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Purple Daze?

How do you colour your world? Sheila Manchester explores the craze for colour in agency offices.


shopfitting_colourwaysThere are no new colours, the rainbow has been the same since the sun first rose on a rainy day, but the way we use them changes.

In the design world, the trending colour palettes for 2015 are soft but strong, serious but lighthearted, handsome and, at the same time, pretty.

Am I mad or merely fanciful? Well, neither, if you think I am, just take a walk down a street in a trendy town. The colour vibrancy grows year by year. Once upon a time, shopfronts were black, maybe dark blue, with ‘Reginald Frumpton & Sons’ in an elegant Roman font. Now… anything goes. My favourite ‘new’ interior design colours are ‘soft sand’, ‘cinnamon slate’ and ‘caponata’; three shades that start with a pale pinky/beige, moving through a darker dusky warm purple-ish pink and finishing on a strong olivey/purple for definition. Stunning.

Estate agents, always keen to get noticed, have long been leaders in this field of colour, but lately, some seem to have gone, dare I say it, slightly OTT? Have you noticed a surge of bright orange, lime green, and purple? One cynical friend noted that the brightness of the estate agency offices on his high street was in direct contrast to the brightness of the people therein. I said that was extremely unfair, of course. Especially coming from a footballer.

The expert view

To get a clear picture, I spoke to those on the frontline, the experts that translate the raging desires of property agencies into smart professional business centres.

Andrew Tomlinson at Crucial Projects, tends to rein in the wildest notions. “We are careful not to choose on trend colours as they can soon go off trend; however, vibrant greens, purple, deep reds, greys, rich blues are still proving popular and will be seen in office refurbishments well into 2015.

“We find that the same rules still apply though, that classic colours are favoured by traditional agents, whilst newer agents in metropolitan locations opt for contemporary and vibrant tones. Introducing complementary colours is a clever way to take a brand in a new direction; adding a bright new colour can add dynamism and applying a warm colour can lend a new level of professionalism.”

Harry Simons at MPL Interiors also treads a creative and fashionable tack to keep his clients on trend – but on track too. “We believe that colour trends filter down from the wider environment – like fashion and residential interiors – and these do eventually make their way into agency refurbishments.

“We’re always mindful to work with a brand’s current corporate colours but MPL’s designers are influenced by a wide variety of sources. Colour experts Pantone have released a set of colours that are currently trending called ‘En Plein Air’ – ‘In the Open Air’. We might take elements of this palette and use them with an agent’s existing brand to create bespoke wall canvasses, which are another great way of livening up a workplace.”

Those corporate colours are also brought into play in the very fashionable wall-sized maps, says Janice Fairfield at Fairfield Displays and Lighting, “The majority of customers like maps to match their brand colours so we often produce maps with a monotone background and coloured roads, interesting areas are highlighted in the brand colour. Brand colours are often also used for cartoon style bridges, landmarks and pins,” says Janice.

“A new trend is for translucent maps on clear acrylic, these are being used more as artwork rather than functional maps and they aren’t just for walls, they are also being used as room dividers and
can be suspended from cables or rods or mounted into freestanding units.

Wacky windows

Even in the most traditionally styled agencies, another brilliant colour theming opportunity arises with window displays – particularly with the advent of illuminated displays; but how far do you go? “The majority of MPL Interior’s clients prefer the classic look when it comes to LED property displays,” says Harry Simons. “A pure or soft white illumination allows the property details to really shine and doesn’t conflict with any corporate colours. There are more creative ways of introducing colour to windows with lights and materials. Property display surrounds made from coloured acrylic are very effective.”


Intouch screen has toning frame.

Paul Marks at Intouch Display agrees, he says that there is growing demand for much more vibrant screen surrounds, in pink, lime green and red – hopefully not all in the same agency. But if you want coloured lighting you may have it. Janice Fairfield confirms that coloured edge light pockets are now coming onto the market. “The coloured LED halos look great when using them in a random effect mixed with cool white halo pockets, creating a retro look. They fit in with the new 2015 office interior trend of making spaces look more rustic and industrial with the use of cement walls and furniture, therefore having suspended LED pockets against the walls with coloured halos will bring a touch of humour but could also enhance the brand identity of the agent.

“The latest trend is to bring the countryside into urban offices with living green walls; the use of warm colour halo Light Pockets adds a natural feel to the overall design. Light Pockets can also be custom screen printed. The other option is to have a Light Pocket™ which can be switched to a range of colours; this means you can actually change the colour from blue to pink for example.”

Trad static or trendy touchscreen?

With the advent of touchscreen displays – both ‘through glass’ in the window and in iPad style internally, many agents are reducing the number of static displays of properties in the window and in the branch, is the printed sheet inside a ‘pocket’ a thing of the past?

Yes and no, says Andrew Tomlinson at Crucial Projects, “Where an agent has gone to the extent of investing in technology to display properties, obviously the need for the printed sheet is reduced. However, not all agents invest in cutting edge technology for reasons such as budget, target demographic and location, so well designed LED illuminated displays are more than adequate for their needs. On balance the printed sheet is not a thing of the past. They are adaptable, easy to produce, they look smart and sharp and there will always be a place for them.”

The trend ‘Less is more’ is definitely taking hold, as having too many window pockets is seen as a barrier to customers wanting to enter a shop. Paul Marks at Intouch Displays says that the advantage of the window touch screen overcomes all the loss of traditional mass display objections as “The agent’s entire portfolio can be accessed on one screen and rather than just viewing a single image, customers can interact with the floorplan, location map and photos.

“Vendors now recognise the benefits of comprehensive Touch Screen marketing which increases the level of instructions to the agent. A minimal amount of low level LED pockets can then be added to complement the Touch Screen.” Best of both worlds!

Harry says that MPL thinks there is still a place for static property displays in sales and lettings but trends are changing. “We’re seeing more agents requesting low-level displays and fewer pockets. Other agents are opting for a reduced number of static displays but in a larger format combined with an LCD screen – as we installed for Coopers in Fitzrovia. Although agents want less cluttered windows for a sleeker, transparent look, the nature of the business means properties displayed in windows gives the air of brisk business and success, so I’m not sure if static displays will disappear totally.”

Trending today

So finally, what other hyper-cool delights should the trendsetting agent be choosing for their new office?

Andrew Tomlinson is still promoting common sense: “It’s ‘a must’ to get the foundation of the design right first, such as office layout, signage, LED lighting and integration of the brand image.

“Then we can then introduce features to suit the agent’s style, location and client demographic. We try not to introduce ‘must have’ styles which are a novelty and will look tired after a few years, but we can have fun with features which don’t incur long term investment and can easily be changed. “These could include local interest images of the agents’ area which are functional as well as visually stunning, such as the super high quality drone image wall graphics we produced for Walmsley. Also, domestic touches within commercial interiors such as oversized pendant lamps or signature pieces of furniture which inject colour and give wow factor.”


A bright green map from Fairfield brings zing!

Harry Simons agrees that maps are mandatory in today’s agency, “Maps can also be sliced into sections and creatively lit with coloured lights, like we did for Edwards. Flooring is another way of adding interest and the striped carpet we installed for Copperstones, highlights how colour doesn’t have to be confined to walls.

And just in case you haven’t noticed, iPads (other brands of tablet are available) are almost essential gear as well. Paul Marks says. “With an uplift in the use of iPads and tablets for presentation purposes, we are seeing a great demand for large wall mounted internal screens that run through a carousel of the agents portfolio and can then be interrupted by a tablet to present specific comprehensive property details to the client.”

It’s all brilliant, isn’t it?

May 13, 2015

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