Designing the right office space Designing the right office space

Beanbags in the boardroom or classic corporate charm? It’s good to see things from an interior designer’s perspective. Elaine Monfero-Gan, Design Director, BBR Design, shares her experiences while working on corporate spaces.

Working on various design projects for years has opened my eyes to different influences and inspirations of design concepts. I am fortunate to be practicing my profession in Dubai where I am exposed to an environment where cultural diversity is prominent. It is also a privilege to be working on areas of commercial and office interiors as the UAE is known to be a major business hub in the world where there are so many opportunities to apply such a wide range of ideas, depending on what clients are aiming to achieve. Having said that, as the UAE is naturally known to be a melting pot of different nationalities and cultures, clients always tend to differ in what they expect the interior designers to deliver.

In designing office interiors, numerous factors have to be considered. It is critical to have a full understanding of what the client really wants. The clients’ ethnicity and cultural background can greatly affect the design that they want. Based on experience, most Middle Eastern clients tend to veer towards traditional Arabian designs with the application of typical Arabic patterns on walls, ceilings, furnishings, and so on. Colours chosen are mostly those of darker hues with a touch of class. On the other hand, Westerners often want a more modern, sleek and contemporary design with the use of bright, interesting colours while incorporating fun patterns through lines, shapes, and more. While most clients from the Asian region would either be minimalistic by choosing to be safe in colour and design choices, or opt to go for designs and decors that reflect where they come from and are mainly inspired by Chinese, Indian, Thai and other cultures.

The budget is also one of the main factors that most designers have to consider. Oftentimes, clients emphasise their design requirements and it turns out that they are way beyond their set budgets. This, then, becomes a challenge for designers like me but then again, there will always be means to make it work by being resourceful and extra careful in choosing the right materials and the proper approach.

Most clients would initially submit a brief that they would like an office that would be a perfectly work-conducive environment where employees will not dread coming to work and in turn would always be enthusiastic to come to work every single day. The designers will then get the area inspected, measured and observed; that’s when all the ideas start to kick in, especially deciding on how to fully utilise the space available. This is when designing will be based on the interrelationship of space.

Elaine Monfero-Gan, Design Director, BBR Design

Most, if not all corporate entities, have a set branding and theme guidelines that are often reflected in their office interior design, and this is what is needed to be taken into consideration. It also becomes a struggle when the branding of a certain company is global and is applied internationally; that would mean your liberty in creating something distinct is restricted because you have all these other existing designs from other countries (hubs) to base from and coincide with.

Some of the great examples of office interior design predecessors that most corporate environments gain inspiration from are the likes of Google, Facebook, Yahoo – where the concept of fun is what ultimately radiates. In this modern day and age, office chairs are replaced by bean bags, huge and bulky computer monitors are replaced by LCD and plasma flat screens, desktop computers are replaced by note book computers and note pads are replaced by iPads. Now designers have more liberty to let their creativity run wild, with the permission of clients who take risks at being open-minded, fun and quirky.


Passionate about design, Elaine Monfero-Gan completed a degree in Architecture, Philippines at 2005. She brings with her a vast experience in the field, having had the opportunity to work on various focus areas in architecture and interior design, developing unique approaches on corporate and commercial projects. Elaine is currently working at BBR Design as Design Director and can be contacted on

Rushika Bhatia Editor

Rushika Bhatia is one of the region’s leading commentators on business and current affairs issues. She is the Editor of SME Advisor magazine - the flagship title of CPI Business. She is passionate about infographics – with special emphasis on data, research and statistics. Rushika has a Bachelor’s Degree from Indiana University, USA and is also CIMA qualified.

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