Inspiration for workplace design can come from strange places, none more so than Hoyt Architecten’s for the Netherland-based HQ of think tank Kwink. Its starting point? The ditty for traditional bridal wear: ‘Something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue’.
Stranger still since Hoyt’s brief was to create a space for the start-up that eschewed the fusty, old office in favour of something fresher and younger – that would present the company as progressive, rather than conservative.
Its new quarters in an eighteenth century townhouse – or ‘Cigar House’ as they are known in the Netherland – with white walls, parquetry and ceiling mouldings did not fit the bill as was. Instead, Joris van Hoytema, who co-designed the office with Marta Pabel, wanted to create a homely and playful environment to counteract the shiny and bright corporate feel.
Far from the organza flounces and ribbons suggested by its matrimonial maxim, the ‘something old and something new’ reflects the mix of modern and mid-century furniture. The latter is seeing a resurgence in popularity, led by the younger generation and a fixation with the Mad Men TV series.
Hoyt designed an espresso bar in place of a canteen. The star of the room is the Faema E16 espresso machine, a design classic from the 1960s. It sits on the counter beneath a custom-made, steel shelving unit that is suspended from the ceiling and alongside a pastel blue retro fridge. A wooden table runs the length of the room surrounded by old school chairs, while a blackboard wall allows the 18-strong team to doodle and come up with ideas.
The boardroom features a royal blue ping-pong table in place of the standard boardroom table. It is matched with Hay’s About A Chair seats in the same blue, while their white swivel bases pick up on the slant of the angled legs on Tecno’s Beta table.
The wall is adorned by an image of Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, created from squares of paper that form giant pixels. The staff put the piece together from a do-it-yourself art kit.
Local artist Laura de Monchy was heavily involved in the project. She designed a number of the chandeliers that combine everyday items she finds by scouring flea markets and deceased estate contents sales. The pendant light over the ping-pong table is made up of a number of plafonnier light shades traditionally used in the hallways of old houses.
Monchy’s artworks are dotted about the office. For these, she takes unusually shaped bottles, bowls and lamps and recasts them in a very-fine ceramic. These ones are painted deep blue and white to tie in with the brand colour.
The war room and desk area feature contemporary furniture by Wilkhahn and Techo. These contrast with the mid-century designs in other areas of the office. However, van Hoytema explains that the blue featured throughout the office brings continuity between the various spaces and the old and new elements.
The meeting room has the look and feel of a sitting room. Classic furniture pieces in the room include Ib Kofod-Larsen’s Shell chairs, a mid-century sofa by the Dutch designer Ole Wanscher, and a wonderful wall shelving system by Poul Cadovius, which is populated by Monchy’s ceramic pieces.
Van Hoytema explains that he was drawn to these designs and the colourful second hand rug because of the cosy atmosphere they create.
“They’re old, but at the same time they are future-facing because they’re from the Modernist era,” he says.
“The stainless steel and black leather of furniture by Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier is from the same period, but they are the kind of thing you expect in the waiting room at a posh law firm. These chairs are made to be sat on, not looked at.”