Unlike designing a bedroom, which often revolves around one person’s design preferences and needs, creating communal spaces requires appeasing a large group of people. This lofty goal can make it quite a challenge to design these community-minded rooms and outdoor areas. However, while each one will have its own quirks and requirements, there are a few considerations that can assist with all communal projects. Whether you are designing a rooftop garden, a family room, a conference centre, or any other type of gathering space, use the 7 tips below to help propel your project in the right direction.
Keep It Simple
A communal space doesn’t have to have any fancy bells and whistles to impress or function. This rooftop lounge overlooking Chicago’s landscape is part of Bush Temple apartments— providing a place for tenants to swim, socialize, and catch a bit of sun. It leans into a more minimal and contemporary design with its neutral color palette and select seating, but that certainly doesn’t mean it is boring or underutilized. It provides plenty of room to reconfigure the chairs for socialization and also has two seating options to appease both shade lover and sun worshippers. The bottom line: it accommodates the resident’s needs without a complex design and any unnecessary additions.
2. Make Comfort a Priority
Whether it is a game room or a conference centre, no one will enjoy the space unless it is comfortable—and we aren’t just talking about seating.
Lighting: Ensure that there is adequate light and that the space sets the right mood by layering lighting. To achieve this, you can install a dimmer switch on the overhead lighting to toggle the ambiance. For task lighting, try throwing a few lamps into the mix to create focused lighting and illuminate dark corners. Creating an outdoor space? You may want to string up some twinkle lights or try a tabletop firepit, depending on the purpose of the area.
Walking Space: Leave plenty of room between furniture. This way people can comfortably maneuver around without bumping into others or invading privacy. This is especially important if the communal area has multiple sections for socialization.
- Aim for Sustainable Materials
Photo Source: Dane Deaner
Sustainable materials aren’t just better for the environment, but they also tend to be more durable and longer-lasting. This can save you money in the long run. Materials to consider include wood, leather, ceramic, metal, linen, etc. Above we see a conference room that has leaned into a neutral color scheme, yet it still feels warm and inviting thanks to its rustic wood table, sepia-toned artwork, and glass pendant light. This design also includes cream, leather office chairs that are made to last, comfortable, and easy to maneuver around. Another notable feature of this space is its expansive windows that allow plenty of natural light in. The perks of large windows in a communal space is that embracing natural light can improve well-being and increase productivity, as well as reduce energy consumption and hydro costs.
Go Open Concept In Communal Spaces
Photo Source: CoWomen
Open spaces are often the way to go when it comes to communal areas. It helps ensure every area gets adequate light sweeping through and it can also encourage users to take advantage of amenities when they see others using them. Above you will see that the CoWomen co-working space in Berlin keeps their work area open. However, they also section off areas using furniture to create a bit of privacy and intimate seating areas. Beyond positioning furniture, you may want to try creating privacy in an office area with retractable room dividers or curtains. Many contemporary spaces also use glass to muffle acoustics and add a bit of separation.
Shift to Casual
Even in a corporate setting, aim to make communal spaces a bit more casual. This will help ensure users feel relaxed in the setting, making them more likely to want to use the area. A more relaxed design can also open up the opportunity for better brainstorming sessions. Employees will feel more at ease and willing to put forth new ideas. Even if you already have a communal space or the plans for one, you can shift its vibe to more casual with a few select changes.
Leisure: Encourage relaxation through fun by adding a games table where appropriate, such as in a lounge or break room. Alternatively, a reading nook or the addition of a coffee bar can also achieve a similar effect.
Art: Go bold and playful with an abstract art piece or two. It will infuse the space with color and a youthful vibe.
Furniture and Accessories: Add a few pieces that you would find in a home setting. This may include a plush couch with throw pillows, a few lounge chairs, a couple table lamps, or a throw rug.
- Add a Conversation Piece
No one likes awkward silence or stagnant conversation. Try adding a focal point that will give people something to talk about. This may include eye-catching furniture, an unusual piece of art, a grand light fixture, or a living wall, like pictured. A living wall is a great addition to any space. It can be customized to suit any amount of light and it comes with many benefits. Indoor greenery filters pollutants out of the air. Providing a way to fulfill our biological need to connect with nature, leading to improved mental and physical health.
Put Function First, Design Second
Set aside the latest design trends and your personal taste to make sure the communal area functions for its purpose. One easy way to do this is to poll potential users. Questions you may want to ask are:
- What would you use the space for?
- How often would you use it?
- What would be useful for your needs?
- What is the #1 thing you would like to see in the space?
Once you have those basics pinned down, build your design around it—instead of the other way around.
The best communal spaces are all about fulfilling the users wants and needs. They can be more of a challenge to design. However, when thought and care are put into their construction, they hold a ton of potential to add value to users’ lives .