Washroom countertops: top 4 surface materials for your high-end office

From marble, through Corian, all the way to concrete, washroom countertops are an essential ingredient for a high-end office washroom that wants to impress.

Choosing the right countertop for your office washroom can be daunting and the abundance of choice doesn't help matters.

How do you stand out in a sea of options? What surface will best tell your story? Is Corian tougher than natural stone? And what about concrete?

Before we go into detail about which surface materials are best suited to your commercial washroom, ask yourself why? Why do you want to upgrade your current washroom? What needs to be improved and what is the end-goal? Are you looking to increase the property value of your office? Is your objective to impress prospects and stand out from the crowd? What are your aesthetic aspirations and practical needs?

luxury washroom in Melbourne office
High-end washroom inside PDG's Melbourne head office, by Studio Tate

Now that you have your 'why', let's find your 'how'. How is upgrading your office washroom going to help your business? If it's about property value, how can you turn your office into a Class A office space, complete with top notch fixtures and amenities? How can you convey luxury?

When designing a commercial bathroom, functionality and style go hand in hand. And although there is a lot more to a washroom than the countertop, the latter remains an integral component that will often tie the various elements together.

Here's a closer look at the top 4 surface materials for your office washroom countertops.

1. Marble

marble countertops in New York washroom
Marble countertops at 222 East 41st Offices, New York City. Photographer: Ricardo Parra

Long-associated with wealth and elegance, marble is a top choice for premium office washrooms. With its hard, crystalline surface and characteristic swirls and veins, marble will certainly meet both your functional and aesthetic needs.

Pros:

  • Long-lasting and resistant to most dents.
  • The abundance of colours and varieties make it a very adaptable material.
  • Can be polished or honed, depending on the desired look. Bare in mind honed marble resists scratches better because it lacks the gloss that polished marble has.

Cons:

  • A high price to pay for luxury.
  • Higher maintenance.
  • Marble is more porous than other surfaces which makes it prone to stains and scratches from acidic substances.

2. Corian

white washroom with corian countertops
Glacier White Corian® counters inside the White Grotto washroom, designed by Ida & Billy

Solid-surface materials such as Corian are made of minerals and acrylic which creates a stone-hard surface, designed to last a lifetime. What's more, despite its hard nature, Corian can be formed into almost any shape.

Pros:

  • Extreme durability and great resistance to water and bacteria.
  • Virtually seamless.
  • Its realistic flecks and streaks can be highlighted with colour inlays and lighting effects.

Cons:

  • You will need to seek professional help to install.
  • Darker colours reveal wear and tear more than lighter shades.
  • Intense heat or dropped objects can damage the surface, although neither of these this should not be an issue in commercial washrooms.

3. Concrete

concrete washroom basin
Customised concrete countertop with embedded copper flakes, by Lampe Concrete Studio in CA, United States

No longer synonymous with industrial, cold looks, concrete countertops can be moulded in one seamless piece, making your bathroom countertop a visually striking feature.

Pros:

  • Appealing organic material that can mimic the look of natural stone achieved through acid staining.
  • Ceramic, glass or stone tiles can be embedded in the concrete and the surface can be etched to give it a pattern or texture. Customised colours and decorative inlays are also in store.
  • Can be cast in any shape and virtually any size.
  • Extremely durable.

Cons:

  • Just like Corian, professional installation is recommended.
  • If not waxed and sealed regularly, concrete counters will be prone to stains. Avoid this by sealing your countertop at the beginning, then every 1-3 years.

4. Glass

office washroom with glass countertops
Minimalist glass countertop set against a concrete wall. Photo credit: Iconoclassst

Sleek, modern and well-suited to high-end corporate businesses, glass countertops come in all shapes and forms and boast a range of textures, finishes and colours.

Pros:

  • Design flexibility. Bespoke applications are almost limitless.
  • Since glass is non-porous, it will not harbour germs and bacteria.
  • The ability to light up glass makes it a distinctive advantage for those who wish to impress. The translucency of glass also helps make a small bathroom look larger.

Cons:

  • Less resistant that natural stone or granite, although it is useful to remember, the thicker the glass, the stronger it is. For a stronger surface, you can also opt for tempered glass.
  • Just like marble, acidic substances can damage the glass surface.

Republic interviews Ted Jefferis

Built on a desire to display the natural beauty of wood, Ted Jefferis' furniture imparts organic, artisanal beauty.

Ted's family history is ingrained with design and woodwork heritage. The son of a classic boat builder, Ted took up studying at Oxford Brookes University, where he began to explore the concept of furniture as a scaled down form of architecture. His collection continues the appreciation of the fundamental relationship between furniture and the surrounding interior.

Furniture designer maker Ted Jefferis is fastidious in his selection of wood, and using sustainably grown British wood is a simple yet elegant solution to locking away carbon for generations to come. It is Ted's fond hope that, through his work. He will emphasise and encourage sustainability, permanency and narrative, creating a counterbalance to the throwaway culture of modern society.

We reached out to Ted who shared a thing or two about his creative process and professed his love for British Hardwoods.

I genuinely think British Hardwoods are some of the most beautiful in the world.

BoltUp side tables, TedWood

Republic (Re): Can you start by telling us a little bit about your background and talk us through your creative process?

Ted Jefferis (TJ): I grew up surrounded by woodlands and my dad was a carpenter. This has undoubtedly affected my love for timber as a natural material. I often design things at the workbench, through prototyping. This doesn't mean I don’t use pencil and paper or CAD, but I just like to see things take shape in physical materials.

tiptoe table designed by Ted Jefferis
TipToe table, TedWood

Re: You only use sustainable British hardwoods – clearly, sustainability is at the crux of your work. What else are you interested in or inspired by and how is it feeding into your designs?

TJ: Sustainability is key, however, I genuinely think British Hardwoods are some of the most beautiful in the world, so it makes a lot of sense to use them. I'm also interested in CNC manufacture, I think that as a craftsman I need to embrace this technology in order to enrich my process. It also enables my relatively small workshop to produce a higher volume of furniture.

Tipetoe table in the making in TedWood workshops
BoltUp stool in the making, TedWood

Re: Timber is increasingly becoming a viable alternative to traditional steel and concrete construction. I imagine this must be as exciting for you as it is for us. How do you think can furniture be used to promote sustainability on a smaller scale?

TJ: In the construction industry, cross-laminated timber (CLT) is a driving force behind the resurgence in timber as a load bearing material. CLT is the same technology that we use in the legs of our TipToe collection. People often mistake the legs for metal: it just shows how strong wood can be.

Story coffee cafe in Clapham
TipToe collection quietly sitting in Story Coffee café, Clapham. TedWood 

Re: Your furniture is so versatile it would fit in almost any interior but is there a sector you feel particularly drawn to? Or a sector you would like to explore further?

TJ: The collection from TedWood was defiantly intended for residential homes. However, over the past three and a half years, I have changed my attitude to this. We have fitted out an entire coffee shop with our furniture (Story Coffee - Clapham) and have just finished our first office interior. I like the scale of projects like this, somehow the furniture makes more sense when it is multiplied across a whole interior.

hangup lamp made from leather
HangUp lamp close up, TedWood

Re: We know your mother does the leather work. Did you create the leather lighting collection together? Will you tell us a little more about your collaboration and how it began?

TJ: Mum is an excellent leatherworker, and can hand stitch with incredible accuracy. She makes our ToolBags, BoatBuckets and some leatherwork for bespoke projects. The lights are made in my workshop and are defiantly inspired by Mum’s work but are made in a way that avoids this time-consuming hand stitching process. Because I am trained as a carpenter, working with leather is very satisfying, for me there are no rules with leather (because I am not traditionally trained) so I am free to just mess around!

Tiptoe desk by Ted Jefferis
TipToe desk, BoltUp side table and HangUp lamp, TedWood

Re: What are you working on right now and what are your plans for 2017?

TJ: We are just finishing a very interesting interiors project for a private client that includes a staircase, a lot of furniture and even some door handles! I am also working on a new furniture collection that we will be launching at Design Junction during the London Design Festival. This is alongside a new leather lighting collection, so just a couple of things going on!

Ted Jefferis in his workshop
Ted & Humphrey. Credit: creative CoOp

Artists like Ted Jefferis are the reason why we love collaborating with makers and artisans. If you would like Ted's exquisite furniture to feature in your next Republic project, get in touch - we'll be glad to meet over coffee.

In the meantime, take a peek into his workshop in Sussex by following his instagram page. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter

Opening photo: TedWood Workshop, Ted Jefferis 

The world’s happiest offices: 5 secrets for a cool office

An office is so much more than four walls and an array of desks – for many of us, it is a second home.

In honour of International Day of Happiness, we take a look at the world's happiest offices and ask ourselves – what makes a cool office? Does location matter? Is office furniture as important as the space it inhabits?  

Although it can be argued that the concept of "cool" can be very subjective, there remain several features you can incorporate into your office to make it a fun place to work in. So where do you start?

1. Vibrant colours

Bright colours have always been synonymous with fun but the key to a cool office is, of course, balance. Opt for accent walls or colourful furniture to highlight a certain area, aspect or piece of furniture of your office. From your office reception, through a metal staircase, to design furniture, a pop of colour can go a long way.

Capital One Bank office in San Francisco, by Studio O+A
colour-office-design
Colourful café space at advertising agency 22squared in Tampa, Florida. By ASD|SKY 
Prezi office with a breakout space
Prezi's office in San Francisco features a fun breakout area with stadium-like seating. By Gensler

2. Green walls

living wall inside Facebook's Tel Aviv office
Facebook offices in Tel Aviv, by Setter Architects

Being around nature is soothing. Working in an office, not always. That's why more and more offices are bringing the outside in by incorporating living walls in your office.  Businesses who embrace vertical gardens in common areas such as office receptions and breakout areas are likely to increase productivity and wellbeing. 

etsy office green wall
Etsy offices in Brooklyn, New York boasts green walls and colourful art. By Gensler. Credit: Garrett Rowland
Breakout space inside Google Budapest office
Google offices in Budapest, by Graphasel Design Studio. Photography: Attila Balázs

3. Fun furniture

What better way to convey happiness than to opt for versatile furniture that is also functional and ergonomic? Office furniture is no longer solely focused on desks and swivelling chairs – on the contrary. It is now all about innovative, modular furniture items that embrace the idea of fun and blend it with the practical.

fun furniture for laptop workers
Airbnb's office in Portland, Oregon features custom-made furniture built for laptop users. By Bora Architects. Photography: Jeremy Bittermann
cool office storage space for stools
Design slot wall for storing stools in Ekimetrics office breakout area, Paris. By Vincent & Gloria Architects
cool pods inside the Google office in Sydney
Relaxing pods in Google's office in Sydney, by Futurespace

4. (Not so) corporate art

Art in the workplace often speaks to the company's values and personality. As such, the rule is simple: if you want to be perceived as a cool, young and vibrant company, start by introducing some fun art in your office. Office murals, art installations and even a lego wall can make the difference between a dull office and one that gives off positive vibes.

office mural inside WeWork Soho
Hustle Mural by Jeremiah Britton, inside WeWork Soho's office
cool office with decorative helmets
Inside Grupo CP offices in Mexico. By Space Arquitetura

5. Games

 Work hard, play harder. The presence of a game room is increasingly becoming necessary if an office is to be qualified as cool. A pool table, a foosball table, a swing and a pouffe or two wouldn't go amiss. More than breakout areas that are more synonymous of relaxed shared workspaces and impromptu meetings, game rooms are there to boost productivity by allowing for a little moment of fun-filled reprieve. If that doesn't make a happy office, then what does?

game room at TripAdvisor's office
TripAdvisor headquarters, by Baker Design Group. Photography: Robert Benson
Game room inside Prezi San Francisco office
Game room inside Prezi's office, San Francisco. By Gensler 
Cool office with a swing in Budapest
Fun swing inside Google Budapest' s office. By Graphasel Design Studio

A vertical garden to grow vegetables at work? Yes please.

grow vegetables at the office

Growing organic products at the office has never been so easy with wall-mounted Herbert, a mini vertical garden for your breakout area.

Herbert is an innovative product that will quickly revolutionise the breakout area of your office. More than a green wall, Herbert is a smart wall-mounted garden that can host up to 15 plants. 

This effortless gardening system lets you grow organic food from the comfort of your own office, be it fresh salad every 4-5 days, herbs or even strawberries.

Originally designed for the home, we think Herbert would also be a great fit for the breakout area of your cool office. 

Herbert mini vertical garden to grow your own vegetables

Simple, clean and efficient, Herbert is the brainchild of Ponix Systems and was funded on Kickstarter within 6 hours.

How does it work? Rather than cultivating plants in soil, the hydroponic gardening system uses a nutrient solution to grow your products. All you have to do is put a seed into one of the biodegradable sponges (also used by NASA), and place it in Herbert. Add water and bio mineral fertilizer to the tank and watch your food grow. As simple as putting a coffee capsule into your Nespresso machine.

instructions on how to grow your own vegetables at the office

From lettuce, through basil, to chilis, this mini-vertical garden allows you to grow organic vegetables, fruits and herbs at the office. Herbert is available in beechwood or poplar wood and is guaranteed to bring a splash of colour to your office.

What's more, there is a free app for Android and iOS that will guide you through the growing process and allow you to adjust your lighting settings to suit your needs.

watch your plants grow
vertical vegetable garden for the office
fresh vegetables at work

7 reasons why you should start a corporate art collection

There is a reason why larger businesses have a corporate art collection. From financial benefits to marketing opportunities, art in the workplace can go a long way. 

Corporate art collections are hardly a new concept. It all started with banker and philanthropist David Rockefeller, the father of modern corporate art collecting. In the late 1950s, Rockefeller decided that longtime family-associated Chase Manhattan Bank should start acquiring art. 

Rockefeller began a trend where art transcended decoration and became a means of communication with the public. Today, the JPMorgan Chase Art collection is one of the oldest and largest corporate art collections in the world.

JP Morgan corporate art collection
J.P Morgan Chase Art Collection. Credit: Paris Photo

The list of financial institutions with an impressive corporate art collection also includes Deutsche Bank, UBS and Bank of America.

Why are such industry giants investing in corporate art? The reasons are manifold.

1. Investment in culture

Businesses may get involved in an art program by sponsoring or commissioning art. Companies can also organise art events to engage with new target audiences and get closer to customers and the community in general.

2. Strong company image

Art increases the corporate image among the public as well as its stakeholders. It conveys vision and drive. Having art, particularly modern art, implies a forward-thinking corporation with a positive attitude.

Duchy of Lancaster corporate art collection
Duchy of Lancaster, corporate art collection. Credit: Workplace Art

3. Boosting sales

 Companies that have art in the workplace are perceived as influential, sophisticated and trustworthy. To put it differently, a corporate art collection is bound to impress customers, which in turn, will lead to an increase in sales.

4. Business competitive advantage

Business companies, especially financial institutions like Deutsche Bank, can put their art knowledge to good use and offer art 'buy and sell' consultancy services to their customers.

microsoft art collection
Katz Frey, Microsoft Art Collection. Credit: Michael Klein Arts

5. Corporate hospitality

Art in the workplace lightens the mood. It creates a nice work environment, peppered with personality and, if the genre suits the business, humour.

6. Supporting the art community

By investing in art, whether it be local or international, companies are openly supporting the community. Businesses with limited budgets can start with the works of younger, less-established artists. Conversely, bigger companies can and should start big, then choose newer artists whose work points to the future.

Wall street company with corporate art collection
Sciame office, 14 Wall Street. Corporate art collection featuring artist Derek Fordjour. Photo via Real Art Muse

7. Enhanced productivity

Happier employees tend to be more productive and an increase in productivity can soon lead to an increase in profits. Having art in the workplace increases creativity and efficiency, making for an enhanced work environment.

According to a 2013 research by the British Council for Offices, 61% of workers agree that artwork inspires them to think and work more creatively.

Opening photo: Deutsche Bank, "Art Works"

How can beacons help you manage a smarter office?

 

Improved experiences and innovative navigation systems – the smarter office is underway thanks to tiny devices called beacons.

This post is the first of a three-part series on workplace innovations.

Beacons have already percolated into high-traffic spaces like airports, museums, stadiums and even retail stores. In recent years, this Bluetooth smart technology has also expanded to the workplace with many companies jumping on the bandwagon.

What are beacons?

Beacons are small, low-cost, low-powered devices that can be used to deliver location-aware, context-aware messages. They can be likened to small computers which broadcast radio signal. Those signal are, in turn, picked up and interpreted by your phone. Personalized content is then displayed as a notification on your screen. Nearby screens can also be used to display relevant information.

There are several major beacon hardware on the market: Estimote, Gimbal, Gelo, Glimworm, BlueSense, and Kontakt. Among these, Estimote is one of the most well-known manufacturers.

location beacons for a smart office

How can beacons help you manage a smarter office?

Navigation

Larger office spaces are trickier to navigate and beacons can remedy to that by guiding new guests or prospects to a particular room, thus cutting a lot of wasted time.

Footfall

Beacons can help identify high and low-traffic areas in your office. In large offices, in particular, gathering location data of all employees can help you determine which areas are more used than others. This information can be shared with, say, the lighting department to help you run a greener office.

proximity beacons estimote

Office layout

Based on the location data of employees, you could design a smarter office, tweak desk layouts based on where staff actually moves around at work.

Office management

Beacons can facilitate booking conference rooms in busy offices. For this application, beacons must be installed at the entrance of every conference room and employees need to install an app on their phones. Based on information from the beacons, employees can check if the room is free, and book accordingly, or, if already occupied, find out when the meeting will be over.

estimote beacon

Check out the next post on Workplace Innovations, featuring high-tech Ketra lighting.

Loos with views: the smallest rooms with the grandest vistas

They may be small, but their importance isn't to be underestimated, for loos with views can lead to increased property value. 

washroom over glass floor
Toilet perched over a disused 15-story elevator shaft, Mexico 

Whether it be in the workplace, retail or hospitality, washrooms are a key expression of the company values. Organisations that value and understand the power of first impressions will go above and beyond to impress. High-end washroom countertops, top-notch fixtures and spectacular views all show your attention to detail and highlight your level of commitment. Believe it or not, loos with views command higher rent too. 

 

To inspire and convince you, here is a roundup of some of the most unusual of toilets, boasting the most striking of views. Be it in an office building, a public facilities, or a seemingly inconspicuous coffee shops, loos with views are there to steal the show. 

We have a personal preference (hint, it involves two-way mirrors), but what is yours? Share your favourite on our Twitter page.

washroom-in-the-shard-with-view-over-london
The toilets inside The Shard boast stunning views of London
urinals inside the Shard
Because it wouldn't be fair, the gents at the Shard enjoy similar London views as the ladies
loos with views inside commerzbank HQ
Commerzbank headquarters: urinals with a view over Frankfurt
urinal with a view in Japan
The JR Tower in Japan is equipped with panoramic urinals
washroom in aquarium
Mumin Papa café - the women's bathroom is built into an aquarium, Akashi, Japan. 
two-mirror public toilet
Don't Miss A Sec', two-way mirror glass public toilet in London, Monica Bonvicini
Inside a two-way mirror toilet
Don't Miss A Sec', two-way mirror glass public toilet in London, Monica Bonvicini

Psychology of colour – what’s the best colour scheme for your office?

Colours are powerful marketing tools, they affect mood, and boost productivity. But which colour scheme is right for you and how do you choose? 

Each colour affects us differently. Red affects the body, blue stimulates the mind, yellow influences emotions and self-confidence, and green ties it all together by nurturing a balance between mind, body and emotions.

Intensity matters too. Bolder, brighter colours will stimulate, while colour with low saturation will soothe.

So which colour scheme should you go for? What is the perfect shade for corporate or creative businesses? Well, don't hate us, but... it depends.

Productive blue

meeting area with blue colour scheme
Russian social media network V Kontakte’s St. Petersburg Office, by Finnish design firm Gullstén-Inkinen

Widely recognised as the colour of productivity, blue helps employees focus on the task at hand. Most often used in offices where mind work prevails, blue is an excellent base to begin with, as long as you spice it up with warmer, accent tones in strategic places.

Positive yellow

open-plan office with yellow accents
Marketing agencies EMO and The Real Adventure's shared office space in Bristol. By The Interiors Group

Yellow is the most optimistic colour. It helps stimulate creativity and can often be found in a designer's office. Because of its bright tones, however, it tends to strain the eyes and cause fatigue and frustration if used throughout your office. For this reason, it is preferable to use yellow and orange as accent colours on walls.

Stimulating red

office reception area with red feature wall
Digital agency Station Four's office reception in Jacksonville, Florida. 

If you are in the building industry, or any industry that involves physical activities, red is your colour because it stimulates physical strength. Incidentally, red is also known to encourages appetite so why not integrate it in the breakout and kitchen area of your office?

Just like yellow tones, red is best used with moderation because it can over-stimulate employees, increase brain wave activities and heart rate, as suggested in a study by The University of Texas.

Calming green

workspace with green wall
Skyscanner's Budapest office, by Hungarian design studio Madilancos Studio

Where other colour associations can often be dependent on personal experiences, cultural differences, upbringing, etc., green as a synonym of nature seems to result in unanimity.

According to a study by The University of British Columbia, blues and greens have a soothing effect that helps reduce eye strain for employees who use computers. Green is therefore great for those who work long hours and, if you're feeling forward-thinking and adventurous, you can also take it one step further by going green and installing living walls in the workplace.

Neutral colours

Book publisher CPI Books' office in Melksham, by Interaction

Whites, greys and blacks can act as buffers to help tone down or liven up certain areas of your workplace. As usual, the key is balance. Embrace those contrasts and use accent walls to highlight a semi-private meeting area or transition from the reception area to the desk area.

As it turns out, the perfect colour scheme is a combination of colours.

Opening image: Masquespacio's Valencia office, Spain. Photography by Bruno Almela via Masquespacio

Base – the magnetic desk that will help maximise your workspace

Meet BASE - a customisable, multi-functional, magnetic desk that will set your office apart and increase staff efficiency. 

Smart, cutting-edge and in keeping with the modern worker's needs, BASE is a versatile desk with a simple but clever design element: a magnetic edge.

A steel rail runs around the edge of the desk, allowing you to clip, unclip and move all dedicated magnetic accessories anywhere you like along the edge of the desk.

Similar to hooks, these accessories come in all shapes and sizes and allow you to hang your bag, store your documents in folders and place your cup in a holder to avoid the dreaded spill.

magnetisk multifunctional office desk

No more stacks of documents, entangled charging cables and coffee stains on your desk – this magnetic desk puts an end to clutter and allows for a clean, nuanced workspace and a clear mindset.

Currently, there are six clip-on accessories available with many more in the works. The designers are also planning to release 3D data for users to be able to create their own accessories.

desk with flexible dividers

The BASE desk also comes with bespoke partitions that can be attached anywhere along the back or folded in half to fit around the corner of the magnetic desk. This feature makes BASE an ideal desk for busy open-plan offices where the need for private and collaborative spaces can vary from one day to the next.

Base desk with low partitions

Designed by Japanese studio NuAns, BASE was introduced to the market during the Milan Design Week where we had the chance to see its clever features for ourselves (and play with the magnets, of course.)

desk with cup holder
briefcase holder magnetic edge desk
base magnetci desk
All photography via NuAns

Ketra can add some natural light to your dark office

Since the invention of Ketra, natural light in the darkest corners of your cavernous office is no longer a pipe dream. 

This post is the second of a three-part series on workplace innovations. 

With its high-tech, dynamic LED technology, Ketra brings natural light into the built environment – not only that, it lets you control it with a flexible, fully integrated lighting and controls solution.

What makes it so different from some of its biggest contenders? It uses LED bulbs not only to emit light but also to receive it. This means an ever-changing, fluid lighting scheme that varies according to the time, your mood or the task at hand.

Ketra light inside RGA headquarters
Digital agency R/GA's 200,000-square-foot office in New York uses over 8,000 smart Ketra bulbs. By Foster And Partners

Founded in 2009 and led by Nav Sooch, lighting startup Ketra is focused on large-scale business installations and high-end offices are getting more and more curious about the promise of natural light. The list includes advertising giant R/GA, MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, Tiffany's in New York, The Art Institute of Chicago, Squarespace...

Squarespace New York office
Website builder Squarespace's New York office features Ketra lighting

The smart LED bulbs have begun to reshape modern offices and although they come at a price (each individual bulb costs as much as $100), they offer a solution to a problem that is all-to-common in the workplace: lack of natural lighting. Add the ability to control colour and intensity from a single application, and you've got yourself an office filled with potential.

Ketra lighting inside the Chicago art institute
The Art Institute of Chicago's first all-LED gallery uses Ketra bulbs