Once primarily the domain of media companies and tech bods, the ‘defurb’ office trend has started to spread throughout the commercial property market, with more and more corporates stepping away from every day, standard commercial buildings and seeking out interesting, heritage interiors to house their staff members.
A stripped back design, based on the exposure and enhancement of a building’s original features, the ‘defurb’ transforms office space, moving from the regular blue carpets, suspended ceilings, white walled, corporate look and reuniting a building with its original form. As the look is driven by the origin of the building, and with ‘defurb’ locations including old mills, warehouses, factories and industrial spaces, with a history and a legacy of hard toil, common characteristics include high ceilings, with stone walls and exposed brick and pipes.
These buildings usually incorporate natural materials and are often more airy, with bigger windows, allowing more natural light to enter. Such pared down environments, with their exposed surfaces, are much easier and cheaper to exit at the end of a leasing arrangement as there is less to change.
Note that the dilapidation bills are usually noticeably lower as there isn’t much to be done to hard finishes, such as exposed brickwork, and there may not be carpet tiles, in the first instance, to replace.
For those clients approaching the end of tenancy agreements and looking for more characterful spaces, this is one of the most favoured options – if they can identify the right, most suitable, location.
Location is often pretty specific with a ‘defurb’ due to the history of the buildings. Among the most prominent include the Northern Quarter in Manchester, the Docks in Liverpool and areas such as Shoreditch in London – all of which have their own specific buzz and energy.
Such locations, paired with the atmospheric quality of the buildings themselves, add to the whole ‘defurb’ appeal. No surprises then, as good office design becomes a badge of honour, companies of all shapes and sizes, and specialists across numerous fields, are coming around to the ‘defurb’ as a signature of style and good taste.
As a design concept, it certainly fits with the current desire for increased collaboration and a less structured approach to working, while providing a strong sense of identity and appealing to a younger demographic.
These buildings stand as a reminder of a previous industrial era that has passed the baton to new commerce and professional pursuits. It’s most fitting then that the ‘defurb’ is fast becoming the mark of a company that is in touch with its employees and is forward thinking and relevant.
Cyril Parsons is joint managing director and co-founder of award-winning design and workplace consultancy, Office Principles.
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