Renowned Architect Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe once said, “God is in the details.” Still, others insist the details are where the devil is found. From a workplace design perspective, I’ve found both to be true. As a commercial interior designer with Elsy Studios, I always aim for the former, but often encounter the latter. When it comes to tenant planning, real estate and design teams are often so focused on the big picture and parsing square footage that they don’t see the potential impact of a few small, but important details.

Designers today are constantly asked about the square footage cost for every design element. It’s a natural request – everyone has a budget. But with so much emphasis on price per square foot, the experience of the people who will be using the space day in and day out can be overlooked. By shifting the design focus to the user experience, you can create a far more attractive, productive and engaging space from a tenant perspective.

So what kinds of details make a space stand out? It helps if you think of yourself (at least for a moment) less as the landlord, owner or employer and more as a host. As you welcome these people into your space, appeal to their senses.

Sight – Instead of using walls to define spaces, create a more welcoming environment using visually interesting details. For example, screens and artwork are a more elegant solution than a bland wall for blocking an eyesore or creating a sense of privacy. In a recent project for Innovest, our team added an artwork film across existing glass conference room walls. The film does double-duty, obscuring the view into room and serving as artwork in reception area. I also cannot overstress the importance of good lighting. Our visual perception of a space can change dramatically with changes in light. A thoughtfully concealed LED light strip or a grouping of edgy pendant lights can give a flat ceiling some much-needed relief. The best light of all is natural light; try adding some reflective surfaces to distribute daylight throughout space.

Sound – This is as much about what you can hear as what you can’t hear. Using music can stimulate and calm the senses. There are also things you don’t want to hear in a space (like other peoples’ conversations). Sound masking techniques can give people a greater sense of privacy and help them concentrate. From installing sound masking technology to placing acoustical panels at a certain height or choosing a thicker conference room glass, there are a number of ways you can help mitigate unwanted sounds and create a more comfortable space for tenants.

Touch – A good interior designer should help you select a variety of textures for your space. This is especially important when you think about the first impression you are making on someone who walks into the space. Think about what the feel of your entry hardware, your touchscreens, the texture of your seating says about the quality of your space and your office culture.

Smell – Our sense of smell is strongly linked to our emotions and our memories. A little attention goes a long way. Think about how the smell of bread baking or fresh flowers makes a high-end market more appealing. Why not apply this philosophy to your office? Consider thoughtful details like offering warm cookies at reception or providing disposable mint toothbrushes in the restroom areas.

Taste – You’ll be hard pressed to find anything more popular in an office than good coffee. Amenities such as a Keurig coffee maker can go a long way towards making people feel welcome in a space. Elsy Studios recently designed a new space for a law firm with a hospitality area just inside the front entry. The area features comfortable seating around an inviting fireplace where visitors can grab a beverage from the fully stocked refrigerator while waiting for a meeting to start. It’s a great way to immediately put your guests at ease.

With my more than 20 years of commercial interior design experience, I can tell that the difference between a bland and brilliant space is in the details. So in addition to budget and square footage, make sure your designer knows how you ultimately want your space to feel. Thoughtful details evoke emotions, and those emotions can have a direct impact on brand perception and office culture. Choose wisely!