“Have no fear of perfection — you’ll never reach it.”

Salvador Dali

We all know what it feels like to walk into a well-designed space. Everything looks, feels and smells right. Somehow it invites you to stay.

Your store, bar or office are part of your Brand Experience. 

These spaces should breathe your brand promise. That’s what will get visitors to commit. Of course, the space will not do this by accident. Only if you design it to do so.

Your design decisions determine if visitors want to shop, eat or be employed there.

And while there are many different ways to achieve this, there are some design principles and methods they share.

Let’s explore:

  • The rules for designing spaces.
  • How to select a space.
  • How to design a functional floor plan.
  • How to source the elements.

The rules for designing spaces

Any space can be made to feel right using the following rules. 

These rules don’t guarantee magazine-level brilliance – but they’ll (probably) prevent suicide fantasies.

Adhere to these rules – they’re the boundaries to observe when planning. 

Now designing spaces is not an exact science. It’s hard to tell when you’ve done a good job – since that’s very subjective.

But if you’d love to spend time in your space, there’s a good chance others might too. 

It’s the best benchmark to go by.

Include a threshold

Every space has a threshold area, or “decompression zone”. These first 5 to 15 feet (1.5 to 5 meters) give visitors a chance to digest their new environment.

From here they will drink in your brand promise. How well thought out are your objects, textures, and colors? Do they want to spend their time or money here?

Keep the threshold open, inviting, and free of clutter.

Then, 90% of visitors turn right upon entering. The first wall in front of them is called the “power wall” and should contain your most important messages or merchandise.

Invest in the first wall to the right. It gets the most attention. 

This is the place to tell your story or put your favorite fat margin products.

Prioritize light

Lighting is often an afterthought or something to consider if there’s any budget left. However, lighting is crucial in building the right atmosphere.

If you can, try to pick a space with lots of natural light. It keeps people alert and happy. However, you can add to the natural light by using three types of artificial lighting:

  • Ambient lights illuminate the space and set the mood, like ceiling lamps.
  • Accent lights highlight artworks, shelves or plants, like spots.
  • Task lights light workspaces, like table and bed lamps.

You can use these three to create light contrasts and inspire some playfulness. Don’t go for uniformity. As for type: LEDs provide a better quality of light and save you money.

Include offbeat objects

For a space to be memorable, it has to be different. And the easy way to make a space different is to include some offbeat objects.

It’s not about the functionality. It’s about the feeling they convey that you’re somewhere special. They are symbols.

  • A ping pong or Fussball table is an anti-corporate
  • An aquarium signals exotic
  • Metal posters with vintage prints indicate
  • Hammocks inspire adventurous

Try to find the offbeat objects that convey your brand promise.

Maximize livability

Don’t choke your space.

Real estate is precious, and you want to use every last inch, but things need room to breathe. So don’t saturate every piece of floor and wall. Keep it clean and spacious.

Add green. 

Plants are beautiful and relaxing, as even the hardest cynic will admit. So why not decorate your space with lots of plants, flowers, and fresh herbs.

If you can’t be bothered to maintain them, just get artificial greens. They go a long way in doing the same job.

Add texture. 

Because the majority of walls are smooth – texture makes them interesting. A brick wall will destroy the monotony in a space, injecting some freshness.

Don’t have a brick wall available? Don’t fuss. Texture can be simulated with concrete, textured wallpaper, felt or murals.

Step 1: pick a space

The space you need will depend on your brand.

A. List your locations. 

There are several ways to find suitable locations:

  1. Search yourself. Real estate is listed online. As you search these online databases, list every location that’s plausible enough.
  2. Join an accelerator.  Most major cities want to promote new business and rent refurbished locations to new businesses. They offer low prices and a sense of community.
  3. Ask a realtor. She uses her knowledge of the market and connections to get you a list of spaces.

B. Score each location on the following parameters:

  • Cost: Does it fit in your budget, or can you hardly carry the burden? Isinternet, cleaning, and parking in the price included?
  • Proximity: How important is being close to your customers and employees? What does it cost to be proximate?
  • Competitors: Are there any vendors around that do the same thing? Will this impact your sales?
  • Appearance: What are the boons of the space itself? High ceilings? Big windows? Modern toilets?
  • Size: Does the space fit everything you want to do? How many desks or shelves do you need now and within the term of the contract?
  • Location: What about the immediate vicinity? Dirty, dangerous or old- fashioned locations scare off customers and employees.
  • Access: How easy is it to reach your place? Is there public transport and ample parking? Do you need a loading dock?

The wrong choice will give you headaches, so weigh these metrics well.

C. Negotiate the shortest rent possible. 

If you’re building a brand, make sure you can leave. You’ll either grow too fast for the space to accommodate you or you’ll fail. The space becomes a burden in both cases.

Step 2: Make a floor plan.

Large or small, you’ll want to use your space effectively. You want to fit as many desks, shelves or racks as possible whilst keeping everything orderly and easy to navigate.

A. Make a list of all the desired elements. 

List everything you’d like to have in your store. From chairs, booths, coffee machines, drapes, and duvets. From floor to ceiling and every wall.

B. Prioritize each element. 

You are probably short on budget, space and time. So prioritize every item on your list with your team:

  • Must have: What is critical to start using the space? For offices, this might be a number of desks and a meeting For stores, this could be a number of shelves and a check-out counter.
  • Should have: What elements are important but not necessary for starting out? Think strategy boards for offices or mood-defining murals for stores.
  • Could have: Things that will improve the You get them when you have some spare time and money. Maybe that pingpong table?
  • Won’t have (now): Not important or appropriate These elements do not add the value they cost and are abandoned for now. Perhaps next space.

C. Put your elements on a floor plan.

Putting things in a floor plan shows how the space is used. You can detect potential conflicts and cluttering before you get started.

If you want an impression of the mood, you can use a tool that creates a shiny plan for you.

Step 3: source the floor plan

You’re ready to source your floor plan. Start with the must-have items, then move down the list.

Starter budget 

If you’re broke or waiting to raise those millions before spending them, try:

  • Execution auctions – Companies that fail or get their stuff repossessed auction off their inventory.
  • Second-hand sites – Try putting together a semi-coherent batch of shelves or desks on a second-hand site like eBay or Craigslist.
  • Ali Express – The Chinese will deliver you anything, fresh to the You’re rolling the dice though. The quality varies and returns are more expensive than your purchase.
  • Budget retailers – Stores like Target have cheap furnishings.

Note that certain tax savings (VAT) don’t apply when buying second hand.

Regular budget 

If you’re swimming in opportunity but not in money, you might go to:

  • IKEA – Great value for money, but should be mixed with other vendors to avoid that generic smell in your design.
  • Amazon – Huge library of reviewed vendors for every product imaginable.
  • Etsy – Unique and handcrafted items for every budget.

High-roller budget 

If money is not a problem, neither is filling out your floor plan. Interior designers – who charge you to buy stuff with commissions – are happy to source your items. (Or heck, do your layout!)

If you want uncommon items, type in your item on Pinterest. 

Queries like “Futuristic Wall Clock” or “Sleeping Pods” yield incredible results. Most of these are unavailable for sale, but you’ll leave with a bunch of inspiration.

Step 4: publish your location

People are used to finding places by using Google.

A. Add your space to Google My Business 

Your profile appears when people are searching for your business or similar business on Google Search or Maps. Upload some photos, your opening times and a description.

This is also a moment to reflect on how many stars you score on Google reviews and other review sites. Is it lower than nearby competitors? You’ll be missing out on a lot of business. Start integrating ways to improve your social proof here.

B. Add your space to your website

Add your location and a nice photo. Companies housed in actual buildings inspire trust.

Summary and steps to designing your branded space

Your store, bar or office are part of your Brand Experience. And your design decisions determine if visitors want to shop, eat or be employed there.

You should design a space where you’d love to spend time by adding a clutter-free threshold, prioritizing light, including off-beat objects and maximizing livability.

Step 1: pick a space.

  1. A. List your locations.
  2. I. Search yourself.
  3. II. Join an accelerator.
  4. III. Ask a realtor.
  5. B. Score each location on the relevant parameters.
  6. C. Negotiate the shortest rent rent possible.

Step 2: Make a floor plan.

  1. A. Make a list of all the desired elements.
  2. B. Label each element must have, should have, could have or won’t have.
  3. C. Put your elements on a floor plan.

Step 3: Source the floor plan

Step 4: Publish your location.

  1. A. List your space on Google My Business
  2. B. Add your space to your website.