Wondering what Birmingham’s future offices might look like? We asked the pros [PHOTOS]


Graham & Co. office
Informal collaborative spaces like this one at Graham & Co. make you feel like you’re right at home. Photo via Timothy Hursley

2020 has made a lot of people in Birmingham miss in-person offices and wonder about offices of the future. Want to attract and keep talent? How ’bout fostering employee wellness and company culture? We talked with the pros at Williams Blackstock Architects to find out how the spaces we work in shape everything.

What will office interiors look like in a post-COVID world?

reception area in Birmingham office of the future designed by Wiliams Blackstock Architects
This entrance into RMS’ Hoover headquarters features a 180-degree view of the lake and woodlands beyond the windows. Photo via Edward Badham

We were curious about what office interiors might look like in a post-COVID world. So we talked to three of the pros at Williams Blackstock Architects:

  • John Beason, Interior Designer
  • Grace Blackstock, Interior Designer
  • Joel Blackstock, Principal Architect

We talked trends, and they had the pictures to prove it.

People matter

Their main message? People matter. Most companies want to do the following:

  • attract and keep talent, particularly design-minded Millennials and younger employees
  • enhance communication through collaboration
  • increase employee engagement
  • help employees feel like they are part of something bigger
  • provide variety in the workplace

The goal? Healthier, happier and more engaged employees. Keep reading to find out how these desires translate into the architectural designs of future offices.

1. Let there be light

Williams Blackstock Architects office
Who wouldn’t want to work in this light-filled space at Williams Blackstock Architects’ office? Photo via Timothy Hursley

Natural light looks beautiful in a building. And, it’s actually a key part of becoming a WELL Certified building.

Haven’t heard of WELL yet? It’s the newest certification on the block, at about six years old. It’s about advancing health and well-being in buildings through the power of design.

Interior designer Grace Blackstock gave me the quick overview of WELL’s key concepts. They pretty much include all the things anyone could want in a trendy new office design.

WELL highlights

Here are a few highlights. They’re more relevant than ever in the age of COVID. There’s a *lot* more to WELL than we can cover here, but you get the idea:

  • Air: Keep the indoor air as clean as possible. For so many reasons.
  • Nourishment: Excuse me, could you please show me to the cafe with healthy, nutritious food?
  • Light: Daylight makes everybody feel better. Plus, indoor lighting has come such a long way since those old fluorescent tube lights.
  • Movement: These days, most offices want a fitness center and sit/stand desks.
  • Community: This includes convenient and well-equipped new mother support (lactation) rooms.

2. Wow potential employees + guests with a great first impression

We all know how important first impressions are.

WBA works “to design solutions that bring people together in a positive way.” They love creating cultural change and a sense of community for their clients. And this starts with that first impression.

Design your first impression from the get-go

How does this play out in real life? In a few ways, according to architect Joel Blackstock:

  • You can build the company’s culture and brand right into the design. For example, RMS, a timber management firm, has loads of wood and outdoor views in its headquarters.
  • More WFH (that’s millennial-speak for working from home) means smaller, more efficient, economical workspaces + larger amenity spaces. This helps people come together and collaborate in more dynamic ways when they’re in the office.
  • Design features like town halls, cafes and lounge spaces offer variety and fun at work.
  • Research shows that engaged employees are more productive.

3. Create beautiful conference rooms that bring in light + invite collaboration

Flexible work is likely here to stay. So, offices will need more informal collaborative spaces where people can gather. That said, you’ll still need a place to have a board meeting or larger team meeting.

“We try to put a collaborative area at the central crossroads of the space. We’ll have the conference room right on the path to get coffee in the break room or on the way to the bathroom or the copier. This way, there’s a strong social heart to the office that brings people together.”

Joel Blackstock
a beautiful reception area in the office for RMS in Hoover
Don’t you just want to be in that room at RMS in Hoover? I call the outside view. Photo via Edward Badham

4. Connect people and spaces for transparency + visibility

“The trend in office spaces used to be private offices against the windows. Now we add glass so that open areas and offices all have access to natural light and to views. Doesn’t matter if it’s nature or an urban view.

Having glass in key spots helps everyone have a better awareness of what everyone else is doing. This helps create a more collaborative and engaged feel to the space.”

Joel Blackstock

5. Multi-use spaces allow for informal collaboration + flexible work arrangements

Interior designer John Beason explained the thinking behind informal collaborative spaces:

“Creating ample or appropriate collaborative space is very important. We plan this based on the company and what they do.

What type of collaborating needs to happen—is it impromptu, an enclosed room where two or 12 people can meet? We put a lot of thought into creating those amenities in ways that are convenient for everyone to access.

In some places, we include lounge seating so people can sit and work on their laptop if they want. We’ll put in glassed-in smaller conference rooms where people can go to take a call. There are so many ways to do this.”

Ready to give your office a makeover for the future? Reach out to Williams Blackstock Architects today or follow them on Instagram or Facebook.

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Sharron Swain
Sharron Swain

Writer, Interviewer + Adventurer | Telling stories to make a difference

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