Up Close with Bruno Grinwis

Bruno Grinwis, IIDA, is a Corporate Interiors Principal specializing in workplace design throughout the Washington, D.C. region. In the following, he highlights how he works with clients to help lead changes in work styles and business models.

What inspired you to pursue workplace interior architecture?

I always wanted to be an interior architect. My parents were interior architects; my father was also a furniture designer and a painter. It has been in my family forever, so I am carrying on the family tradition.

I started my career doing different interior architecture projects across market sectors—healthcare, higher education, hospitality, and residential. But eventually I gravitated toward workplace and corporate interiors design more than 20 years ago. This was a natural fit for me.

How do you engage clients and their stakeholder in the design process?

I deal primarily with CEOs, board members, C-suite, and other decision-makers to focus on function, efficiency, and timely delivery. I like to move fast and respond fast. The Washington market is driven by the broker relationship and creating highly functional workplaces for the client—the end user. It’s my job to provide a quality solution that addresses the client’s business needs. HGA is a support vessel to help provide that quality solution.

What changes are driving workplace design?

That really depends on the region. Much of the design trends come from the West Coast and work their way across the country. But the D.C. market is dominated by non-profits, associations, lobbying groups, and law firms serving their specific membership, clients, and global causes. This is generally an academic, professional town with a lot of college graduates working toward defined goals. Design is about identifying cultural differences from region to region and creating spaces that address those differences. I design with an eye on efficiency to improve clients’ real estate footprints and allow them to achieve their various causes around the world.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a remote workforce overnight. How should businesses envision a nimbler work environment that accommodates sudden disruption?

This is a wake-up call. The current situation asks how we provide a proper working environment at home. We can’t do everything remotely because not everyone is set up to work remotely. We need to understand what resources people need—beyond their existing home situation—so they can go home at a minute’s notice without losing productivity. Are they working at their dining room table? Do they have a separate office space? How are they connecting to company servers? Companies need to create policies around the home in terms of resources, equipment, guidelines, space, and internet so we can make the home as efficient as the office. Essentially, the house should not be a place to work. Nonetheless, we must be ready for this in the future because we can’t shut down every time something like this happens.

What is your ideal work environment?

I don’t mind being a nomad. I like a work environment where I have choices, where I can work together or individually. As a designer, I sell dreams. Design is about imagination and how a workspace can convey that ideal environment.

If not an interior designer, what would you be?

I’m doing exactly what I want to do.