MoreySmith’s interiors for property firm Helical Bar cherrypick from residential, retail and hospitality design – all the while retaining a classy corporate air
When Helical Bar moved out of its headquarters on Mayfair’s Farm Street and into a new 740sq m space on Hanover Square, it was a daunting task. The property investment and development company had called its old office home for 25 years and the relocation meant big changes.
Nicola Osborn, design director at MoreySmith, who was tasked with creating the new office, explains how the Farm Street premises were an old residential property “on four floors, with lots of separate rooms. One of the major objectives was getting them all on one floor, which they’ve achieved here in Hanover Square.” Osborn also wanted the design to reflect Helical Bar’s brand identity, which was also going through a bit of a revamp as the company had grown quite a bit since its inception.
“When we talk about brand identity, we try to incorporate that from the minute we start designing – it’s not just their logo on the reception desk,” she continues. “We made sure we tapped into all the avenues of what they do – residential developments, retail and office – and represent that in their space.” Accordingly, inspiration was drawn from domestic and residential spaces, while maintaining a professional atmosphere.
“They do a lot of client-facing work, so the idea was to have a front-of-house face, which incorporated the reception and all the meeting rooms, and beyond that, the workspace,” says Osborn.
A thick central spine wall divides the reception area from the workspace, but to keep the flow natural, the design had to be cohesive so the office didn’t feel like it was cut in half. The designers kept a theme through the materiality of warm finishes such as timber and metals (brass, copper and nickel) to create movement and connection from the entrance through to the reception and workspace. Copper-wrapped doorways bridge the workspace and client area, for example.
The three metals “were our main influences as we built up the palette, and we wanted those to be the beautiful details as you go through,” says Osborn.
” We incorporate brand identity from the start; it’s not just a logo on a reception desk “
The spacious reception area gives off the vibe of a luxury boutique hotel, and features a large lacquer panelled wall behind a marble-fronted desk with polished brass detailing. Brass strips also border the wall panels, behind which is hiding some practical concealed storage.
To combat the lack of natural light in reception, Osborn installed a large glass door that leads into the meeting suite, which wraps around the edge of the office. Light penetrates through the meeting-room window and the glass door, and into the front-of-house area.
“The glass door also helps to connect the two spaces [visually], so you don’t feel like you’re in a cocoon,” explains Martha Nicholson Hart, a designer on Osborn’s team.
Each of the four meeting rooms has an audiovisual wall, as well as feature lights and furniture, but there’s some variation to how each space was treated to avoid uniformity. MoreySmith thought about future flexibility here: “The AV walls are all panelised, so they can easily take panels off, change them, and also change the reveal if they need to,” says Osborn.
“It’s also future-proofed in respect to the size of the screen: some of the reveals are larger than the screens that are currently in there so they can upgrade when they want to.”
The large boardroom is similar to the other suites but with some distinct features to make it unique, including a leather wall and brass trims that give a nod to the detailing found in reception.
“Taking elements from the front-of-house space and relaying it in a different way is a really good way for people to move through the spaces and still feel like they’re in the same office,” says Osborn. The designers also kept elements from the previous building and incorporated them into some of the meeting rooms, such as Eames chairs, which were cleaned and reused.
When devising the layout of the main workspace, Osborn’s challenge was to install private offices for each of the seven directors that were visible, but with some degree of privacy. Reverting to a more traditional hierarchical layout, these glass-fronted offices were placed around the perimeter, allowing the executives to stay connected with the workers they overlook, at the same time allowing natural light from the windows into the central workspace.
Each of the private offices is slightly different and was designed to reflect the individual’s personality. The directors chose their own colour, furniture and light fitting, and Osborn brought it all together to work as one design.
“We selected three schemes, they chose their favourite and we built it around that,” she says. The open-plan area where the main banks of desks sit is more minimal, with bespoke desks topped with boxes to conceal the printers. Storage is cleverly hidden behind sliding doors on the central spine wall and throughout the office in low cabinets.
“It was a conscious decision to keep the storage low, so that sightlines could be kept clear,” says Hart.
The office is bookended with overlapping wall panels to give some sense of structure to the open-plan space. On one end, there are thin bronze panels with a cut-out design, a feature that is repeated midway through the office, while at the far end, there are felt screens with the same pattern inverted, which enclose informal breakout space.
“It was a conscious decision to keep the storage low, so that sightlines could be kept clear”
While the workspace is kept neutral and light, the breakout area features dark furniture and lights, a bold geometric rug with a zing of colour and an acoustic ceiling to ward off distraction.
“Even though we’re in the same space, the acoustics have changed as we move into the breakout space,” says Osborn. “The felt screens give an element of privacy and the rug and upholstered seats also help to change the acoustics.”
Beside the breakout area in the back corner is the kitchen, which was designed to be a cosy place for staff to relax in. It’s a nod to the domestic with subtly patterned tiles, a flat-screen TV and a kitchen. The design has a colour-blocked appearance, with orange Eames chairs peppered throughout, providing a stark contrast to the predominantly white kitchen.
“It’s about different degrees of comfort,” says Osborn. “The workspace and breakout area are comfy in an ambient way, while this is comfy in a homely way. The kitchen feels so different from the other spaces, so staff can just have a break – visually as well.”