Is This The End of White Walls?

Is This The End of White Walls?

Since 2012 I have been saving the world from boring office walls. Our first logo was even a meme of an arty Superman, flying through the sky with a paint palette. But I think we might actually have reached the point where we're seeing the end of white office walls and I'm incredibly happy about that!


I was having a discussion a few weeks ago with Mark Collins of IWG and Dr. Craig Knight about the benefits of art in office spaces and the question was asked, should we even be painting the walls white? (referring to IWG's offices). I had to chime in with "no, white walls are awful!" which perplexed my collaborators.

Yes, I know this might be a controversial opinion but here's my reasoning:

Nowhere in nature are you met with big expanses of white in front of you. It's not something humans see naturally and not something we're used to as a species. So why put it in an interior?White isn't actually a relaxing colour. It's fresh yes, but it's also a harsh colour, stark, without emotion and one that our eyes and brain find hard to process.On a practical level, white walls get incredibly dirty very quickly.There's a theory that white walls will reflect light around a space but lots of colours do this, not just white. And if you want light in an office, add more windows and better lighting.

I don't think I'm alone in this dislike of white office walls either. Looking at recent projects by companies like Bloc, Peldon Rose, AW Spaces, Oktra and Saracen, to name a few, I'm seeing fewer and fewer white walls. The colours I'm seeing on walls now vary but there are a lot of pastels, very pale shades of warm pinks, grey tones, lots of greens, and neutral wood colours (often from the actual use of engineered wood). There's also a trend to have fabrics on walls, often in neutral tones, paired with metals.

I'm breathing a sigh of relief on behalf of everyone who works in an office with white walls. The trend towards using more colour on office walls can only, in my opinion, make workspaces better for the people who have to work in them. Colours create energy, boost productivity, calm us, de-stress us, and make us more productive.


And why is that? Well, think of the natural state of a human. It's only been the past 200 years that the majority of us have worked inside buildings, such as factories and offices. Before that, the large majority of us were out in the fields, or working in shops or on market stands. We were used to working closely in nature or close by to our local community. Our natural surroundings are full of colour and texture, sights, sounds, smells and interpersonal connections. This is what humans need.

A favourite quote of mine is from Dr. Craig Knight when I interviewed him at the very beginning of the pandemic (which you can watch here).

Consider an animal in the zoo. To keep it happy you give it outside space, fresh air, natural light, greenery, things to enrich it's environment. If you do that in offices you get design awards!


If we are seeing the death of the white wall, (which I really hope we are) I'm hoping that enriched offices will become the norm, and design awards for things like green walls won't be so unfamiliar. Everyone should have the opportunity to work in a space that makes them productive and happy because happy people do their best work.

Until we reach that point, however, I shall continue to save people from boring white walls. Let me just fetch my cape......