Design of kitchens and bathrooms for the workplace

Can you identify some recent projects you’ve worked on in which the design of bathrooms and/or kitchen facilities was a major part?

A recent project has seen a complete rework of the new UK headquarters of real estate giant CBRE at Henrietta House in London. Kitchen and cafe areas were central to our people-centric design. Throughout the building, each kitchen area encourages the movement and flow of CBRE’s 2,000 employees to socialize and work away from their departments.

A new extension to the lobby of the building was introduced in the middle of the project to enable us to create 1,120 square metres2 A café and co-working space for employees to use throughout the day and serve as a social hub. On each floor, tea points overlook the lobby to inspire communication across the floors, offering ready-to-use coffee shops on the way to meetings.

The value of these spaces is that they create a space for people to meet with other teams or hold their special events on the floor, such as celebrating birthdays, and provide the space needed to help achieve work-life balance.

On the seventh floor, a private dining room and kitchen space are provided for customer entertainment and hospitality, reflecting CBRE’s needs in specific customer facing areas.

Toilets, too, have been carefully considered, they are very important for people’s comfort. The layout and quantities are planned to ensure that it is functional in relation to the space and an extension of the quality and language of the entire design.

In contrast, at The Future Works in Slough, in our design of the reception and café area as part of the new workplace development, the café had to work for both the staff in the building but also for the general public, acting as a stand-alone feature that would attract clients from the outside. So, brand and street-facing appeal were much more important than indoor café space for private workplaces. With plug-and-play settings installed, employees at Future Works can easily bring their laptops to work and members of the public can come to meet friends for coffee. This flexibility was key to our design.

Can you point out specific trends or innovations in bathroom or kitchen design that you’ve seen over the past few years?

Bathrooms are now more locally styled and inspired by residential design, with softer touches and well-thought-out strategies on how to use them. We design bathrooms from the users’ point of view above all, keeping in mind where a person can hang their coat, put their bag or use a full length mirror.

The majority of our layouts also include a spacious shower, bike storage, and lockers. The Henrietta House by CBRE is designed to the quality of a members club, with luxurious amenities, from hair dryers and straighteners to drying rooms and towel facilities.

These spaces should not seem devoid of soul or bedside finishes, craftsmanship and artwork are used to give each space an unexpected charm, along with the best lighting and mirrors, similar to what you would expect in a hotel or club, for a relaxing experience.

Catering facilities increasingly reflect the quality of independent restaurants and member bars. As they compete with cafes and restaurants on their doorstep, they need to offer something as good, if not better, and the ambiance and design is just as important as the food on offer.

The best facilities will have a mix of areas and seating, with “loud” spaces for meeting colleagues and socializing, and more secluded spaces for a quiet coffee. More than ever, people want space to connect and socialize in a post-pandemic world.

There is also great demand for outdoor dining venues. At Henrietta House we created a leafy outdoor courtyard, where the team can host barbecues in the summer and play table tennis as an extension of the café area.

How do you approach the choice of materials or finishes for kitchens and bathrooms in commercial real estate?

Catering and bathroom facilities are some of the most used areas of a workspace and can be the most expensive areas of a scheme, so performance and longevity are key. Our challenge is to find a combination of materials that are sustainable, strong and durable without the result looking utilitarian.

For projects like the workspaces we recently designed in the Heal’s Building and at the Henrietta House, durable and sustainable materials such as stainless steel, concrete and stone were used in the contact areas.

On each project, we paired these materials with softer, warmer finishes, such as reclaimed wood, cork, and fabric, to help with acoustics and overall comfort.

How do the climate crisis and attendant sustainability issues such as reuse and concerns about lifelong carbon and water management affect bathroom and kitchen designs?

We design for lasting and longevity as defined principles. Wherever possible, our approach has always been to develop and reinvent the existing buildings to completely repurpose them to contemporary standards, which is central to the Henrietta House project. This ensures that our schemes retain the existing materials and architecture, which will hopefully reduce embodied carbon when compared to the new architecture.

While working with an existing core and risers can have limitations, intelligent design can overcome spatial challenges and the challenge of adapting existing services to achieve the desired effect. For example, as part of our transformation of Henrietta’s house, we reclaimed space in the basement to create bespoke changing facilities.

Existing core has also been reused where possible, including maintaining the location of latrines and kitchens.

Water management is critical and we choose water-saving fixtures in both kitchens and bathrooms to achieve the best possible results. In the Henrietta House, there are sensor faucets to reduce wastage and as a result there will be 40 percent water savings over baseline due to this system.

What lessons are you applying from previous projects to your current plans?

At 280 Bishopsgate, a major office redevelopment, we combine hospitality and workplace features into a stunning central bar and café. Surrounded by an array of seating, it will act as a flexible and welcoming space for events and visitors.

Meanwhile, in an office renovation at Pall Mall, we’re introducing a new rooftop terrace and terraces, as well as updating end-of-the-flight facilities, including showers, change of clothes and bike storage.

The possibility to renovate layouts in beautiful, modern spaces is something we will continue to support with our clients.

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