Published June 17, 2021
2021 Commercial Design Trends for a Post-COVID World
Featuring: ASID, Humanscale, Mindful Materials and Studio O+A
Tile Design + Inspiration
With the impact of Covid-19 being felt in every aspect of life, the need to rethink our commercial, office, retail, and hospitality designs is undeniable.
The entire world is being redesigned right now — and commercial spaces are no exception. As the world begins to discover what the ‘new normal’ looks like, commercial and hospitality designs are reshaping to reflect the reality of a world that’s been forever changed. Customers have an increased demand for maximizing their experiences while minimizing risks — businesses need to envision design adaptations for the post-COVID world with unique design features and cleanliness at the forefront.
“Creating spaces that provoke joy, a sense of community, and well-being, and that can also be inclusive, are going to be cornerstones of design,” says Maggie O’Neill of Weixler’s Swatchroom in a recent Fortune article examining how restaurant design will change post-pandemic. We have a huge appetite for change, exploration, and new experiences after being in extended periods of isolation. Now more than ever, it’s imperative for the retail and hospitality sector to make their guests feel at home, considering that people who enter your door may have been dreaming about this experience for more than a year. This puts commercial space designs in a new spotlight as the world continues to open up.
Because hygiene is at the forefront of everyone’s mind, commercial interiors need to focus on ‘easy to clean’ design solutions — easily sanitized material choices for floor and wall coverings are critical to elevating design aesthetics with a focus on health. Thanks to the countless application and design possibilities with a hygienic surface, tile is one of the materials that will drive the commercial design industry’s path forward. Since subway tile was first utilized as a sterile material for commercial kitchens and public transit, tile has been the historical material of choice for areas where people gather — and the design options have only improved over the years.
Whether you’re redesigning a lobby, restaurant, or office setting, we’re seeing a shift toward commercial use tiles now and moving forward. These tiles have been rated for heavy foot traffic and high occupancy use, proven to stand the test of time and of the crowds that businesses are hoping to lure back. To make shared workspace and retail environments safe, functionally efficient, and aesthetically rich, here are some design trends you can incorporate with tiles and reshape your space to adapt to the post-pandemic world starting today!
“Creating spaces that provoke joy, a sense of community, and well-being, and that can also be inclusive, are going to be cornerstones of design,”
— Maggie O’Neill, Weixler’s Swatchroom
Focusing on Authenticity
One of the biggest evolutions in the post-COVID world is re-creating the guest experience with unique design concepts to create a new, bespoke connection with customers. With a growing demand for boutique ambiance and authenticity in dining and in-store experiences, businesses are looking for ways to provide a more emotional experience through their atmosphere.
Instead of copy and paste hotel design concepts and restaurant designs you keep seeing over and over again, commercial interiors will move towards unique architectural concepts that respond to customers’ need to feel special again. “People are wanting some magic, some stagecraft, some theatricality. To just have their spirits lifted,” Ian Schrager, creative director of the Edition and owner of Public hotels, tells Conde Nast Traveler when discussing how hospitality design will change once the pandemic ends.
Tiled feature walls offer a quick and easy way to liven up corporate lobby décor and add an authentic feel, no matter the size of your space. If you really want to make a statement, a tiled accent wall can add high impact and lift the spirits as an unexpected design feature without having to make major changes to the layout. You can make your space stand out with a touch of dimension using 3D tiles, introducing unexpected colors to break up the ‘commercial fee’, or adding a design element with mirrored tiles to make the space feel bigger.
We love the way Gray Deco Fan Glass Mosaic Tile makes a stylish statement in this restaurant design with its fish-scale design and gleaming silver accents. This feature wall shows how tiles can take your space from basic to authentic in an instant!
Commercial Design for Customers’ Wellbeing
With health at the forefront of everyone’s agenda, wellness has been amplified through the pandemic with a greater focus on bringing the outdoors inside through biophilic design. Biophilic environments focus on the intersection between functionality and the natural world, whether through direct or indirect use of the elements in design. As our psychological health is proven to be linked to nature, we see the evolving focus on biophilic design elements when designing spaces that people spend large amounts of time in — such as corporate offices and hotels.
Real plants, open windows, skylights, and colors that reference nature are popular ways to incorporate biophilic design elements in commercial spaces, as they all increase our visual connectivity to nature. Shades of blue, green, and earth tones becoming more prevalent in commercial interior designs where we seek to reduce anxiety and reassure our guests.
Flooring has always been at the vanguard of biophilic design and the trend has us embracing wood-look flooring materials to create environments where guests can feel at home as they spend time in a place completely out of their comfort zone. Seeing the grain of wood reminds us of nature, which has been shown to reduce stress – wood-look porcelain tile is the perfect choice for creating a cozy atmosphere in any rustic, Scandinavian, or contemporary setting.
Aesthetics aside, wood-look tiles offer many benefits over natural wood floors and walls such as resistance to fading, scratching, and water damage. The non-porous surface of porcelain is a natural fit for commercial interiors that see heavy use and lots of people streaming through, as natural wood can easily support bacteria growth.
— Jane Abernethy, Humanscale
Businesses that started off with outdoor dining - or managed to convert to outdoor service - were more likely to survive the pandemic, like this coastal beach bar with Tribeca Aqua deck tiles that are made of porcelain but create the ambiance of weathered wood. Their popularity should hold steady with permanent changes to convert temporary outside space to entice guests with space, comfort, and outdoor appeal!
Outdoors is the new Indoors
At the start of the pandemic, it became apparent that restaurants and bars with an outdoor seating option would be the most likely to survive. This led to a trend of hastily converting sidewalks, parking areas, and rooftops into additional dining — and many locations managed to thrive with their makeshift outdoor dining.
This is a trend that experts predict will stand the test of time — albeit with a more permanent infrastructure in place. We should expect to see pop-up tents convert into canopies, sidewalk parklets into outdoor dining areas, and rooftop bars continue to reign supreme when it comes to inviting guests to gather.
Clean is the New Luxury
It should come as no surprise that cleanliness will be at the top of every guest’s agenda going forward. In fact, according to a survey from Hotel Business.com, cleanliness and comfort were now rated 36 times more important than a lavish breakfast, pool, or deluxe coffee machine when prospective guests choose where to stay!
“A white, pared-down space feels clean, while big windows give people a sense of connection to the outdoors, fresh air, and sunlight,” says Nelida Quintero, a New York-based environmental psychologist and architect, on building safe spaces after the pandemic. So, the goal is to design a space in a way that both looks good and advances the perception of cleanliness to deliver the reassurance that guests need when they start to travel more openly.
The lobby is the first place your customers enter, and if it’s not clean and fresh, what does it say about the rest of your business? Make sure your lobby appeals to the eye while ensuring that it is clean to the touch– the reception area is another popular destination for a tiled wall or a beautiful floor that can set up a fresh first impression for your business!
Unsurprisingly, the biggest change happens in the bathrooms when it comes to hospitality design. Our perception of cleanliness goes beyond ‘a single speck of dust’ – opulent bathrooms with textiles, wallpapers, and shower curtains are redesigned with smooth materials and impervious surfaces. Tiled walls are on the rise as they allow cleaning staff to ensure maximum sanitization. Guests favor designs with flat surfaces that don’t collect dust – particularly in the kitchens and baths of commercial interior designs - as they evoke associations of cleanliness with antimicrobial features.
"A white, pared-down space feels clean, while big windows give people a sense of connection to the outdoors, fresh air, and sunlight ..."
— Nelida Quintero, Environmental Psychologist + Architect
We love the way this restaurant uses a design trick to visually divide the entire indoor area into smaller segments by introducing different tiles on the floor and wall surfaces. Here, Emporio Matte Calacatta porcelain tile breaks the continuity of the wood-look tiles while safely separating the seating area without any wall barriers!
How Flexible is Your Space?
As our ‘new normal’ changes the way we gather and socialize, businesses have needed to reconsider just how flexible their public spaces and guest rooms are. The need for increased square footage to allow for distancing brings the need to define zones, create layers for visual interest, and encourage a one-way traffic flow for guests to safely walk in and out. Many offices and commercial spaces are using the reduced capacity to update their space now and make designs multi-purpose in the long term.
Right now, we see a lot of signs and floor decals to aid traffic flow, but this will likely go away and become more of a design intention in retail design. Floor materials in different colors and patterns can help with the traffic flow in a decorative way, defining a room inside a room while maintaining the openness of the space.
The need for layering materials has started to trend and, in some cases, become a necessity. As open spaces become the norm, incorporating different schemes will be needed to give the space a cozier feel while defining each area’s functionality. If you prefer not to divide indoor spaces with a physical barrier, use the change of wall materials to define areas instead. Using wall tile is a more hygienic material compared to paint in a commercial interior design, and provides an opportunity to add character to your space!
Inviting interiors can tempt workers back to the office once Covid numbers ease. This community dining space with mixed Kasai Fumo porcelain tiles creates a welcoming environment for employees to eat, meet, and prioritize in-person work.
How Workplaces are Changing after COVID
We’ve already seen the dramatic shift in how customers utilize retail and hospitality spaces, but with even partial vaccine immunity, those spaces are starting to shift back towards pre-pandemic occupancy. One of the biggest long-term changes that we’ll see remain after Covid passes is the impact on workplaces and commercial buildings.
Harvard Business School reports that major changes will affect how traditional workplaces start to move forward, with many places converting crowded cubicles into hybrid models to accommodate a mix of in-office and work-from-home schedules. With lower occupancy as the norm, many businesses have taken the opportunity to revamp their office space to reflect greater distancing, inviting interiors, and an increased focus on wellness and health - both physical and mental.
As life slowly edges back to how it used to be, take advantage of this change and redesign your commercial environment now, to meet new customer expectations in a better and stronger way. With the changing industry and client perspectives, your design will need to satisfy customers who want to experience something out of their comfort zone after being trapped at home for a year while ensuring that your environment is safe and sanitary.
Considering the incredible selection of tiles available for a variety of commercial designs, tiles are on the horizon for many retail and hospitality design projects post-pandemic.