Habitus is a bar stool inspired by the coffee leaf. By studying the formation of coffee leaves, Jansson was able to re-create the stool through the intricate arrangement of geometric forms, while maintaining its aesthetic qualities and comfort. It was originally designed to feature in a Kaffa Roastery coffee shop in Helsinki, but is now represented internationally. The stool is made from folded and welded, laser cut 1mm steel and was developed and manufactured during Jansson’s time in Milan in 2008-09.
The first time I visited KesselsKramer’s office in Hoxton, the only people actually working were the cocktail waiters. There they were, tirelessly making martini after martini behind the makeshift bar at the Dutch communications agency’s launch party of its new London venture one Friday night. It was thronging with liggers from the architecture and advertising worlds, intent on making the most of the free booze, trying to grab a carton of mini-burger and chips, and generally starting the weekend as they meant to go on. In the thick of the action were several members of the FAT team, which was responsible for the interior of what has been dubbed the “KK Outlet”. Project architect Tomas Klassnik says: “The design is about how they want to use the space. They had quite special, multi-purpose needs. It had to work as a gallery and a shop, as well as being a workplace.”Having seen for myself how it works for events, I can readily imagine the work of artists, designers and photographers hanging on the walls in one half of the space. Erik Kessels, creative director at KesselsKramer, explains the retail function at the front: “We publish a lot of books and make a lot of products, so we thought we would make a shop, together with an office.” Customers can even pop in on a Saturday. As the blurb for KK Outlet emphasises: “The ‘we’re open’ sign is on the door, the shop shelves are stocked and the coffee is brewing. Drop by.” By encouraging the public to come in, KesselsKramer wants to encourage a sense of openness in the office.This is counterbalanced by the other half of the project. Behind a full-length plywood wall, various rooms are arranged consecutively. It is here where the creative workforce can gain inspiration – be that on the chaise longue behind the timber curtains in the decadently vermilion kitchen, or sitting on the steps in the timber-lined warehouse. “Nowadays, more of us work from everywhere, so although it is an office, it doesn’t look like an office,” says Kessels.From within the wall, an elevation of a factory mounted on industrial castors can swing out to subdivide the space further. “The staff can lock themselves into this piece,” says Klassnik. “The idea of closing off this space means items such as computers can be locked away.”Kessels adds: “The idea FAT came up with was to cut through the space, and this dissection really helped us to use it in a hybrid way.”At the moment, only four staff are based permanently at the KK Outlet, although this can be expanded as the business grows. “The mobile furniture elements are pieces associated with the different areas,” says Klassnik. “There is a section of kitchen unit, which is like a hot-desking worktop, and the same goes for each of the zones.” In terms of materials, it is far more rough and ready than the typical slick ad agency joint. There is no clash of wacky materials on the reception desk – indeed, there doesn’t appear to be one – while the glass frontage is less full-height flagship and more suggestive of going into a sweet shop or a second-hand bookseller, albeit one that can afford the rent in Hoxton Square. The rubber in the kitchen and the tiles in the shop area have a definite aesthetic appeal, but the timber used for the wall looks quite basic, to say the least. By way of explanation, it is meant to represent the concept of the activities and ethos of KesselsKramer in Holland being crated up and shipped over to east London. It is no coincidence then to learn that FAT was responsible for the design of KesselsKramer’s Amsterdam HQ a decade ago. There, an unused church interior was transformed into different levels to provide workstations, platforms, chill-out areas, a library and TV room using an eclectic mix of picnic tables, hedges, fences and items from flea markets for added idiosyncrasy. “We sometimes work for them, they work for us – we’re on one level,” says Kessels. “There was one design, we talked about it, some changes were made and we went into production.” Such geniality makes me tempted to pay a return visit soon – get your cocktail-shakers ready, guys.
Words by Jane Crittenden
Brighton-based design consultancy Platform fitted out the city’s first all-male grooming salon, creating an enticing, cutting-edge environment that avoids associations of powder pink and pampering, finds Jane Crittenden.
The clue is in the name. It speaks directly to the consumer with the exact masculine overtones needed to convey the image that the company sells, with the premises reinforcing this identity. Spruce, the first men only salon in Brighton, is the venture of ex-session stylist Johan van der Merwe. Elegantly dressed in understated black, he is as well-groomed and relaxed as the clients who walk out of his salon. His enthusiasm for his new business is infectious. But what exactly is a men’s grooming salon? “It is somewhere between a barber’s shop and a hairdressing salon but at the same time selling products and treatments, like facials and massages – all for men,” he explains.
For Johan, the move into the industry was a natural step in his career after specialising in male grooming while working with models on men’s magazines like GQ and Maxim. Bored of the scene, he decided to find premises near his home in Brighton, and hit on Kemp Town.
Kemp Town is a vibrant suburb east of the centre crammed with an eclectic collection of curious shops, foodie delights and independent boutiques. It could be described as the “pink pound” end of town but Johan is clear that Spruce is not just for the gay man, but simply for any man of any age keen to look after themselves.
The premises are tucked away on a street between a circus retailer and soap shop. It is not a particularly impressive road but like many areas of regeneration there is an edge to the street that attracts a certain type of retailer. It is a spot for those willing to gamble and hover the fine line between seedy and cool in the hope that it will become trendy and a prime retail space before long. The rawness of the building was what attracted Johan initially, which he describes as being “very masculine”. Exposed brick, timber floors and the industrial concrete ceilings were all features that he wanted to exploit but he wasn’t sure how to move the project forward.
By chance, Johan came across locally-based design consultancy Platform, who are experienced in hair salon and beauty spa projects in the USA. Spruce was a tiny project by comparison, at a mere 33sq m, but it was this small scale and Johan’s ideas that particularly piqued Platform’s interest.
Since male grooming is a fledgling industry, Johan was acutely aware that men might feel uncomfortable about making an appointment or dropping by, particularly if the place looked too cool, too trendy and intimidating. His vision was to somehow hang onto that contemporary feel but balance it with an atmosphere that was warm, welcoming and non-exclusive. His aim was to encourage men to pop in on a regular basis, have a chat and a drink, which was why the bar became a central theme. “If we had people sitting on sofas by the window waiting for their appointment then the interaction wouldn’t be right,” he says. “Sitting at the bar means people can talk over a coffee or a glass of wine so that it becomes a space that makes you curious enough to want to come in and hang out.”
The staff, of course, strongly contribute to the welcoming, friendly atmosphere of Spruce. Johan (rather apologetically) says he only wanted male employees and looked for a mix of personalities as well as diversity of experience so that the salon would appeal to as broad a male audience as possible. “I had to search long and hard to find a male beauty therapist, but it was important as male grooming is still such a new thing and guys can be a bit apprehensive about it. At least if they are surrounded by us – and we’ve tried all the treatments – it is much easier for them to talk about what they want and for us to share our knowledge.”
Beyond creating this community atmosphere, Johan says he gave little direction to Platform other than describing the functional aspects of the business, so there would be areas for haircutting, washing and treatments. Max Eaglen, one of Platform’s directors, explains that designing a masculine space was key to Johan’s vision. “Research for previous salon projects showed us there was this trend for gilded mirrors and French antique-style furniture. We wanted to stay away from that because we didn’t want to make the customer feel uncomfortable. The new metrosexual doesn’t want a feminine environment so the space needed to look classic and tough,” he says.
Platform got to the nub of the brand identity very quickly, which was soon conceptualised into a logo for supporting material and then developed into the salon design. Eaglen says the usual approach would be to consider the customer journey through the store, but with limited space the impact of the interiors had to be swift and exact. The colourways are black with a lime accent for the Spruce identity. Black seems a surprising and rather risky choice for a small space, but Platform was so confident that it decided it would be the only colour it would present to Johan.“The interior designer came up with similar colours to the graphic designer so it seemed meant to be,” explains Eaglen. “We presented black, a bit of chrome, some mirror and this one vibrant stripe of acid green and I don’t think there was one person in the office who thought it was wrong.”
Fortunately, the team had read Johan well – so much so that he rang up afterwards to say he had been “blown away” by the design. “I love black,” he says laughing, gesturing at the way he is dressed head-to-toe in the colour. “I think it is very sexy and I love the tangy green, it really is genius.”
Although black is the leading colour on the floor and cabinets, it doesn’t dominate or enclose the space because the finish is glossy and reflective. Brick and concrete are still exposed for the raw, industrial feel and the single piece of intervention comes in the form of a mirror. This runs around the perimeter of the room where it performs an obvious practical function, but also catches reflections and light to open up the space – more so outside the treatment room, where its strategic position means you can observe the whole shop from the doorway. The back wall is also part mirrored, but framed with a smokey hue above and below the cutting mirror to soften the black and push the room out to give the illusion of space. Acid lime jumps off the shelves and from inside the drawers, sharpening the black and giving the space a vibrant and uplifting edge.
The acid tone is a derivation of the more limey yellow of the cutting chairs, which Johan chose before briefing Platform, although at the time he had only seen them in black. The line up of the chairs is an eye-catching feature that clearly grabs the attention of passers-by who have already started to drift in to find out more. The angular shape works in synergy with the square edges of the shelving and mirrors, yet subtle curves stop the furniture from appearing too hard and seemingly uncomfortable.
A touch of black runs through into the treatment room at the back of the shop in the form of shelving. But otherwise this space is much calmer, straddling the realms of relaxation and masculinity with light chocolate-brown suede walls, low lighting and an exposed concrete ceiling. The kitchen tucks neatly under the staircase, while Johan’s tiny bar has been cleverly incorporated into the reception workstation. Two stools pull up to the counter where Johan plays barman, hair stylist, treatment adviser or confidante – depending on the customer’s mood.
“A guy wandered by the other day and came in, had a chat and a drink and said he really liked Spruce compared to the salon down the road where he said it is really rushed. That is why Spruce is different. We want to be a relaxed place, personal and part of the community, where guys come regularly rather than for a treat once in a while.”