Home Sweet Office: Resimercial design makes commercial work spaces more inviting for employees

By Jeff Gavin | Apr 15, 2024
Home Sweet Office
Resimerical is a funny name with a clear definition—the combination of residential and commercial design. Successful design, however, is far from simple, and lighting plays a key role.

Resimerical is a funny name with a clear definition—the combination of residential and commercial design. Successful design, however, is far from simple, and lighting plays a key role. A nontraditional workspace is sending the linear, cubicle-style office to the dustbins of yesteryear.

Uniform past, dynamic present

“Past spaces were uniform and rigid,” said John Dennehy, senior vice president of market development for Red Thread, based in Marlborough, Mass. “Those ideas are now being replaced by dynamic and curated environments that people are genuinely drawn to. We were seeing a lot of this residential trend pop up in commercial spaces before the pandemic. I think the pandemic amplified it.” 

Red Thread is a commercial integrator of wall and flooring systems, furniture and technology with showrooms and operations centers throughout the eastern seaboard.

Dennehy expanded on the influence of the COVID-19 lockdowns.


An unconventional resimercial design approach is reflected in the spaces for Jason Schulte Design Inc., a San Francisco-based branding agency.

“Everyone was home for so long and adapted their own spaces for work,” he said. “They were comfortable. Their surrounding materiality (at home) was different from the office. Spaces were more eclectic. The thought of coming back to white and gray cubicles was not appealing. I think that’s behind a lot of employee pushback in returning to the office. They may be willing to return but need to be coming back to something better.”

Working with Alcon Lighting and others, HBHQ Office and Podcast Studio created an office space with residential-style furnishings that was clean, inviting and calm.

Jeff Alan Gard is the owner of an architecture firm. Based in San Francisco, Gard’s firm focuses on residential and commercial design, as well as furniture motifs. Many of his nontraditional office projects have typically involved elements of residential. Resimercial is not a term he uses, but he found it a good fit when describing a project involving the offices for a video games developer.

“We developed a workplace that had adjustable lighting for both brightness and color temperature, transition areas for desk work, and lower concentration areas featuring lighting and furnishings more similar to a home environment for game testing and game playing,” Gard said.

He added that many people got used to working from their dining tables or from various areas of the home, relying on the flexibility of laptops and a more paperless way of working. 

“As workers return to the office, the challenge will be to create a feeling of a home base while allowing for a partially nomadic work style,” he said.

Dennehy said that office furnishings can have a residential feel, but must be durable. Steelcase, Haworth and other office furnishing manufacturers have followed suit. 

Red Thread also does custom projects. One involved converting a farmhouse styled dining room table to a functional and electrified standing-height community table.

“The client also wanted it to include concealed power,” Dennehy said. “We partnered with a custom furniture manufacturer. One of the solid wood legs was hollowed out to conceal voltage cabling for AV presentations and other uses. The table was placed over a stub up on the floor. In the end, you saw this table that looked like it came out of a home magazine, but it was powered.”

The lighting equation

David Hakimi, co-founder and president of Alcon Lighting, Los Angeles, sees resimercial lighting as its own goal within resimercial design.

Single-family and often multifamily dwellings have ample exposure to natural light. Homeowners like to get outside to enjoy their yards. For Hakimi, replicating the health benefits of natural light with artificial light using human-centric lighting design is a tenet of resimercial.

“It is important for the mind and body to receive an adequate dose of natural lighting,” Hakimi said. “It provides a positive impact. Indoor lighting control is being used to foster a healthier circadian rhythm for occupants. You see this in lighting controls and automation, including the ability to set the color temperature to the time of day, light levels, too. There is blending of natural and artificial light.”

In resimercial lighting, there are two things at work—a healthy lighting design perceptible to the human eye, yet invisible within the workspace. Aesthetically, there is a more residential feel to fixture selection.

“Now you are seeing color tuning and tunable white lighting products used in commercial spaces,” Hakimi said. “It’s all programmed and automated to fit the needs of the occupants and the jobs they are doing.”

With owners or managers who go further, fostering the circadian rhythms of their occupants, light levels and color temperature must be programmed.

“When the sun is above the horizon, you start increasing light levels to set percentages,” Hakimi explained. “At midday, maybe you set 4,100 Kelvin (K) color temp at 100% light levels, and then reduce light levels by 10% and adjust color temperature to 3,500K or 3,000K toward late afternoon, early evening.”

Comfort can equate to productivity

For Gard, it seems the distinction between work and residential types have been breaking down for a while. He referenced the Centraal Beheer Office building in Apeldoorn, Netherlands, erected in 1972. Designer Herman Hertzberge sought to make an office structure that felt dynamic and homey for its occupants through flexible zoning to suit different needs (collaboration, individual focus and so on).

“As companies seek to revive office culture, the pressure is on to prove that the office is simply a better place to work,” Gard said. “Better will require higher-quality experiences in terms of location, social environment and physically where the tasks are done. A coffee­-shop level background noise will be ideal for some based on the task at hand. Others may find benefit from a personally controlled or isolated environment.”


The resimercial trend extends beyond U.S. shores, as reflected in this test kitchen at Lonely Star Bar in Montevideo, Uruguay.

“Providing comfort in the workplace is about providing a safe, attractive place for people to go. Layering in functionality is extremely important because people will not go to a workplace where they feel like they can’t be productive. They need spaces to focus, collaborate, have a functional desktop that gives them what they need, including USB power and proper lighting,” Dennehy added.

Hakimi emphasized lighting’s role.

“It’s a matter of having light that supports the work and supports the time of day,” he said. “You don’t want to introduce discomfort due to bad lighting design. For instance, your eyes are working harder under 2,700K than they would perhaps under 3,500K. Maybe you’re sitting under 5,000K for 8 hours at 20-foot candle. That’s 20% more than you need and is tough on the eyes, which impacts the brain.

“At home, you are comfortable; maybe have mastered home automation,” he said. “You can alter your light levels, color and color temperatures from a phone app. You can play with moods in different rooms. Not all of that will equate to what you would do in an office, but lighting control and personalization options are part of a resimercial design.”

Task lighting is another tool for creating the resimercial ideal.

“That (task lighting) touches on layering light, which previously was not much of a consideration in an office space,” Hakimi said. “You might see a lot of task lighting in resimercial designs. That is part of the personalization of light for workers.”

Marketing resimercial to draw and retain talent

Dennehy feels that workers wanting “something better” in their work environment haven’t gone unnoticed.

“That has been a driving force in my mind that has caused a lot of developers, landlords [and] business owners to think about how they design space and are now that much more intentional. I also think this change is generational. The ‘Googles’ and the ‘Apples’ of the world were pioneers in the new office space design trend. They trusted their workers to do their jobs. There was no reason a workspace could not be dynamic. That literally broke down barriers (goodbye cubicles) within an office space to allow for more choice, personalization and flexibility for employees and interaction within their workspace,” he said.

And though open offices have flourished, Dennehy has seen some privacy functions reemerge differently as a reaction to COVID. That has included private focus areas of different shapes, including shielded workstations with higher panels, and the ability for users to increase or decrease boundaries with the panels.

“Pods ... have taken off in a big way in the office,” Dennehy said. “These give users the ability to get away from the open office when needed without requiring a traditional private office.”

Dennehy said his firm is seeing many more smaller office footprints, with efficient but flexible spaces. “Organic shapes, softer looks are emerging, maybe unexpected finishes and materials, all meant to communicate a more inviting space.”

He added that while the compensation package, and maybe a firm’s mission and vision are important to a prospective employee weighing a job move, the physical workspace is also considered. 

“Companies are seeing an inviting and workable workspace as leverage to attract top candidates. A resimercial approach plays into this,” Dennehy said.

Hakimi said his firm has also seen a resimercial approach applied to break rooms and office kitchenettes. In lighting, he’s observed more decorative fixtures being used to cultivate a sense of comfort and dynamism. 

“We’re seeing a lot of asymmetry, ceiling linear lighting designs including zig-zag patterns, curved forms, some recessed or lighting suspended just a bit. We’re also seeing more decorative pendant lighting, some of those curved as well. So, a decorative flair and more color. A lot more of our fixtures are now ordered with RAL codes for power coding,” Hakimi said.

For Dennehy, Gard and Hakimi, resimercial is a workspace evolution that’s already here and is also what’s next, extending not just to the office but healthcare, hospitality and beyond. Lighting will play an important role aesthetically and operationally so that healthy light enjoyed at home is replicated in the workplace. It’s a world of home and office meeting in the middle.

Header image: Proper lighting design and its effect on the human body are important considerations for a resimercial space. At HBHQ Office and Podcast Studio in Fort Worth, Texas, Alcon Lighting enhanced natural light with suspended fixtures, linear and other recessed LED lighting.


Joe Fletcher / Alcon Lighting Case Study, HBHQ Office By Kelsi Lamberth / Jeff Alan Gard

About The Author

GAVIN, Gavo Communications, is a LEED Green Associate providing marketing services for the energy, construction and urban planning industries. He can be reached at [email protected].





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