Ad agency Fold7’s Clerkenwell office is split between two floors – the upstairs to resemble a hotel lobby, and the downstairs to create a more laid back and playful office space for employees. The two feel distinct, but a feature staircase and subtle design cues pull them together.
Paul Crofts of Paul Crofts Studio explains that his initial brief was to make it feel welcoming. The company’s strapline being ‘Welcome to the Fold’ as the signage behind the reception desk makes clear. Welcoming for creative director Ryan Newey is more formal that you might otherwise expect.
“Ryan spends a lot of time in first-class lounges and nice hotels and he wanted to bring that element of quality to the project,” says Croft. “Even the loos are luxurious.”
The agency had outgrown its previous office space. It was tired, but had an intrinsic quality from the warehouse features, Croft says. In contrast, their new workplace was “white and generic – a bland and generic office over a 65sq m floorplate”.
Croft’s first job was to replace the stainless steel and glass stairway that took up most of the atrium space. The new iteration becomes one the standout features. Double width, it allows for a much wider entrance that leads directly to a bespoke brass reception desk.
Composed of whitewashed wood that flows onto a raised mezzanine between the two. The zigzag shape of the side of the stairs is picked out in black to creating a bold contrast. The Mary Poppins floating overhead
A palette of marble, oak-stained timber, with brass fittings and wall-mounted lights by Michael Anastassiades create a sophisticated, private members’ club atmosphere in the lobby area. It leads onto the bar/café area, which features the same design of the reception desk. The lobby café area is demarcated by marble slabs arranged in a fat herringbone pattern floors is dotted with Hay Copenhagen chairs and tables and diner-style booths.
The upstairs meeting room is enclosed by an open bookshelf structure on two sides; a hidden library door fits seamlessly into it. One wall is lined with grey acoustic panels by Cliq shaped like traditional wood panelling, while glass behind the bookshelves keeps noise from the lobby out, but allows outdoor activity to seep in.
“I don’t like to work from brochures,” says Croft. “As a furniture designer, its all about what I can create from scratch, so the staircase, bar, the library and the booths downstairs are all bespoke.
Leather bound books and the marble table top are set off by duel rows of stage lights that echo soft, hazy light you’d expect from an old library in a stately home filled with first editions and secret passageways.
The new mezzanine level gave Croft the opportunity to sink a breakout area into the floor, creating what Fold7 refer to as a ‘dry Jacuzzi’. The sunken space is completely made from the same whitewashed timber as the floorboards, and the table is the same height as the floor creating sleek, continuous lines. The bench cushions are upholstered in soft turquoise twill – the company’s corporate colour – and this is picked up again in the three table booths.
The larger meeting room downstairs echoes the refined atmosphere of the floor above. Vertical rectangular windows provide space for seating when agency-wide meetings need to extend beyond the 20-person table. Cliq acoustic panels in a smaller geometric pattern, pick up on the shapes depicted in grey tones, stained on the wooden tabletop.
The office area is carpeted in a grey herringbone Bolon carpet that echoes the flooring in the café area. While tame by certain ad agency standards, certain gimmicks have succeeded in nudging their way in.
“There are so many ad agencies that are gimmicky and personally I try to steer clear of that,” says Croft. “But the final layer has been added by the client.” Surely not pointing fingers at the ever so stylish Mr Newey, the signage and calls to action printed on the walls are hardly subtle. Similarly, the ‘pitch room’ appears to have evolved into a ping-pong room. The door declares ‘Lifes a pitch’ while the neon sign inside isemblazoned with the words “Smack my pitch up” an ode to the 1990’s Prodigy song, which suggests ad agency employees do live into their late 30s.
The whiteboard wall bears no marks of brainstorming; however large chunks of it have been taken out, some filled with mushed up ping pong balls, suggesting the space is used for stress relief as well as bouncing ideas around.