Workplace design: Looking back to see ahead

24 January 2024
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As we launch into another year, it’s an ideal time to reflect on how design has evolved over the previous year.  Narrowing down on workplace interiors, Senior Associate Catherine Keys looks back on completed projects and shares her design forecast for this year.

Senior Associate Catherine Keys. Photography by Gavin Green.

As a leader in the commercial interiors team at Carr, what workplace projects have you finished and are underway?

It was a big year for our team. Last year was a culmination of the previous two years’ work and our efforts in business development strategies, post-COVID learnings, and how to navigate this changing landscape. Recently completed in Melbourne, Salta Properties’ new head office encapsulates these considerations to prepare the business for the next generation of success. We also have two workplace projects, one under construction for Russell Kennedy Lawyers, and we are currently working on documentation for Merricks Capital, who are moving into Salta’s previous workplace. A project like this affirms our commitment to producing enduring spaces for years to come.


How do you lead the team to achieve the studio’s aspirations for themselves and the client?

I believe in empowering the team at all phases of the project and encouraging everyone to engage with the design, build relationships with the clients, and be involved from start to end. This results in a team with incredible depth and passion, who are curious to learn and participate. It’s also vital for us to be engaged with the world around us and question the status quo. This maintains a human-centric approach to everything we do and understands the commercial realities of a changing landscape.

Why is the workplace always evolving? What makes it so dynamic compared to other sectors?

Companies are realising what the ‘workplace’ means for and to them. This requires a thorough investigation into their unique needs and avoiding the status quo. The workplace must be an arena of purpose and justified strategies. In the past year or so, I have noticed a desire to review existing assets as partial refurbishments become commonplace as companies maximise the life span and potential of their existing spaces.

We are still in a state of flux with companies figuring out where they sit in 2024 and beyond, and what values must be promoted. These reflections haven’t settled and are ongoing.


It’s no secret that workplace design is a moving target and rarely stagnant. What are the challenges and opportunities present in this specific sector as an interior designer for 2024?

Budgets and timelines are being crunched, but there remains a need for quality. Although challenging, it also presents an opportunity for designers to reassess our approach and delivery of our projects. Consistent refinement and research are a must!

With companies continuing to ask the question of what will draw their employees into the physical office, there’s more room for playful exploration of what the workplace stands for and why.

And of course, the rapid development of AI and technology, in general, is always providing new ways for all of us to discover how we successfully realise the brief and unearth opportunities for our clients and the team.


Looking ahead this year, what shifts do you expect to see in the workplace and why?

I predict we will see an increased interest in refurbishment and leveraging existing assets. There will be more investigations into what the workplace means for both individuals and companies with more radical design outcomes. Lastly, there will be continued growth in the understanding of how workplaces have an important role in the well-being of their employees including an ever-growing focus on sustainability.


Read more about Catherine’s approach to asset revitalisation in commercial interiors.