Commerical vs. Residential

Designing for commercial and residential is so different even when the mediums are still the same, whether it’s  fabrics, case goods, and so on. I presented a lobby design yesterday for a potential commercial Manhattan project. To this day, I am still surprised to see how different it is. The concerns are more about functionality instead of aesthetics. The decision making is quick and nonemotional. It’s not about egos or insecurities; it’s about the bottom line and how soon the project can get done. Don’t get me wrong, it’s wonderful to work on residential jobs. Residential jobs allow me to introduce clients to a new place of freedom regardless of budget. The sense of accomplishment is changing the way people live their lives through design environments.  What’s your experience from commercial compared to residential?


  • I am currently working on my second office project. The challenge I have encountered on both is convincing my clients to go beyond the practical into mood and emotion. I think they do not see that ones office space speaks about and to them, just as much as their home does. Each space has it’s influence on our daily lives. Design in general, actually all visual languages in general have a power that often goes unseen by many.

    August 13, 2012
  • I’ve only done one restaurant color consultation, but I found it was a bit harder for them to get it. As business owners, they have so many things they’re doing, and they had more trouble understanding what I said about how their visual environment presented itself to customers. They knew it didn’t look right, that’s why they hired me, but I had to really explain my suggestions to them so it made business sense.

    August 13, 2012
  • You completely read my mind Vicente! I’ve often said doing commercial work is like using Garanimals–remember those? It needs to match, look clean and simple, work for the general public, and doesn’t “need” to meet any emotional criteria. I know a lot of people want to do commercial because that’s where the money is, but I have a hard time with my own personal satisfaction with those projects. It is not even close to the fulfillment I get from doing a residential project where it is important for me to make sure my client’s needs and desires are met. I can act as a true artist. Yes, you can push the boundaries of commercial, but when you have a Board of Directors to present to, again, it is about meeting more the needs of a whole. The personal relationship that grows and the satisfaction I get working one on one to create a personal home that truly speaks to my client is so much more in line with the my needs and passion as a designer and artist…and that passion is what keeps us successful.

    August 13, 2012
  • As a residential designer, I feel we have an edge. We can take commercial projects and give the space more of a residential feel that creates harmony. Commercial companies are looking for designs that have more of a lifestyle appeal. From the lobby to the meeting area, commercial spaces are taking it a step further by incorporating intriguing accessories, decorative pillows and creating wi-fi areas that feel more like a lavish vacation home. This allows customers to feel a sense of comfort in the space that is functional yet beautifully designed.

    August 15, 2012
  • You know that when I travel it is all about how a place feels for me and the more comfort the better… I hate when places look showroom lovely, but have sofa’s or pillows that have textiles that have embellishments that are hard when touch them… So, many times this is true… I love wool, cashmere, even less pricey fabrics and pillows can look beautiful and feel wonderful agains your body… Just a thought for commercial designers…:)


    August 16, 2012
  • Gary Nelling

    Many of the projects in my career have been office and retail buildings and their interiors, often for developers. These projects had strict budgets and schedules, and the clients were often more interested in the bottom line than good proportions and lines. The trick was to demonstrate that good design added value to the project that could be realized through higher rental rates and assessed building value. Therefore, articulated building mass, courtyards, seating, landscaped interior atriums, exterior decks, integrated palettes of materials, colors, lighting and art would distinguish their buildings from the competition.

    Some of my favorite projects have been owner-operated medical offices, surgery centers and other facilities. In these, like residential projects, the owners had a personal interest in comfort and aesthetics for themselves, their staff and patients and I could sometimes include residential details and accessories that I couldn’t in larger commercial projects.

    Residential work often requires more attention to the client’s feelings. They don’t build something everyday. Commercial clients are typically experienced professionals. Both kinds of work can be personally rewarding if they value what we bring to the table. – Gary

    August 17, 2012

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