Yearly Archive for 2014

Designing Spaces for Caribbean Work & Lifestyles

August 15, 2014  .  By Michelle Sambrano, BAAID
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Coral reef Limegrove Terra Nova

While design differences exist from island to island, there are a few statements which can be held to be consistent.  Good design in the Caribbean celebrates the abundance of natural light and cooling breezes, and the vitality of colour and the stunning vistas so readily available in these islands. At the same time good design seeks to protect from these same desirable exterior elements, which are sometimes harsh and dangerous. Caribbean design reassembles diverse elements to suit a tropical environment.  Steep gabled roofs and low facades deflect powerful winds while wide verandas and shuttered windows shade interiors from the island sun.  Often materials found in the local landscape like coral and river stone become an integral part of the design; the region's history as a crossroad of various cultures adds ballast bricks from colonial ships, hardwoods and corrugated tin.

A good designer can use the best of what the Caribbean has to offer and translate into practical reality the desires of their clients. A company’s corporate image can have a tremendous impact once that corporate image is translated into appropriate materials and finishes. A business may create a more successful image in the public’s eye, if consistent and effective branding is achieved via the proper use of materials and finishes. A hotel’s rooms can remain fresher for a longer period of time if low maintenance materials and durable furniture is used. The atmosphere of a room in a house can be changed with varied lighting sources and locations, or with different types of fabrics and furniture styles. A walk-in closet can become an efficient storage unit with the addition of drawers, racks, rods and shelving at the right heights and of the right dimensions.

Many factors come into play in formulating the design solution. There is the space itself, its dimensions and construction as well as its potential and its limitations. There is how the space will be used, for work, leisure, entertainment, worship, healing or learning. There is the meaning of the space, what it signifies, be it power, authority, security, wisdom, achievement, playfulness or serenity. There are practical considerations, like ease of access, the amount of light, acoustics, seating and places to store or set things down. There are health and safety considerations, attention to special needs and more.

As more possibilities become options for the company, hotel, restaurant or home owner considering a change to their physical space, the greater the reliance which will fall on the designer to decipher the tangle of construction or renovation and prevent the client from becoming overwhelmed by the process. The interior designer’s specialized training and knowledge of materials, finishes and furnishings add significant value to the interiors and go a long way towards enhancing the experience of a space.

Top Key Factors to Consider in Commercial Interior Design in Barbados

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Let us assume that you are the CEO of an exciting new business. Your business has a retail component supported by a sizeable office based work force. You have 50 employees in varying roles. You need to sculpt a space to house your business and make the type of impact on the market necessary to become wildly successful. You understand that the interior design of these spaces is critical to creating the right impression on your soon-to-be adoring public, keeping your energetic and professional staff happy and maximizing the utility of your expensive square footage.

Being the savvy business person, you have already found premises at just the right size and in the best location, with high visibility, good public access and with ample parking for both staff and customers. Your Landlord has been more than welcoming, offering you assistance with your leasehold improvements including provision of basic ceilings, general open office lighting, ample air conditioning capacity, sufficient and well-designed washrooms and full generator support for your business.

Now what do you do?

Hire a Professional!

There are so many elements critical to the smooth rollout of a commercial interior that the first rule-of-thumb should be to budget for the hiring of a competent professional in this field. Poor planning and the lack of consideration of a host of factors (e.g. from the inclusion of sufficient infrastructure for data/voice/technology/power requirements, to selecting the right type of furniture in each space) can lead to unnecessary stress and cost overruns. Hiring a professional and benefitting from the value-added of the design process would ensure the best return on your investment.

Understand What You Want and Get What You Need

Of paramount importance is to understand what the business requires, the impression to be created in public spaces and the ability to articulate this to your design professional. Time can be wasted if the brief keeps changing and if plan after plan is rejected, due to some unforeseen consideration not previously identified or not clearly explained.

Allow Sufficient Time

The most important initial factor in the planning process is for the allowance for adequate time to design, construct and occupy your new premises. Many businesses fall into the trap of making false assumptions regarding the length of time required to outfit new premises. Simply put, most construction materials and furniture have to be imported. The selection, placement of orders, shipping and installation can take as much as 12 weeks and this is after completion of the design process, the signing off of plan/layouts and determining which contractor/providers to work with. The process is longer than most anticipate and is on average never shorter than 20 weeks.

Interior Considerations

Commercial interiors may need to have an element of flexibility to them. You would need to determine if your spaces need to change configuration, either due to growth or lateral adjustments, over time. Flexible spaces need to make use of the right components, such as demountable wall systems, modular and non-handed furniture components, stackable partitions, sliding or folding walls and even furniture on wheels! If it is unlikely that changes, either in terms of staff or space utilization, is anticipated within the next 5 years, then fixed walls (e.g. drywall or masonry construction) and built-in furniture can be successfully installed.


The current “green” movement has made a considerable impact on commercial interiors, but having a “green” operation must be more than a marketing plug. Decisions regarding the embracing of sustainability should be made at the outset of a project. Not only is sustainability a responsible corporate policy to pursue, it has been proven that the incorporation of sustainable elements in commercial interiors can lead to effective cost-cutting over time. Sustainable components for consideration would include LED lights, VAV/VRV a/c systems, installation of a BMS, daylight harvesting, occupancy sensors, timers and PV systems.

Realistic Budgeting

A new office is an exciting prospect for any business, but it is vitally important that the business understands the money involved. Construction is never inexpensive. Walls, floors, doors, ceilings, lighting, air conditioning, electrical systems, data and voice cabling – all these add up to a sizable cost commitment. Add to this new furniture, new window coverings, accessories and art work and the cost can seem prohibitive at first blush, but many of these elements can be amortized over time and, done well, may make the difference between a profitable, energized business and a failing one.


There are many key factors when considering commercial interiors and the list may seem daunting but here in Barbados, you can rest assured that there are experienced and trained professionals to help you through what can be the most critical undertaking in the life of a company.