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Planning vital to design of functional office space

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by Patrick Nolan

SBJ Contributing Writer

Designing your office space doesn't have to be a stressful and expensive undertaking. Local design professionals recommend five basic steps to help you to save money and ease the process of designing or renovating your office space.

1. Plan your project. When planning you should consider who is going to use the space, said Marilyn Raines, former president of the east Missouri Association of Interior Designers.

Are the people occupying the space primarily male or female? Will it be primarily office space with desks and file cabinets, or will a work area or product storage area be necessary? Considering the necessity of a receptionist is also important.

Raines advised looking at the customer. Who is going to be visiting the space? Is this business trying to project a friendly one-on-one atmosphere, or a more formal setting? Do you want the desks to present a barrier between staff and visitors? How many seats are needed for waiting visitors?

Raines added that you need to consider when the business will be used. Will you be open during daylight hours or mostly at night?

Also important is whether you are building new or remodeling an existing space.

If you are building new, you may want to consider bringing in a designer to work with the architect and contractor in the early stages to verify that the various plans for the space work with each other.

"If you have a contractor involved, we would give our schedule to the contractor, let him know we want this color on the wall and this color carpet," Raines said. "The good architects and contractors don't mind working with designers."

2. Choosing a designer or going it alone. There are a few basic reasons to choose a designer. You may want an effect that you just don't know how to achieve, or you may not have the time to do the leg work to locate the materials, supplies and furnishings you need.

"Getting a designer will save you money," said Melissa Scott, a certified designer and owner of The Design Agency.

"In my line of work, my clients tend to be larger scale clients. They know their time is valuable. They don't want to run around and do all the work that I would have to do. They know that I am the expert in the field," Scott said.

When choosing a designer, you should look for certification. The American Society of Interior Designers is a professional organization that tests members. The ASID certification test is to designers much as the CPA exam is to accountants. "It is a very difficult test," Raines said. "Ask anybody who has taken it."

Working from a selection of certified designers will narrow your choices, but you should still interview several designers to ascertain which firm you can work and communicate with comfortably.

During the interviewing process, the designer will ask many questions about the nature of your business, people employed there and the corporate culture.

3. The floor plan. The floor plan is a valuable tool for visualizing the project, Scott said. Making a floor plan allows the client and the designer to look at the space and placement of furniture and people in the office.

This is the point where many people remember that copy machine they are going to buy, Raines said. It allows designers to go back and make allowances for items that are going to be used in the space even if they are not yet in use or even purchased.

If you are going it alone, this is the point where you finalize your furnishing requirements and begin securing your furniture.

4. Finish schedule. The finish schedule is what most people think of when they think of interior designing, Raines said. This is the stage where you select colors for carpeting, walls and trim.

Do you want paper or paint? What will work best with your furniture and desired effect? Should you purchase that painting for the space on the wall, or place a plant pedestal there? These decisions will affect the presentation of your office.

5. Furniture follow-up. In the furniture follow-up stage, you need to inspect every piece of furniture as it arrives. If you have a designer, he or she will most likely take care of this for you.

"I inspect every piece of furniture as it arrives," Scott said. "I verify that it is undamaged and meets the specifications laid out by the client. If it is damaged or doesn't meet the specs, I contact the seller and take care of that."

The furniture should be assembled and placed to verify that it will work in the space allotted for it and with the technology required.

For example, will computer cords and power cords reach the outlets or printers they must be connected to?

When designing a space or working with a designer, never be afraid to revise your plans as you gain a better understanding of what your requirements are.

"A revision is merely an idea striving for maturity," Scott said.

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