17 Jan Staff Spotlight: Sara Spence, Interior Designer
Did you always have an eye for design?
Growing up in Michigan, I would tour the mansions in Detroit with my mom. Home magazines like Sunset and different architecture magazines were always laying around the house. When I went to Michigan State University, I started out with a major in marketing. After a few years, I realized that I wasn’t having fun, so I began researching other careers. Interior design really spoke to me. I knew it was cool long before it was the subject of reality shows like Trading Spaces.
How did you get into designing office spaces?
I knew I did not want to design residential spaces, so I set out to find my first internship at a Steelcase dealership in Michigan. I worked in their library. Getting to know their business led to other design opportunities with an architecture firm and Ford Credit Union. I loved commercial design from the start because I felt like I was good at it.
What is most important to you in serving a client?
It’s important that my clients’ have the most efficient and workable space that enables them to get their work done and to be happy and healthy. Whether it’s the configuration of the workstations, heads down areas, or open spaces, I work to ensure those needs are met. That’s why I ask questions about what they do, how they meet, and when they need to get up and walk around.
One of my favorite parts of my job is going back to visit and seeing how happy everyone is in their space. I love hearing that the office furniture is working out well and that they love it. It’s that type of response that makes me want to keep working to solve problems and find solutions for clients. I listen to my clients, and as result, people are happy. They tell you because they know what it was like to be unhappy in their workspace.
Favorite project and why?
My longest active client is the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. What I love about this client is helping them figure out how everyone can work harmoniously.
As you move through their corporate office areas, you find vastly different atmospheres and personalities. For example, administration and creative are very different departments. Creative works on exhibits and needs a lot of space for their 3D printers and set designs. Administration needs quiet spaces for heads-down workers. I do a lot of listening to each department and employee. Then, I start with a standard space and make it work for each individual group based on their input
Many companies moved to the open office and now they are figuring out that it doesn’t work for everyone. The trend that is coming back is more fluid, individual workstations along with those shared open spaces. One option I see a lot is private seating with standing-height openness, so employees don’t have peripheral distractions, but can stand up and talk to their coworker.
Height-adjustable desks are also big. They are vital to employee health and wellbeing. Employees are grateful when their employers pay for these desks. It means a lot to them.
What are clients are asking for these days?
Clients are asking for what we call “resimercial.” Everyone wants their office to feel more like home. We can achieve that comfortable environment through the same systems furniture, it’s just a matter of choosing warmer paint and fabrics. Five years ago, everything was grey or silver. Now, it’s turning a corner, leaving the cooler colors behind to bring in warmer tones.
Favorite product or material?
I love the range of options and the selection of textiles. The options are endless, with a wide range of texture, color, and pattern. It’s a fun part of the process.
Another favorite part of the process is space planning. Getting to know my clients, understanding how they work best and why helps me map it all out. That’s the most interesting part of my job because everyone works differently, and they may have needs that I have never dealt with before. It’s never the same process.
I love to cook, ski and hike. And, of course, the typical family things with kids!
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