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What is Commercial Interior Design?

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  • 0:05 Commercial Interior Design
  • 1:04 Function of Commercial…
  • 1:40 Physical Space
  • 3:46 Aesthetics
  • 5:59 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Commercial buildings are very different from homes or other residential structures and have different design needs. In this lesson, we'll talk about commercial interior design and see how this impacts the designer's job.

Commercial Interior Design

It has often been said that the key to a successful business is location, location, location. We get it; location is important. But even with the greatest location in the world, a business can easily fail if its interior is not just as well thought out. Interior design is the art of balancing functional needs and aesthetic preferences inside of a structure. After all, the purpose of a building is really defined by its interior, not its exterior.

A commercial building is one used for some sort of business purpose, such as a store, office, warehouse, or a restaurant. Just as there are many types of buildings, there are different types of interior design. Houses utilize one kind of design, while commercial structures have very different needs. We want these needs to be successful, but a successful structure does require a bit more than just location.

Function of Commercial Buildings

Interior designers design interiors. That's obvious, but they need to do so in a way that enhances the basic function or purpose of a structure. A house is a space for living, so residential designs need to enhance livability. Commercial structures have a different purpose: they help businesses make money. How can an interior designer help a business make money? The interior designer balances the commercial building's functional needs in terms of physical space and its aesthetics.

Physical Space

When looking at interiors, we can talk about two main things: the use of physical space and aesthetics. Let's start by looking at how interior designers can utilize physical space to enhance the purpose of a commercial structure. If the design of a house is centered on livability, then the design of a commercial building is based on usability. Space needs to be usable for both employees and customers in order to maximize profits.

Designing usable space will change based on the needs of the building. An office building needs to fit multiple cubicles into a shared area but not pack them so tightly as to decrease productivity. A department store needs space for window displays, as well as space for merchandise, trying on clothes, and purchasing counters. Restaurants need kitchens, and the dining rooms should have enough tables to make a profit but not so many as to create an unpleasant dining experience. The interior designer is in charge of utilizing space in the most effective way.

A great example of this can be seen in the Terrace Restaurant of the London Zoo. Designers rebuilt the restaurant's interior, changing the layout of kitchens, dining spaces, etc. The new design tripled the maximum occupancy of the restaurant, which now serves up to 10,000 people per day.

This does have its challenges. Unlike the average residential structure, commercial buildings have unique infrastructural needs. Restaurants need industrial kitchens, department stores need elevators or escalators, and offices need parking complexes. In many places, like retail or food-service buildings, customers will only see a portion of the total space. Storage rooms and service areas need to be accessible to employees but invisible to customers. This presents some challenges when organizing the use of interior space but, when handled correctly, can greatly increase the effectiveness of the structure.

Aesthetics

Besides the organization of space, interior designers also need to worry about aesthetics. Again, commercial structures may represent unique challenges. Many places, like department stores, are very large, and creating a uniform aesthetic throughout can be difficult. Additionally, companies may have very specific regulations.

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