A handful of experts tells the FM about recent corporate jobs they’ve done, giving tips, tricks and insider intel.

CASE STUDY 1: The Business Exchange

Joburg design outfit HesseKleinloog created The Business Exchange (TBE) co-working space in Sandton.

Which trends in office design did you embrace?

There is a real trend towards an "anti-office". People appreciate having interesting and invigorating spaces to work in, and because of the access social media gives us to the world and the inspiration that comes with that, employees have greater expectations of their environment and demand more from their surroundings. In TBE, we have focused on thoughtful spaces, from very public to very private, and created carefully tuned office environments, as well as celebratory spaces.

What was your main considerations in terms of layout and aesthetic?

There are obviously certain functional demands, which dictated the initial layout — the number of clients, offices, boardrooms, and so forth. The next consideration is how to maximise natural light.

How do shared office projects differ from home offices?

We needed to provide the best possible canvas for each client to make its own [arrangement]. On the other hand, a personal space is very much about one individual’s own needs.


CASE STUDY 2: Lemon headquarters

Design company Lemon created this office space for itself.

How are offices changing in terms of layout and aesthetic?

People want their offices to feel like home. There is a definite move towards creating office environments that are comfortable but still functional.

Open-plan environments have been popular for the past few years, but we believe this is often a cost-cutting exercise, and that it is not an effective strategy.

The companies that consider the wellbeing of their staff create multi-use areas that have been specifically designed for their needs, which has huge benefits in the long term.

How does your office reflect this shift?

It’s important to consider your culture and your brand when designing an office space. For Lemon we worked with our friends at HesseKleinloog to create a space that feels luxurious and relaxing.

We work in a fast-paced industry and it is important for our staff and our customers to feel a sense of calm in the space. That’s why you will see a lot of rich colour and texture throughout.

Are office spaces reflective of general design trends?

We believe that following a trend is actually not the way to go for an office, and that you should rather consider your company’s culture and the way your team works.


CASE STUDY 3: Rain and Prodigy Finance

Cape Town design studio Bone worked on the offices for both mobile data-only network Rain and Prodigy Finance.

How are traditional companies thinking about office space?

They aren’t looking for the huge volumes of space they would have wanted in previous years, because there is so much out-of-office and hot-desking that happens.

What are the trends you’re seeing?

There is a lot more emphasis on enclosed private meeting environments that offer flexibility.

There’s a move away from open plan as a whole – it’s not conducive to focused work, so now the emphasis is on flexible spaces (meeting rooms that become private offices, as well as phone call booths and so forth).

There is a huge shift, too, towards office wellbeing in the form of yoga rooms, gyms and "mindful" quiet zones.

Colours have gone from whites and greys to warmer, richer colours: dark timber, emerald, aubergine, for example.

The Rain office feels quite homy — is this a trend?

Because one can essentially work anywhere, companies need to entice people back to the office, and offer more than they did before. So, cosy home environments that invite collaboration and connection are becoming necessary.

What did Rain want?

Its only brief was to source locally. The building oozed character, which we wanted to enhance while remaining site sensitive. We envisaged a quirky museum of local talent.


CASE STUDY 4: Tiny Empire

Marco Simal and Justin Rhodes conjured up the Tiny Empire shared workspace in Cape Town.

How are offices changing in terms of design?

Open-plan spaces may have worked in the past, but we have come to realise that business owners are looking for privacy and spaces that help people focus.

How does Tiny Empire reflect this shift?

We have curated our space into small office suites, your own headquarters within Tiny Empire. This allows for personal ownership of space, with the benefits of a shared lobby when you do want to mingle or meet informally or take a break from the focus of the suite you rent.

What do you think people want from an office space?

They’re looking for a simple, functional and beautifully designed work cockpit. We developed a modular shelving and desk system, which integrates the necessities for work (table, shelving and storage) and allows people to arrange it and add art, objects and plants.



Tétris is a full-service design, fit-out and refurbishment specialist. It provides services to office, retail, industrial and hotel occupiers. Robyn Bailey, a Tétris director, gives us the head’s-up on seven trends.

The rise of cross-work spaces

Cross-working takes the trend of co-working to the next level. It’s all about the power of community. So where co-working encourages collaboration through shared physical spaces and amenities, cross-working offers the same in a more deliberate way. It involves the purposeful placement of certain types of businesses together to take advantage of combined strengths.

Appropriate arrangement

Minimalism, maximalism — which way to go? "Lagom" is a Nordic Swedish concept that means "not too little, not too much; just right". In the interiors space, this speaks to more thoughtful, functional design. This indicates that clients are opting for quality over quantity in terms of furniture and art.

A new level of green

While all new builds these days promote their green credentials, we’re noticing that sustainability efforts are becoming a core consideration. It goes beyond simply installing a living wall. It and speaks to the real nuts and bolts of sustainability, even down to locally sourced food and beverages. It’s about making choices that are good for the planet and our communities. Companies are changing their behaviour: with reducing the use of plastic bottles, for example, — opting rather for water dispensers. However, the SA market has been slow to adopt all of this.

Taking note of the ‘body clock’

In biological terms, it’s referred to as our circadian rhythm — a cycle that tells us when to eat, sleep and rise, set by levels of light. Progressive workplace technology includes indoor lighting that mimics the effects of natural light to influence mood and productivity. This trend has been popular globally, and we have seen changes in clients’ perspectives here in SA, but there are limitations, because these elements come with a heftier price tag.

Ceilings that say ‘wow’

The "fifth wall" had employees looking up in 2018. With the trend of using texture and colour to add interest to spaces, the "statement ceiling" came into its own, whether through paint, wallpaper, exposed beams or graphic patterns, as clients and designers ditched the tired ceiling grid.

Spa-inspired bathrooms

There’s a home trend to turn the bathroom into a personal sanctuary, and the office restroom is following suit. It’s in keeping with the blurred lines between work and play, and a focus on comfort. Some companies even try to add showers for their staff. This, of course, comes with the rise of running or cycling to work.