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Transforming a Commercial Interior in 2021: Refreshing Colours, Sustainability, and Customer Experience

Are you wondering which are the most current design trends for commercial interior design now?


A few days ago, Elle Décor Italia held a Summit for the future in Hospitality in 2021. Among the many topics discussed by some of my favourite designers the key factors that came out as central for the future of the sector are sustainability, health and safety, customer experience and multidisciplinarity. 

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All of these come under the effect of the pandemic. Interestingly enough though I saw these topics all already developing before this weird 2020. So, the impact of Covid-19 only enhanced them. Some more than others of course, but all in all each of them gained importance during this year. Additionally, recent colour trends were discussed too as we will explain in a bit.

But how to apply these principles to a commercial space such as student housing (which is a topic very dear to me)? And is it possible to achieve good results efficiently, both for the environment and the developer? Luckily, the answer is yes! And I will explain in more details in the next paragraphs. 

A commercial project that synthesises well these principles is the Nido Student Accommodation that we designed in West Hampstead, London. It’s a good example of how the look of a space can change completely and adapt to 2021 standards with just a good use of paint, colour psychology, reupholstered/upcycled furniture and some other clever choice.

Sustainability, color psychology, health&safety and branding: discover more about the next design trends for commercial interior design throughout this project in London.




Nido Student Accommodation London Before


When I walked into the space for the first time, I could immediately see the huge potential it had. But it looked a bit tired I admit and needed some design love. The communal areas used to be dark and with a completely different atmosphere. All the walls in fact were painted with a dark blue, and the overall feeling it conveyed was moody and not suited for long study sessions or a welcoming environment. The lighting matched the same mood too. 

The reception area also had issues. Starting from a long-fitted desk, whose layout was not in line anymore with the Nido brand (since we now tend to avoid any separation between staff and residents), up to the television screen behind it conveying a cold and impersonal feeling, and the tired ceiling tiles. 

Additionally, other communal areas didn’t seem to show personality or have a clear and specific objective of use. And the mezzanine area was sadly overlooked because the uncomfortable fitted benches and high tables against the wall in a dark nook stopped students from utilising it at all. 


Incidentally, a report from Google Trends Data forecasted important changes in Interior preferences in the UK for this new year, and quite a few referred to colours. Above all, the loss of importance of dark blue walls in favour of green. As shown on this article, green is a rejuvenating and healing colour that represents life, being often associated with the environment and nature. No wonder why in this particular period people are drawn to it.




Nido Student Accommodation London / After


The main objectives of the refurbishment were to make the space more interesting, functional, enhance the lighting and create a “sense of arrival”, something that made the students feel immediately at home whenever they stepped in.

To this end, the colours have been lightened up, with a bright orange and a teal green dominating the reception, mezzanine, and part of the first floor instead of the previous dark blue. Also, the reception desk is now freestanding, removing any psychological division between residents and staff, the television at the back has been substituted with a projector (which has a less imposing visual impact). The cork tiles wall on the side of the reception was already present so we kept it in, and since we paired the cork (quintessential natural material) with plants, solid timber and fresh colours the whole room suddenly gained a homely atmosphere.









New design trends for commercial interior design


But what about the design trends for commercial interior design we mentioned in the beginning? Well, many details and choices trace back to these. Let’s see them together more in detail. 


1/ Sustainability 


With sustainability being one of the core values of the Nido brand, and a major trend in Interior Design already in the past years, this was a focus since from the start.  Along with the use of timber, numerous plants have been introduced throughout the various spaces, and the green colour as for Biophilic design principles, recalls the connection with nature inducing a relaxing feeling.

To further resources and energy saving, lighting has been enhanced but substituted everywhere with LEDs, over 40% of the furniture has been reupholstered, and the flooring has been kept with just some renovation.


2 / Colour Psychology


The overall feeling takes characteristics of both tropical and playful colour palettes. On the one hand, we used colours that could ‘take away’ the residents. Using vivid tones of green, teal, and turquoise, paired with accents of sunlit warm orange, we conveyed a refreshing and light-hearted feeling. At the same time, pops of orange with contrasting and more muted colours can also be energising and a proper ‘invitation to play’. 


3/ Health & Safety

Top design trends for commercial interior design

With regards to health and safety, during these past months, measures have been taken by the property managers, with screens and hand sanitiser. But the interior design layout once again plays into the final result. Firstly, a decluttered space makes social distancing easier. Secondly, an interior with no fixed furniture in the middle of the room gives an extreme flexibility and freedom to adapt the space to every need. Whether for Covid measures or to organise parties once the pandemic will be over.

Through the use of colour blocking and the right furniture pieces, we managed to create areas that can give a sense of privacy and intimacy even in a large communal lounge. So, while protecting the health and safety of the students, this interior design helps creating a more enjoyable and varied experience. Additionally, the flexibility contributes to creating a multidisciplinary space. 

This is a buzzword for every modern commercial interior as managers need to satisfy specific needs and adapt to a wide variety of situation. In the West Hampstead student accommodation, the cinema room is a perfect example of that. The comfortable bean bag chairs can be easily removed thanks to their light weight to welcome a number of group activities. Similarly, the television has been moved on the longer wider wall so that in the event of activities such as yoga class more people can easily participate.



4/ Branding & Storytelling  

Top design trends for commercial interior design


Finally, when it comes to the experience, it is important to remember the storytelling. An interior design, through a complete mix of furniture, colours, and materials has to tell a story about itself, its surroundings, and its local culture. That’s what makes the experience a unique one. The West Hampstead PBSA achieves this through its bright colours, the dynamism obtained in the communal areas with tables and seats at different heights and for different purposes. Also, the furniture arrangement, colours recalling the external façade, and extensive use of plants, subtly lead toward the courtyard creating a flowing connection between indoors and outdoors.  



Overall, this PBSA is a good example of how a clever use of materials, colours, and sustainable solutions can create the perfect concept for a 2021 Commercial Interior Design and I’ve loved working on this project. A Designer at Heart focuses its activity on Student Accommodations and other Shared Living Schemes.

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After photos credits _ ph Megan Taylor