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Creating spaces for people to enjoy in the ‘new normal’

Updated: Jan 12, 2021

The ‘new normal.’ Unprecedented. Pivot. Just a few of the words that defined one of the strangest years in living memory. It certainly was the craziest year I’ve ever experienced in the commercial design world. As last year thankfully came to a close, I found myself feeling incredibly grateful for my clients who were able to continue projects or start new ones, helping keep CFID busy and strong in a year when there were no guarantees.

Rooftop bar CFID Studio designed for a restaurant client.

I've always been an optimist. So as this year begins, I’m looking for silver linings. For one, the pandemic has forced designers to think differently, and as a creative person, I love that challenge.

At CFID, we create spaces for people to enjoy, including restaurants and offices. So we’ve been asking: what does our mission look like now? How can we best support our clients? Here are the top trends we see shaping our business and the commercial design industry in 2021 and beyond.



Work-from-home is here to stay for most knowledge workers. But companies are missing the water cooler conversations and other unplanned interactions that spark innovation, collaboration and connection -- necessary ingredients for strong corporate cultures and productive teams. This is especially true for new hires, who may find it hard to connect with colleagues and integrate into the culture when working remotely.

Companies will look for ways to bring teams back in person, but often in a hybrid model, with a mix of employees coming into the office on different days for different reasons. What does this mean for office design?

  • Flexible spaces are important than ever.

  • Design must support health and safety and help people feel safe. The perception of safety is critical to help teams be productive and engaged.

  • For existing offices, we’re looking for unused and underused spaces to repurpose as collaboration spots and outdoor meeting and work spaces.

  • For new office designs, we’re building in outdoor spaces, flex spaces and collaboration spaces that incorporate physical distance.



Restaurants were forced to adapt in incredible ways in 2020, and some of those changes will stick around.

  • Many restaurants invested in new or expanded outdoor spaces. We think those investments will pay off as some customers continue to feel more comfortable dining outdoors, at least for the foreseeable future. Bonus: Charlotte weather supports outdoor dining at least 9 months out of the year.

  • Restaurants need to attract people back in person to drive revenue. So if they’re financially able, we’re seeing clients request design refreshes to spark interest in the in-person dining experience.

  • The trend toward contactless takeout is here to stay, and we think ghost kitchens may accelerate in Charlotte as customers continue to take out in large numbers.

  • While sadly many restaurants have closed, new restaurants are opening in Charlotte at similar rates to past years. With our region overall expanding at a fast clip, restaurants will follow suit in the longer term.

Most important of all, we’re hoping for the end of the pandemic in 2021 so our restaurant friends can get back to full capacity, company team members can get together in person again and everyone can look toward the future.

Things may never look exactly like they did before. But we look forward to working with our clients to make the most of a tough time and to take advantage of the opportunities that come along as we navigate this ‘new normal’ together.

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