When Tom Dixon sets his stall out – or should that be presents his beautifully designed stand? – at Orgatec, you know that believes he’s spotted a gap in the office design market. Cologne’s Messe will see the launch of a new range of desks and accessories from Dixon, who has, as you’d expect, put his own stylish and materially uncompromising spin on the needs of the workplace.
As we convened in his Ladbroke Grove headquarters to talk about his new launches for Orgatec, he was unsurprisingly clued up on the office sector, issuing forth soundbites such as “the shared economy” and how “it’s more and more about casual areas” and workplaces today need to be more than “ping-pong and M&M joints”.
Dixon’s interior arm Design Research Studio worked on Shoreditch House, creating spaces that catered for the desires of the then-trendsetting private members’ club including a formal bar, dining hall and lounge jam-packed full of rich upholstered upholstery. “Our experience started there eight years ago,” says Dixon. “It was our intention to look where people were working as well as playing – the blurring of the lines between work and pleasure.”
Further insight came from Design Research Studio’s work alongside Gensler on the McCann Erickson headquarters in New York, a project where the US media giant’s workspace moved from cubes to a 12,000sq m progressive floorplate, broken up into zones to create a variety of environments such as the area dubbed the Central Park, made up of copper domes framed by a foliage display.
A more domestic, more human aesthetic is fast becoming the required backdrop for the newly blurred distinctions between work, home and entertainment spaces. There is a need for versatile, hardwearing and functional objects for work attractive enough to be used in domestic and decorative situations.
Dixon’s new office range continues his interest in honest, long-lasting materials. Boom, an engineered task light which he says has a “sharp, silver aesthetic”, takes its inspiration from the long lineage of draughtsmen’s and machinists’ lamps. The design is pared back to series of cylinders, tubes and junctions arranged in a minimalist composition.
Dixon says that his products have always straddled home and contract environments and indeed this has been borne out by the number of times that his signature copper lighting has been spied in many a workplace environment featured in this magazine. He talks of the continuing need for cable management or storage of paper but with a Dixon-like twist.
The Slab school desk, inspired by the traditional Victorian school desk, is made from solid oak with rounded edges and understated proportions. Where the inkwell would have been in days gone by is now a place for cable management, accompanied by a deeply machined groove for pens. As Dixon says: “The same hole but for a completely different reason.”
The Slab desk system continues the theme of rounded edges and natural materials. “It can be an individual desk where you can work; it can work as a hotel room desk,” says Dixon. It strikes the balance between being neutral enough to appease all but the most cautious specifier and yet it still has enough design-led appeal not to be ignored.
To complete the range, there is a set of desk accessories known as Cube, a nod to the fact that despite the dream of the paperless office, people still have a bit of a thing for stationery. Cube consists of a series of cast alloy zinc desk accessories, which will stay on one’s desk a long time after built-in obsolescence has seen off a whole host of smartphones and gadgets.
One of Design Research Studio’s most recent projects was the Atrium co-working space in Camden. “Co-working’s the new normal,” Dixon says. He recounts how, after the Tom Dixon brand exhibited at St James Church on Clerkenwell Close in Clerkenwell Design Week, its enlightened vicar Andrew Baughen was keen on getting in on the action: “Even the vicar’s into co-working now!”
The designer’s stylish new desks and accessories introduce a softer aesthetic to suit the crossover space between work and play