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Expert Insights: Pamela O’Brien Talks Office Design Trends, Challenges & More

| Design & Architecture, Office, Q&A| Views: 0

Pamela O'Brien

Pamela O’Brien, award-winning, luxury interior designer, writer and speaker.

For the latest interview in our Expert Insights Series, we had the pleasure of speaking with Pamela O’Brien, an award-winning luxury interior designer, writer, and speaker. Prior to founding Pamela Hope Designs, O’Brien served as a spokesperson in media and public affairs. She had the opportunity to collaborate with major media networks and contributed to programs, including Dateline NBC and 48 Hours.

O’Brien has been recognized as a respected interior designer and philanthropist within the Houston market. Some of her prominent commercial projects include the offices of Bellows Corporation, Tradition Bank (now Prosperity Bank) Plaza location, Allergy and Asthma Associates, and Cricket Communications. Read more for her insights.

Q. What is your personal approach to office interior design?

I like a resimercial vibe with attractive, comfortable spaces that still provide the efficiency of a good office setup. Storage is important for clean, uncluttered spaces, and I think storage options should include room for personal items, as well as paperwork and office supplies.

Adequate counter space to spread out is important for design and creative industries like ours since we often have large documents to pour over and often many samples to organize.  I think most offices need more room for paper and file storage because, despite what many people say, no matter how paperless they try to be, I still see paperwork and stacks of folders and documents all over the place.

Q. Can you tell us how office interior design has evolved in the last five years?

I’ve noticed less need for large, elaborate private offices since many of the executives work a hybrid schedule — often working from home or a vacation home — and tend to just drop into the office a few times a week. Some of them are foregoing desks and choosing a conference table where they can work and meet. With their assistants placed nearby, they can manage the storage needs, while the executive office can be more of a meeting space. We often have a lounge area included, as well.

We are also designing spaces for specific tasks, such as workstations, podcast studios and collaboration huddles. Also, lots of clients want a nice backdrop for video calls.

Q. What are some of the challenges that come with the new hybrid model?

I think interaction is a bit more awkward. Accessibility of the team has to be scheduled so you have fewer impromptu brainstorming or problem-solving options. Distractions can be more challenging at home or in environments outside of the office. That said, I like how many businesses have embraced the hybrid model and have found that they can be quite successful with less stress on employees; shorter or no commute times; and a more relaxed approach to the workday.

Q. Which office interior design trends do you think will be most successful in 2024?

Our clients like warm and welcoming spaces with modern furniture, art and accessories.  They often respond to vintage styles, so we often include some mid-century modern touches for a cool, retro ambiance. Earthy colors are trending after 10+ years of gray. This should continue for a while, so I think decorating in this style will keep an office looking up-to-date. Earth tones are also more relaxing than gray, black and white.

Q. What should a hybrid-friendly office layout look like?

I like having my space at work and try to provide that for the employees if possible. Today, it can be smaller spaces or shared desks, but it’s nice to have storage for everyone. Conference rooms need good connectivity and lots of wiring for high-quality webinars and meetings. And, we can’t forget that video call backdrop!

Q. What are your thoughts on biophilic design in commercial spaces?

I love to include a touch of nature whenever possible. We have been making a lot of green walls, especially in the office buildings that are still predominantly gray, black and white. The green really pops and brings a freshness to the space. If a living green wall is not an option, there are excellent permanent botanical products. We’ve even specified a mural showing a forested mountaintop for a long wall in an open format office. That was very well-received.


Interested in being interviewed for our Expert Insights series? Feel free to reach out to us at [email protected] or check out other articles from our series here.

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