Kelli Ellis on Designing an Ideal Office Space

by Brandi-Ann Uyemura

3 min read

Kelli Ellis, an interior designer turned TV celebrity, is an expert in design psychology. She wrote the book Do I Look Skinny in This House? after years of consulting with clients. She was nominated as Remarkable Woman of the Year by the National Association of Women Business Owners in 2010 and has received numerous awards for being a leading authority in design.

The Intuit Small Business Blog recently spoke with Ellis (pictured) about the importance of office design and how to implement design psychology into any workspace, whether you’re based at home or in a commercial building.

ISBB: In your book, you talk about the three F’s: function, flow, and feel. How do they relate to designing an office space?

Ellis: The three F’s are key components in the design of any room or space. All three elements must be present in order for the space to be productive.

Function — Does the user of the space have the ability to complete all necessary tasks in the space? Are all the intended uses of the room easily achieved? We all know if a room doesn’t really do the things we hoped it would, the room isn’t being used properly.

Flow — Can the user of the space move easily from one part of the space to another with ease? Are all the “nerve centers” of the space easily accessible? If your desk blocks the path to the printer, you might avoid going there. Or maybe your guests have to scoot sideways to sit in the guest chair, so they would rather meet with someone else. In both cases, you have a flow issue!

Feel — Does the user want to be in that space? Does the space feel comfortable to be in and complete necessary tasks? Spaces that make us internally cringe will not be motivating!

Think about a room in your home that does not get used in the way it should because it lacks the three F’s. Now, think about how you feel every time you walk past the room and see it. Not feeling happy about that room, right? In fact, you might as well subtract that square footage from your home because it is not serving you.

What common mistakes do people make when it comes to design?

Clients don’t realize their personal effects and design choices speak volumes about them and their mindset, priorities, and organization. A little personalization is great. It makes you feel at home and comfortable in the space. However, your crazy Cabo photos, poker chips, vodka collection, and signed pinup photos need to be removed! (Yes, that was real-life client of mine.)

I had another client who dealt with her clients via Skype. Her very successful business saw a drop in retention, and she couldn’t figure out why. I knew instantly, as I jumped on a Skype call with her and saw the wall of voodoo and tribal masks on the wall behind her.

She had recently done very extensive travel and collected some very beautiful masks. She thought the look was “worldly” and would say something about her knowledge. To the contrary, they were very daunting and distracting. Because she faced away from the masks, she never realized how disorganized, cluttered, and crowded her office looked. After some reorganization, her business spiked again.

Lesson: Be sure your office space is saying what you want it to say about you.

What advice can you offer small-business owners and entrepreneurs when it comes to designing their spaces?

Be sure you surround yourself with a neutral, calming color. Color psychology is very real and important, and it will affect your ability to stay in the space for any length of time.

Also, a window that looks out to nature is ideal. If that’s not an option, add plants and flowers to your office. According to a Texas A&M study, productivity, innovation, and creative problem-solving improve when flowers and plants are in the workplace.

We know how wonderful it is when we feel invited into a space. Achieving that feeling in your office will help you improve your work, business, and relationships.

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