Walls are playing an increasing role in communication and productivity in commercial spaces.
From cladding that reinforces a company's cultural values to greenery climbing up hotel walls to help purify the air, designers are exploring how walls can serve as more than a supporting partition.
Workplaces in particular are jumping on this emerging trend, applying inspiring décor or simulating colours to walls or work to walls whether through vegetation, an interactive communications board or clever storage solutions.
Even retail and hospitality environments are joining in the trend, embedding clever point of sale structures and walls that are visually engaging or directly contribute to their customers' experience.
One dominant trend is the move toward embracing nature in all its forms, whether it be actual living greenery or design elements that reflect nature. Minimalism has also been shelved to make way for warmer colours and textures and walls that utilise design elements to bring the outdoors in.
Fei Chau, an associate at Melbourne architecture firm ClarkeHopkinsClarke, has noted three current wall trends that are leading the market:
- Patterns (both geometric and scrollwork)
- Natural Textures
These trends are demonstrated into the following exploration areas for commercial walls:
Vertical gardens are climbing facades at a rapid rate, though the trend is moving a bit slower indoors, where simpler hanging planters or desk plants are more often being used.
In a commercial environment, green interiors can bring added benefits such as improved air quality, acoustic support and are visual appeal. Chau noted, however, that they are not always viable.
"As pretty as they are, for the unsuspecting consumer they can be quite a burden to maintain," he said. "Aside from having good access to light, you do need to think about or invest in watering or irrigation systems."
Chau added that indoor gardens require proper lighting.
"Not all places have good light and if (you don't) you're relegated to artificial light. I can just see my electricity bills rack up in that case," he said.
He suggested companies look into low maintenance creepers on tension wires as a cost effective solution.
Colour is being used for communication and alignment in commercial spaces. Many designers are being briefed to showcase their clients' businesses' brand colours through decor, signage and wall colour.
Chau said that, when working with corporate clients, he looks to create design themes that align with the company brand.
"Whether it be the colours, materials, feel or image they want to portray," he said
He predicts that colour choices in 2014/15 will align with the concept of nature.
"In terms of colours, I'm beginning to see soft coppers and soft metal tones emerge," Chau reveals. "This has the feel of luxury and glamour without it being too ostentatious. Mix that in with select raw and natural materials such as timbers and furniture pieces that aren't too polished and perfect or pieces with varied natural textures - (it offers) the room a bit of tactility."
Many boutique and smaller commercial spaces in particular have begun using walls as dividers and storage.
In office environments in particular, walls are being turned into creative storage solutions. In some cases, companies are installing moveable wall systems that can help reconfigure an entire space.
Chau believes these choices all come down to the brief and with smaller spaces, sometimes aesthetics are overlooked for function.
"Things like wall panelling, pleats and folds, patterns and scrolls work in detailing can offer that feel or old world luxury, but current trends prefer to take these historical references with restraint," Chau said.
Whether due to greenery, branding or added functionality, one thing is certain: walls are no longer "wallflowers" when it comes to commercial design.