Companies are looking for more light, additional morale boosters and cheaper ways to do it all when they're designing a new commercial space or remodeling an old one, midstate interior designers said.
Lynn Godshall, owner of Godshall Commercial Interiors in Lancaster, said the main trend she's seeing in commercial interior design lately is that companies are looking for different ways to use lighting more effectively. LED lighting, she said, has allowed more lighting to an area and does it with less energy use.
That lets companies change the entire look of an area just by changing the lighting, she said.
"You can have the greatest design ever, but if it's not well lit, you lose about 50 percent of the impact," said Godshall, a 32-year interior designer. "It's always been a struggle. But with LED lighting, you can do so much more with less."
That's the theme of interior design these days — more with less, local designers said.
Godshall said she's seeing companies that hire for a redesign, but only for high-traffic areas like the lobby. Lobbies make a fast, lasting first impression on customers when they walk into the building, she said, and it's indicative of the tight purse strings companies have as they emerge from the recession.
That leaves the rest of the building — and the employees who have workspaces mostly outside the lobby — with an older design.
"A lot of people are glad they have employment," Godshall said. "They're not freaking out that they don't have the most sophisticated workspace. And a redesign of a lobby helps employees feel good."
Camille Gracie, a commercial interior designer in Kirkwood, Lancaster County, said she's been seeing more companies pick an interior design scheme based on employee morale. She said she did one recent project with an employee fitness center and another with art displays that change seasonally to give a building a constant new look.
"Just a little bit like that, it's something employees appreciate," said Gracie, a 20-year interior design professional registered with the American Society of Interior Designers.
She also said that on her last two projects — one for a marketing firm and another for a hair salon — both clients wanted to save original architecture of the building. Both wanted to keep exposed brick inside the building, and one wanted to retain a open-beamed ceiling.
"Retaining some of those architectural features even when you're adding more modern material adds something artistically," Gracie said.
One of the biggest trends, however, is competition coming from an unlikely source — clients.
Some designers said the broad range of Internet applications and the cost-cutting that leaves little room for a design budget have squeezed the amount of business available for many designers.
Anne Williams, owner of Design for Functional Interiors in Lancaster, said that five years ago, 100 percent of her business was commercially based. She's worked only a few commercial jobs lately because the work hasn't been available.
In the race to cut costs and offer more for less, she said, both architects and furniture suppliers sometimes offer free interior design services thrown in with their normal contract cost. Because interior designers do not need to be licensed in Pennsylvania, anyone can offer interior design services, she said.
"Everyone thinks they can do it themselves, but it's more than just picking paint colors," she said of companies that have decided to try an interior design job themselves. "We're very adaptable creatures. We put up with stuff we really should not. Interior design is something that can cause an adjustment, good or bad, in your personal performance and your employee performance. It's extremely valid to make an investment to do it rather than just putting a Band-Aid on the problem."
While the Internet has made life harder for interior designers losing work to do-it-yourself types, it's also made running their businesses much easier. Gracie said scheduling meetings with chief financial officers or high-ranking company members often put in charge of a remodeling job can sometimes be a difficult task. It also meant long driving times to meet with clients.
Now, she said, she can easily email potential designs to a client instead of driving to Delaware, where most of her clients are located, and meeting with someone who doesn't really have time.
"It's a lot less meeting time," she said. "That's good for everybody."