“Customising elements of the interior design helps build an authenticity-centered space, providing an alternative to “pre-packaged”, “cookie cutter” designs.”
Although problems with the quality of living and working spaces in densely populated urban areas existed prior to COVID, the pandemic response restrictions that required people to stay at home and work brought the issues with subpar building design to everyone’s attention. More than ever, it is important to tailor an interior design so that it will have an ongoing positive impact on its environmental, health, and social context.
One significant aspect of an interior design is the interior lining—the material used to line the inside of a room. The process of selecting interior linings sees living and work spaces transform both functionally and aesthetically. The material selected for a residential or commercial space, whether it is plasterboard, medium-density fibreboard (MDF) or timber, is heavily influenced by the desired look and feel, as well as the performance requirements of each application.
Design trends, such as the current emphasis on sustainability, flexibility, authenticity and health, must also be considered. Property owners will no longer be able to sufficiently differentiate on the basis of having a good-looking physical product alone. Occupants seek engaging spaces that support innovation, creativity and collaboration. They want to improve their mental outlook and productivity by connecting with nature and deepen their community bonds by engaging with local culture.
Today’s built environments require versatile lining solutions that meet these evolving needs. Below we look at the key design themes, trends and considerations that are currently influencing the spaces of tomorrow, with a focus on interior wall and ceiling linings.
AN EMPHASIS ON AUTHENTICITY
In the past few years, we have seen “authenticity” emerge as a key theme in interior design. Authenticity in design extends beyond the use of surface materials and colour schemes. It calls for the capacity to create a narrative for a setting or experience, and incorporating design features that are not solely for utilitarian purposes, but also supporting the nature and aesthetic of the space and its users.
Elements that involve self-expression, local culture, or the surrounding environment are being incorporated into authentic designs. These features can reveal the personality of the designer, the owner or the company, or connect the space to the land on which it is built. Projecting an air of authenticity in a commercial environment impresses consumers, draws in clients, and keeps employees engaged. When executed correctly, authenticity-centered design supports the organisation’s culture and vision for the future.
Customising elements of the interior design helps build an authenticity-centered space, providing an alternative to “pre-packaged”, “cookie cutter” designs. The more unique the space is, the more likely it is to provide an experience that users cannot find anywhere else.
In this respect, feature walls provide designers with a valuable tool to differentiate a space. Originally popular in the early 2000s, the issue with the original feature walls was that they could look random or unintended. With their comeback over more recent years, the trend has matured incorporating different types of internal linings, such as wood, wallpaper and tiles; natural and recycled finishes; and graphics, murals and other types of artwork. A connection exists between the current trend for muted colour schemes and the popularity of earthy, natural textured materials such as timber cladding.
THE EMERGENCE OF BIOPHILIC DESIGN
The more time we spend indoors, the more disconnected we become from nature. This is where biophilic design comes into play. The term “biophilia” refers to our innate desire to engage with nature and other living things. When applied to architecture, biophilic design involves incorporating organic materials and natural elements into a built space to improve the health and wellbeing of its users.
There are many different ways to approach biophilic design, but the demand has primarily been for organic materials that mimic outdoor environments. Wood is one of the most widely used interior lining materials, not only for its practicality and versatility in assuming architectural forms, but also for the many physiological and psychological advantages it offers. For example, a study commissioned by Forest & Wood Products Australia that polled 1,000 Australian workers discovered a link between the presence of wood in a built space and increased employee concentration, productivity and satisfaction, and lower absenteeism rates.1
Whether due to rising prices or supply shortages, solid timber may not be a practical solution for every project. Thanks to advancements in materials technology, it is possible to create authentic wood-look building products that connect users to nature, while offering enhanced sustainability, performance and durability. Veneers, for example, are thin slices of wood that are adhered onto a high-performing substrate, such as MDF. Not only do veneers look like any other genuine timber product, but they also require less raw material consumption than a solid timber panel.2
BLENDING FUNCTIONALITY AND FORM
When choosing interior linings, do not overlook functionality of design over form. Most properties, particularly busy commercial environments, need to stand up to constant use and traffic. Durability and strength are critical components of a sustainable space that can stand the test of time without requiring excess maintenance or repairs. Properties such as stability, impact resistance, and moisture resistance can be found in a wide range of interior linings—but it is important to find the right combination for the intended application.
In today’s market, noise control is a critical consideration for lining specification. There is a large body of evidence indicating that excess noise is a detriment to productivity, satisfaction, and wellbeing. For example, in a Finnish study, it was found that open office workers experienced more stress symptoms, particularly overstrain and difficulties in concentration, than workers in private rooms, due to office noise.3 Another study found that working in a noisy open-plan environment heightened negative moods by 25% in test participants.4
The success of “high intelligibility” spaces, such as lecture halls, recording studios, video conference rooms, and open-plan offices, is inextricably linked to the room’s acoustics design. Sound-absorbing surfaces added to the surface of walls and specially-designed acoustic panels can reduce reflected sound and contribute to a healthy acoustic environment. Leading manufacturers utilise advanced compressed perforation techniques and various backing materials to optimise sound performance of their interior lining and panel solutions.
While acoustic linings and panels are essential in managing noise within a space, they often bring to mind an unattractive “utilitarian” aesthetic. However, there is a growing selection of decorative wall and ceiling lining systems with enhanced acoustic properties that can be used as design features in their own right and others with concealed joints and subtle profiles that are almost seamless in appearance.
FIRE SAFETY REMAINS PARAMOUNT
Resistance to fire is another performance category that designers must pay close attention to when specifying internal linings. The National Construction Code (NCC) has stringent fire-hazard regulations that must be considered when designing commercial spaces.
When it comes to wall and ceiling linings, the NCC contains requirements for the use of non-combustible materials, and fire ratings such as Fire Resistance Levels (FRLs) and Fire Hazard Properties (Group Numbers). Of note is how the wall and ceiling lining contribute to a wall or ceiling system’s FRL, and the required Group Number for a product. It is important for compliance purposes to ensure you choose a material that has been tested under the relevant fire-testing standards and has a valid Group Number classification.
VISUAL CONSISTENCY, INSIDE AND OUT
Harmony and unity are the cornerstones of good interior design. A smart designer will see an opportunity to achieve design synergy by maintaining a consistent theme and colour palette throughout the space. Beyond the general aesthetic of the space, it is important to also design with the flow of the space in mind. No space will be the same as the next, but thoughtful consideration of colours, materials and textures can create a balanced and calming environment.
For this purpose, selecting the right internal linings is a pivotal part of any new project. Repetition of elements like colour,
shape, or texture can create a sense of flow and movement. At the same time, embracing similar features across lighting, furniture, interior walls and even exterior cladding can make a design feel more harmonious.
Particularly in multi-use commercial spaces supporting a variety of activities, you will need a range of products with different functional qualities (e.g. acoustics, durability and/or moisture resistance), but you also need to be able to match tone and finish to maintain visual consistency. Sourcing matching products can be time-consuming and frustrating, so it is recommended to identify providers who offer products for internal (lining) and external (cladding) applications, alongside a range of performance, colour and finish options.
Thanks to advancements in materials technology, it is possible to create authentic-looking wood-look products that offer enhanced sustainability, performance and durability.
WHY GOING LOCAL IS KEY
We are all becoming more conscious of the provenance of the products we buy—internal linings are no different.
A recent Commonwealth Bank study found that more than 50% of Australian consumers prefer to buy products that are manufactured and supplied locally.5 Why is sourcing local products so important? Purchasing products designed and made locally offers designers, specifiers and builders a number of logistical and financial benefits. Local manufacturers have greater supply chain stability, higher quality assurance and fair working conditions. In comparison, overseas manufacturers may not have the experience in meeting Australian building codes and product standards and their quality assurance processes may be more difficult to assess.
A secure supply chain is a key advantage for Australian manufacturers. Key building materials (including timber, a popular lining material) have been subject to rising import prices and increased delivery times due to political, economic and environmental uncertainty all over the world. Local producers are protected from problems with the global supply chain to an extent and face fewer obstacles in getting their products to Australian consumers.
Sourcing lining materials locally is also better for the environment. Products and materials will not need to be shipped as far, reducing transport emissions. In addition, you can engage directly with the manufacturer to ensure the product is sustainably and ethically sourced.
Specifying complete tailored lining solutions with Keystone Linings
Many specifiers believe wood products are their only solution for interior lining systems, but weight and cost are major inhibitors to using said products in every case. Wood-like or wood-look products can and are a great solution, especially in ceilings or large area applications.
As a leading manufacturer and supplier of perforated, slotted and patterned acoustics and decorative wall and ceiling linings, Keystone Linings can work with clients to provide bespoke solutions that accommodate local and specific design needs.
The flexibility afforded by Keystone Linings’ product range is unmatched, providing a one-stop-shop for specifiers to choose internal lining and external cladding solutions. With a variety of materials, colours and finishes on offer, Keystone enables designers to create a seamless flow from one zone to another. As we see below, their range offers a variety of performance properties and aesthetics that can be tailored to suit any application.
- Key Geo. A range of decorative finishes and grooved panels that provide the latest in contemporary styling, offering stunning and versatile aesthetics in any project.
- Key Ply. Engineered panels to create powerful acoustic atmospheres, with excellent sound insulation—all while exuding a natural timber aesthetic for walls and ceilings.
- Key Lena. A cost-effective, long-lasting MDF decorative solution for interior applications—engineered for a unique and modern look.
- Key Nirvana. Perforated, patterned, slotted or shaped panels that provide maximum noise reduction, with an endless list of pre-finished options to choose from.
- Key Endura. Produced from uniquely-perforated fibre cement sheets, Key Endura’s long-lasting and durable qualities make it ideal for ceiling, wall and wet area applications.
- Key Board. Acoustic and decorative wall and ceiling lining specially designed for maximum acoustic performance.
- Key Eclipse. With inherent fire-retardant qualities in its MDF core, this product is unrivalled as a strong, durable product for internal commercial applications.
- Key Kompress. Made from high density compressed fibre cement, perforated to achieve excellent acoustic properties.
- Key R-Line. Linear architectural panels that provide an almost seamless appearance with a grooved profile and concealed joints. Perfect for interior walls and ceilings.
- Equitone. A through-coloured facade material designed by and for architects. Every Equitone panel is unique, showing the raw, untreated texture of the fibre cement base material.
- Key Ink. These digitally printed panels come in a range of slotted and perforated options, with the versatility of hi-resolution custom prints.
1 Pollinate. “Workplaces: Wellness+Wood=Productivity.” Planet Ark.
https://planetark.org/newsroom/documents/workplaces-wellness-wood-productivity (accessed 8 May 2023).
2 Timber Veneer Association of Australia. “Product Manual”. TVAA.
https://timberveneer.asn.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/2019-TVAA-Product-Manual_v2.pdf (accessed 8 May 2023)
3 Haapakangas, Annu, Riikka Helenius, Esko Keskinen and Valtteri Hongisto. “Perceived acoustic environment, work performance and well-being–survey results from Finnish offices.” International Commission on Biological Effects of Noise.
http://www.icben.org/2008/PDFs/Haapakangas_et_al_Finnish_offices.pdf (accessed 8 May 2023).
4 Sander, Elizabeth, Cecelia Marques, James Birt, Matthew Stead and Oliver Baumann. “Open-plan office noise is stressful: multimodal stress detection in a simulated work environment.” Journal of Management & Organization, Vol. 27, No. 6 (2021): 1021-1037.
5 Commonwealth Bank of Australia. “CommBank Consumer Insights.” CommBank.
https://www.commbank.com.au/content/dam/caas/newsroom/docs/CommBank%20Consumer%20Insights%20Report.pdf (accessed 8 May 2023).
All information provided is correct as of July 2023