Commercial Interior Design - Main Banner Image

In this guide we will provide you with all the information you need to know about commercial interior design. We will cover the basics and explore some of the most common questions, as well as go into more depth on the commercial interior design process and share insights on successful case studies.

Interior design’ is responsible for the planning, design and implementation of interior concepts into spaces across both residential and commercial sectors and we are going to take a closer look at ‘Commercial Interior Design.’ Whilst there are crossovers between residential and commercial interior design practices it’s important to point out that they are very different, the spaces have completely different functions and therefore require completely different considerations.

The commercial sector is made up of brands and businesses that operate within the service, commercial and professional industries, these industries include restaurants, bars, cafes, hotels, workspaces, offices and retail spaces. Commercial interior design isn’t just about getting the design or aesthetics right, it’s much much more than this. As mentioned above commercial design is purely for businesses and therefore there is much more to consider.

When designing a commercial interior space it’s incredibly important for the designer to be able to understand the business’ needs and functionality of the space. As well as understanding the fundamentals the designer is also responsible for balancing this with the design aesthetics and implementation of the design concept too.

It is essential that the space has been designed to elevate the business and meet it’s brand’s short and long term needs too. Interior designers will ensure the experience for both the staff and customers compliments the function of the space and more importantly the future vision of the brand. Commercial interior design should problem solve, help build brand culture, and create a more profitable brand.

Interior designers – also referred to as interior architects are responsible for overseeing an interior transformation from start to finish which includes overseeing contractors and all areas of design implementation.

Within a typical commercial interior team there will be a wide skill set and their duties will often include spatial planning, creating general arrangements, FF&E schedules, architectural drawings, 3D rendering, visualisations, budgeting, client negotiation, and contractor management. They are professionals and creatives who work with businesses to create brand storytelling through interior environments, whether this be office spaces, restaurants, bars, coffee shops or retail stores.

The right interior designer will work with the business to understand the brand, the functionality of the space and the intentions of the business, they will use this as a foundation to start researching, developing and shaping initial interior concepts. A commercial interior designer will collaborate with many professionals and contractors throughout the entire process and will be responsible for making sure the interior concept comes to fruition.

Commercial Interior Designers don’t just deal with the interior detailing and problem solving they also make sure that the entire design concept and building works are aligned and applicable to the industry standards and regulations.

Commercial interior design practices mostly align, and work to the ‘RIBA’ plan of work. This is an industry recognised process that organises the process of briefing, designing, constructing and operating projects into eight stages.

Riba Plan of work:

Riba Plan of work 2020 - Process Graphic
 *RIBA Plan of Work 2020 stages Credit: RIBA

Stage 0: Strategic Definition
– This stage is predominately about determining the best means of achieving the client’s requirements.

Stage 1: Preparation & Briefing – This is essentially a project phase which enables you to diagnose the business case and high level project information. It is crucial at this stage to consider to the project site, programming, proposed schedule and project budget.

Stage 2: Concept Design – This stage is about getting the design concept right and making sure that the look & feel of the Interior is proceeding in line with the client’s brief and budget.

Stage 3: Spatial Coordination – The purpose of Stage 3 is to spatially coordinate the design before the focus turns to preparing the detailed information required for manufacturing and constructing the interior.

Stage 4: Technical Design – Stage 4 is about developing the information required to manufacture and construct the Interior. This requires information from the design team and the specialist subcontractors employed by the contractor.

Stage 5: Manufacturing & Construction –  Stage 5 is for preparing any necessary details required and agreed to enable the contractor’s to progress to manufacturing and constructing the interior.

Stage 6: Hand Over – By Stage 6 the interior will be completed and the emphasis of the project team will have switched to closing out any defects and completing the tasks required to conclude the contract.

Stage 7: Use – This stage refers to the ongoing use of the building, how it is used, operated and maintained effectively.

Read about the Riba Plan of Work in more detail here.

Commercial Interior Design - Forest Holidays

The types of commercial interior design projects are vast, from retail shopping spaces to restaurants, or working office environments and gyms. Because of the variety of projects that fall under the ‘commercial interior design’ category, you’ll often find interior design companies/teams who specialise in specific areas. For example, some companies find a niche and will only work within hospitality spaces, or workplace environments.

What sectors fall under commercial interior design?

Hospitality | Hospitality projects can vary in design, and usually include designing commercial interiors for coffee shops, restaurants, bars, and hotels.
Hospitality design is about creating a memorable experience for the customers in an aesthetically pleasing environment while simultaneously meeting their needs throughout the customer touchpoints. In the current days of social media, creating strong aesthetics for the perfect instagrammable moment will get your customers talking but having a connected brand strategy will help keep them coming back.

Commercial Interior Design - Retail

Retail | Retail projects typically include food to go and retail stores.
In a retail space that focuses on selling goods wether this be f&b, garments or tech, it is important to design with these product/s and customer experience in mind. Within retail spaces particularly spatial planning, traffic flow, lighting, and furniture layout are all very important to get right. You want to create an interior that entices people in, connects them with the brand and encourages sales.

Commercial Interior Design - Office - Workplace

Workplace | Typically these projects occupy a large space, including offices, coworking spaces and professional spaces.
It’s important to look at the desired brand culture especially with workplace design as it will determine the interior design, and directly impact the employees wellbeing and productivity. This brand and design process will look at the different workflows and employee needs. Creating open collaborative spaces whilst simultaneously designing private, quiet work areas and spaces for team meetings is key to creating a balanced and happy working environment.

The above categories are the most common commercial spaces you will have probably heard about. Other categories include… learning environments such as schools, colleges or community centres; medical spaces such as dental surgeries, medical centres or hospitals; entertainment spaces including the likes of mini golf venues, bowling alleys or event spaces; as well as health and fitness venues such as gyms, leisure and wellness centres.

Despite the large umbrella of commercial interior design and the ways in which they all vary, at the very core of all projects the starting point remains the same, the brand, the customer experience and how the right interior design company will convey that intention.

See below a handful of Grey Coffee’s commercial interior design projects:

 Soul Deli - Commercial Interior Design - New Retail Site
Soul Deli: Cafe Interior Visual
Soul Deli | Deli

Commercial Interior Design - Fitness & Leisure Interior Visual

Fitism: Retail Shop Interior Concept Visual

Fitism | Gym, F&B, Retail 

Commercial Interior Design - Richard Smith Retail

Richard Smith - Shop Retail Interior

Richard Smith | Retail

Commercial Interiors - Forest Holidays
Forest Holidays - Reception

Forest Holidays | Bar, Cafe, Retail

A previously discussed commercial Interior design in itself can include varied types of projects. From coffee shops and retail spaces to entertainment venues, each commercial interior design process will differ slightly, however, there are some key principles that can transform the brand AND interior if implemented correctly.

Brand Implementation | A key aspect to think about when working with a business and their interior is their brand. Successful commercial interior designs are developed based on the brand’s core values and purpose, they encapsulate the essence of the brand and tell the brand story. It’s easy to underestimate the potential brand AND interior design can have on the success of a business. A commercial interior designer should recognise this and genuinely integrate the brand’s vision and values across the materials, messaging and interior.

The implementation of brand strategy into this interior process will ensure that the business has a better chance for success, the brands touchpoints will be more connected and bring a stronger sense of culture and community. This process should fall into the early stages of the project and inform all decision making moving forward through each stage. A key part of this is the designer/team being invested in the company and their vision.

Brand Strategy: The Golden Circle
Here are some resources that focus on brand strategy and brand implementation:

Clarity to help design & position your brand for future growth
What is a brand clarity workshop and how can it support interior design?

Space planning |
Spatial planning is hugely important in commercial design and especially in hospitality design. Understanding the needs of the staff and the customers should not be overlooked. A customer’s entire brand experience can be affected by the spatial planning of the interior, similarly an employee’s wellbeing and productivity can be defined by how well the interior space functions.

Finding a balance between beauty and function can be challenging and this is why working closely with a commercial interior designer is key. Not only does spacial planning have to be considered for design and functionality purposes but it also has to comply with industry regulations. Access is one of the key areas that needs close consideration during the spatial planning stages of designing a commercial space. The regulations that need to be met include criteria for building regulations, w/c’s allocation, alarm systems, fire exits, product/furniture specs, kitchen spec and health and safety for front and back of house.

Restaurant Design: Oyster Restaurant GA

Many elements of a commercial interior can have direct impacts on the reputation and financial success of a brand in the commercial sector. At the end of the day as a brand you want the customer’s experience to be seamless, enjoyable and memorable and this can be achieved with the skills and experience a commercial interior designer/team will bring.

If you have found this guide helpful you may also like to consider reading some of our other insights.

Insight: Brand Interiors: Highly Branded Interior Experiences 
Insight: How brand positioning can impact your coffee shop interior design
Insight: Does brand strategy and design influence the choices customers make?
Insight: Hospitality interiors and connected experiences 2021

If you’re interested in understanding how we can help you to transform your interior and impact business growth then you may want to explore our Restaurant, Bar, Coffee Shop, Cafe or Commercial interior design service pages,  or talk to us today!

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