Bringing a space to life… Best plants for office productivity

We know that improving office spaces through the addition of greenery makes good business sense. A recent study revealed that having plants in the office not only makes staff happier but increases productivity levels too, meaning your bottom line will be growing along with the plants themselves. We spoke to interior design Claire Potter on her top plants for productivity.

“There once was a time, not so very long ago, when the houseplant was a sorry, dusty-looking example stuck in the corner of a room. Whether it sat at home or resided at work, it was usually a disregarded but token nod to bringing a bit of greenery and life into an interior. Some were loved, tended to and even given names, but these poor souls were sadly in the minority. Mostly the houseplant was an afterthought and certainly not a design feature.

But over the last few years, things have changed.

The invention of green walling systems – vast, vertical structures that provide a home and a constant supply of water and nutrients for the plants – have literally sprung up on the sides of buildings and even in shops, restaurants and offices

Designers and architects have taken advantage of new technology to allow plants to be used at a scale never seen before. Plants, and particularly house plants, could now be used in huge numbers rather than the singular orchid on a reception desk.

Within our studio, we try and integrate planting into our interior schemes as much as possible – for the textures, scents and colours that it brings, which can provide a really interesting contrast to perhaps an otherwise industrial space. Plants are an essential part of our design palette.

One concept office space we developed for the THRESHOLD Hub Architecture event in Brighton featured lettuces and herbs growing in hydroponic systems (growing plants using mineral solutions in water, without soil) on the sides of desks, climbing beans scrambling up strings and across the ceiling and plants hanging upside down above the desk in the very innovative Boskke Sky Planters. The idea that you would be able to work in a space surrounded by life and not just electronic equipment really excited us. Not only could you harvest fruits, herbs and salad crops from beside your desk, but you could feel closer to nature and can tend to the plants – ideas that we are now putting into practice ourselves at our new studio, which is nearing completion.

But as well as being wonderful design features – and literally bringing life into a space – using plants in an interior can actually create a better physical working environment.

A study conducted by NASA revealed just how good plants can be at cleaning the air. Of course, all plants add oxygen to the environment through the process of photosynthesis, but some are particularly good at ‘cleaning’ the air itself. If you are working in a space full of computers, printers, photocopiers and monitors, organic chemicals known as VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds) are being generated by the technology, the building itself and products used in the area. Some of these chemicals are dangerous to human health over time, in some cases being linked to headaches and the general feeling of grogginess, but plants can really help prevent these harmful effects – and some are very good indeed. Here are our top three…

Top three air purifying plants

  1. Sansevieria trifasciata (mother-in-laws-tounge)

    Sansevieria trifasciata, or the Mother-In-Law’s Tongue, is particularly good at filtering out formaldehyde traces, which can be produced by white paper and many cleaning products. It thrives in bathroom conditions and is perfect for wash areas both at the office and at home.
    Mother in laws tounge

  2. Chlorophytum comosum (Spider plant)

    Chlorophytum comosum, or the Spider Plant, is one of those plants often associated as being the dusty plant in the corner of the room – mostly as it is nearly impossible to kill off. It is resilient, tolerant of many room conditions and self-replicates with mini spider plants at a rate of knots. It’s trailing habit makes it perfect for placing high up on a shelf – or even as a living curtain if you plant in multiples. Plus, it is excellent at cleaning the air of nasties such as formaldehyde again, carbon monoxide and xylene, which is often used within printing.
    Spider plant

  3. Spathiphyllum (Peace lily)

    Spathiphyllum or the Peace lily has wonderful glossy foliage and pure white flowers and requires very little care indeed. It is also excellent in filtering out three of the most common harmful VOC’s, formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene. They also look fantastic planted en masse in an interior and can add purity and interest to even minimalist spaces.
    Peace lily

So, even though design trends come and go, we believe that the houseplant will remain firmly in the toolbox of designers, as not only do they provide beauty and interest to spaces, they actually benefit our mental and physical health too – for relatively little cost. What’s not to love?”

Claire Potter

Claire Potter, runs an ethical design studio in Hove where plants play an important role in many of her interior design projects.  Last year she designed an “Office of the Future” to demonstrate how edible plants could be cultivated in an office environment.  We invited Claire to tell us a bit more about how plants can be incorporated into office design and to recommend her three favourite plants for office spaces…

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