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This chapter is from the book

Choosing Floor and Window Treatments

The flooring in your office will help shape the overall look and feel of the space. A concrete or tiled floor looks and feels industrial, carpet absorbs sound and gives a lush executive look, and wood or laminate flooring is sleek and contemporary. More and more companies are using "green" flooring, which means they are made from natural, but rapidly renewable resources such as cork, bamboo, sisal, and other natural grasses. These materials are all examples of green flooring products that are widely available for commercial use.

If you work in a cubicle, you won’t have to worry about window treatments. However, if you have your own office, you might have a window. If you’re lucky, your window brings in a lot of natural light and gives you a nice view outdoors. One thing to remember about windows is that they are only wonderful when you can control the light coming in. This means using some kind of treatment over the window to either partially or completely block or direct the sunlight. Window treatments also offer privacy, which is important to many people.

Considering Your Flooring Options

Concrete flooring can be stained and etched to make it very attractive and it might have the industrial, edgy look you want in your business. However, it’s hard on your feet and legs if you do a good amount of standing in your work, so add soft cushiony area rugs in the spots where you sit and stand. The addition of rugs or soft mats will increase comfort as well as add texture to an industrial space. Here are some things to consider about popular flooring choices:

  • Wall-to-wall carpet is comfortable and most commercial grades are durable and attractive. Choose a carpet with a pile that is short, tight, and level or tightly looped for the greatest durability, especially in high traffic areas.
  • Hardwood floors are beautiful, but like most types of flooring they require maintenance to look their best over a long lifetime. Use area rugs or floor runners to add warmth to the room and protect high-traffic areas.
  • Bamboo is an increasingly popular green flooring product. Besides being attractive, bamboo is a renewable material that grows faster and is harder than many hardwoods. It’s also stain-resistant, which is terrific in a business environment. When properly cared for, a quality bamboo floor can last up to 100 years.
  • Natural cork is a green flooring product that has been in use for hundreds of years and is experiencing a comeback with many designers. Cork, made from a layer of water-resistant cells that grow between the inner and outer barks of the tree, is lightweight, good for insulating, and resistant to rot, fire, and termites. Cork is also impermeable to gas and liquid, and it’s soft, making it a more comfortable surface for those who do a lot of standing or walking at work. Cork is more expensive than wood flooring, but its many unique benefits often outweigh the additional cost.

You might not have the latitude in your office to undertake such a project as replacing flooring. However, if you aren’t satisfied with the way your floor looks or you think it conveys a negative image, consider covering it up. You can find inexpensive carpet remnants at any carpet store and have the store bind the edges for a nice finished look. Some remnants are very large, so if you find a sizable piece you could cover a large portion, if not all, of your office floor.

Adding Window Treatments

Window treatment options range dramatically in cost. The most common treatments are either shades or blinds. A blind is a window treatment with rotating slats, either horizontal or vertical, which allows you to control the light by changing the slat angle. Shades are panels of cloth or other material that move up and down to either cover or uncover the window.

Some of the most frequently used commercial window treatments are horizontal blinds, also called Venetian blinds. The upside to using a blind is that you can control the light by rotating the slats. One notable downside to using blinds, however, is that their horizontal slats tend to catch dust and require frequent cleaning to remain dust-free. This is particularly troublesome for those who are sensitive or allergic to dust and dust mites.

A beautiful fix for the dust problem with regular blinds are sheer blinds, shown in Figure 3.9. Sheer blinds are much like regular blinds, except that the horizontal slats are made of reinforced sheer fabric and are sandwiched between two vertical lengths of sheer fabric.

Figure 3.9

Figure 3.9 Sheer blinds are a wonderful hybrid product in an office setting, offering the light-softening effect and beauty of sheer curtains without the bulk.

Some other options for commercial window treatments are cellular shades, vertical blinds, and opaque roller shades. Cellular shades are one of the most popular types, not only for their looks, but also because their cellular nature provides additional insulation from heat and cold. They are constructed using two layers of fabric with an open cell of fabric between that traps air and acts as an insulating layer (see Figure 3.10).

Figure 3.10

Figure 3.10 This side view of a cellular shade shows the insulating cell design.

Choosing Office Lighting

The lighting in your office is an important factor when setting up your space. Many offices have overhead fluorescent lighting, while a home office is more likely to have incandescent, halogen, or both. Ideally, you should have three types of lighting in your office:

  • Natural lighting is the sunlight that comes in from windows or skylights. This light, although easier on the eyes than artificial light, can cause excessive heat and glare, so be sure to control it using adjustable window treatments. Sunlight is also the best light for viewing colors, so if you’re an artist, opt for as much natural light as possible.
  • Ambient lighting is the light that comes from overhead lighting fixtures. Ambient lighting in an office should be bright enough to allow you to easily see and work without falling asleep, but not so bright that it tires your eyes.
  • Task lighting is focused spot-lighting used to illuminate a work surface. Task lights are fixtures that sit on the floor, on the desk, or are mounted to the wall or ceiling. Task light sources should be placed above your work surface or on the opposite side of your writing hand, to avoid your arm casting shadows on your work. If you don’t have a natural light source to augment your ambient lighting or if you do a lot of work in the evenings, task lighting is especially important.
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