defining any collaborative or lounge space. The pieces in the collection are mobile, durable, and available in beautiful colors (to help strengthen your brand – but that’s another blog post). The Campfire Paper Table is a must have for collaboration. You can choose to have the table top as a whiteboard surface or paper pad, perfect for those bright ideas that are bound to come up.

Last note from Caroline: “Don’t forget about lighting. The Big Lamp over conference and breakout areas works well. Choose either SOTO LED or the Dash Task light for workspaces.”

Need more ideas or help with furniture for your space? Our design services may be exactly what you’re looking for. We’ll help you plan your space based on your needs, budget, dimensions and timeline. Whether your priority is aesthetics, ergonomics, or logistics, we’re here to help!


Karen Culp

Visual designer, Creative Director, photographer hobbyist and former collegiate tennis player. Canadian grown, I'm proud to make Chattanooga my home. Other activities include being a mom, road biking, tennis, running (after my toddler), cooking, baking cookies, often photographing the food I cook, and sometimes blogging about it.