Beyond Colors and Furniture: How Interior Design Services Can Improve Space Functionality and Safety

August 20th, 2019
Pittsburgh Business Times Coolest Offices

From corporate offices and classrooms to laboratories and medical clinics, buildings are an important part of an organization’s operations.  The design of buildings and the spaces within them are an opportunity to express what’s important to an organization, an opportunity to represent values and give meaning to vision.  From improving a layout to enable teamwork and incorporating new energy efficient designs for overall efficiency to reinforcing standards of quality and the customer experience thru the aesthetic, the built environment has impact.

Interior design is central to building design, helping to create safer, healthier and more beautiful environments for people.  Interior design is a part of AE Works’ comprehensive building design and consulting services.

In this month’s Q&A, AE Works’ Interior Designers, Beverly Shelby, NCIDQ and Megan Carleton, NCIDQ, share more about interior design and how these services can help your organization in the design of spaces that are highly functional, represent your brand and core values, while incorporating safety, health and wellness.

Q. What types of Interior Design capabilities does AE Works offer?

A.  Color, materials, furniture and space organization impact how we live in a very real way. We take care of people by incorporating design details and features that enhance their experience of a space. Aesthetics is a part of our work, but we also look at safety, the layout of a space for functionality and maintenance in terms of finishes for durability and being able to clean surfaces. Interior design is truly a combination of art and science.  Art is present in the aesthetics and how the space makes us unconsciously feel.  Science is understanding building codes as well as our clients’ operations and how we can make a layout work better for them.

Interior Design capabilities that we offer at AE Works include:

  • Space Planning and Programming – Programming documents detailed requirements for a project, covering items such as design goals, limitations, and criteria such as gross area and space requirements per business grouping, spatial relations; needs for flexibility or expandability and special equipment and systems. Our work in programming is focused on identifying the issues and problems the design process must address and resolve.


  • Furniture Research & Selection – Furniture is important to a space’s function. In furniture research and selection, we focus on the purpose of the furniture and requirements such as need for adjustability, flexibility, finish requirements, durability and size, etc. With furniture research and selection, we are also making sure that all required furniture fits into a layout and that there is room for the flow of people. We are also confirming that furniture helps to improve the function of the space. For example, in a lobby, a reception desk and seating is furniture that supports the space’s function.


  • Materials Research & Selection – Similar to furniture, the material of floors, walls, doors and other key spaces is critical to enabling the function of a space. For example, at a building’s entrance it is important to consider materials that are slip resistant and that mitigate moisture, dirt and debris. In addition to texture and color, durability and cleaning are two important areas we consider in our materials research and selection. In a laboratory or hospital, very durable and easy to clean materials are important to keep the space functioning


  • Lighting Design –  We investigate new and innovative ways to light a space to support the vision of a project, enhancing ambiance and creating a better experience for people using the space. For example, utilizing task lighting in a laboratory helps a researcher complete very detailed, focus work.



Q. What details are you looking at as an Interior Designer?

A. Details drive interior design. This takes shape at both macro and micro levels. We are focused on asking the right questions to best understand a client’s vision for how they want to use a space, their long-term goals and other requirements the design needs to address. At the micro level, we are looking at the smallest details such as where a client keeps pens and paper and other equipment so we can develop the appropriate storage solution and also incorporate that storage in the right space to help staff work more efficiently in their day-to-day. Getting to the right details is a result of thorough documentation of existing conditions (when relevant), application of standards and best practices and also being able to listen and ask good questions.


Q. How can Interior Design integrate a company’s core values and brand?

A. Your physical environment can represent what is important to your organization and also incorporate elements of your brand beyond color.

As an example, on a corporate headquarters project, design was important in helping reflect a client’s organizational culture of transparency, teamwork and commitment to the employee experience. In the design, nature inspired elements through living walls and bold tones complemented by a modernized style to share a commitment to employee wellness.  Daylighting, open sight lines and staff amenities were incorporated to enable transparency and a comfortable working environment.  Diverse spaces were also added, including open desks, privacy booths, conference rooms and an open lounge, to promote collaboration or allow focused work.

From spatial concepts to material and furniture selection, the built environment has impact in the daily lives of people using the space.  Design can visually reinforce values and provide a better experience.



Q. Interior Design can be very subjective in terms of likes and dislikes. How do you work to achieve consensus and deliver a design solution that a client is happy about?

Design is like a puzzle. We are working to fit all the information into the solution that helps people do their job and organizations function more efficiently in an attractive space that provides the best design value.

To deliver a great project and client experience, we do a lot of planning upfront and during initial stages. Before we start a project, we are doing more research into the client and their use of the space.  We are also making sure we are up to date on the latest trends in design for a specific space type, codes and also trends for furniture and materials.  At a project site, if an existing facility is in use, we collect thorough information about the current use of the space. We meet face-to-face with clients during scheduled meetings to understand their future goals as well as what is working now, what needs improved upon and areas for innovation.

Communication is a critical part of what we do – and that starts with listening and asking good questions.   It is also critical that we accurately convey design ideas to walk the client through what is possible as well as clearly describing any challenges in achieving their desired end result.  From in person meetings to deliverables, we focus on speaking with staff to best understand the needs and drivers for a project and documenting design options with estimates in comprehensive deliverable packages.

As an example, for a client, we were tasked with creating a concept for the “office of the future,” a design that looks 5 to 10 years ahead to support their employee experience and talent acquisition efforts.  For inspiration, we researched what tech companies are doing in their spaces as they are on the leading edge of innovation.  We layered that research into our understanding of the client and how different design layouts and furniture could support their future desired work culture and behaviors.  We created three different concepts that explored how their space could function in the future.  That’s what is great about design, we imagine what can be.  And backed by a focus on safety, health and wellness, we can transform the lives of people and organizations.


Interested in discussing how AE Works’ Interior Design services can support on your next project? Call us at 412.287.7333 to get your project in motion.