Hmm, here’s a brainteaser for you. What sort of design scheme would appeal to both high-rolling property investors and people who deal in beauty products – without even a speck of “sensible beige” in sight? The answer awaits you at the shared offices, near London’s Oxford Circus, of cosmetics marketing company Brodie & Stone and sister property development firm Vanderbilt Properties.
The space, designed by Jump Studios and fitted out by Office Projects, is a candy box of colour and light and, though it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, bridges the gap between the two industries in a seamless and clever way. Instead of shrinking into a safe “neutral” zone, which would be understandable considering the brief, Jump has created a razzle-dazzle feast for the eyes. There is nothing cowardly about this space.
Project designer Shaun Fernandes describes the chairman of both companies, Michael Eggerton, as “quite eccentric” and says he was keen to make a hard-hitting statement to potential clients walking through the door – though, sensibly, it had to mediate between the cosmetics and property industries.
In trying to find a middle ground, Jump sectioned off “destination” zones to achieve the more intimate scale of a high-end boutique, while using very architectural elements to divide the space.
“He wanted a space that is design led, that would appeal to people in the architecture community, but also kind of bling,” Fernandes says. (One guesses the “bling” is Eggerton’s collection of autographed guitars adorning the walls of the reception area.)
The separate zones were achieved by placing bespoke joinery (lacquered MDF cabinets in lime green, blue, pink, yellow and so on) to conceal sight lines and section off the office, which is situated over a single floor. The effect is that a modest 185sq m of space feels much bigger than it actually is.
“They’re little, mini compartments scattered throughout the office,” Fernandes explains. “You can imagine someone who is coming in for a meeting about beauty products would appreciate the boutique feeling we’ve created, while at the same time property investors would be wowed and want to invest with them as developers. Investors find the space engaging because it’s not your conventional interior design project – it has a very specific architectural theme running through the whole thing. It needed to be a showplace to express what they’re capable of doing.”
The show starts immediately in reception with the introduction of bold colour, three flat screen televisions, red Vitra Polder sofas, an orange aluminium coffee table and, of course, the beloved guitars set back in lime green cases. Steel panelled flooring leads into the next zone, an informal meeting space decked out with a Frank Gehry corrugated cardboard table and Eames chairs. Beyond this, the more formal meeting room opens out to the back of the office with a white Bordonabe laminate table and white leather task chairs.
All three areas run along the northern side of the building, with original, iron-framed windows out to the street, and are sectioned off from the open-plan workspace and each other by the colourful cabinetry.
The look is animated even more by LED light boxes, which are embedded into each cabinet and can display any number of colours – which ties into the overhead lighting system with its four intensities ranging from “party mode” to “cleaning mode”, depending on the mood.
Joanna Vo-Ta, sales and marketing manager for both Brodie & Stone and Vanderbilt, says that the designers were given a fairly open brief, but it needed to be vibrant, colourful and extend the ethos of the two groups. “Both companies are very creative and innovative – and that’s what we wanted the space to say about us,” says Vo-Ta. “We’re a young company and this office is meant to make a statement about who we are. If you walk in and you don’t like the colour and you don’t like the design – well, at least you know what you’re dealing with.”
She makes the very sound point that everyone – from solicitors to investment bankers and cosmetics formulators – will at least have an opinion about the office. Apparently, though, the design has gone down a treat with the property and cosmetics contingents as well as staff. “The chairman was investing in the business but also in his team. You spend more time in the office than you do at home,” Vo-Ta says. “You could come into this space in a bad mood, and it is raining outside, but here it’s more like the sun is shining all the time.”
The 14 employees in the open-plan zone seem very comfortable working alongside the enormous Danny Lane mirror sculpture that hangs on the far wall, which is just one of the artists’ pieces Eggerton has in the office. The other is a sculptural glass desk in the chairman’s own office, which is perched in the far corner and separated by a wall of glazing. “He’s had those artworks for 20 years,” says Vo-Ta. “It’s him injecting his personality because it’s his company – he started everything from scratch.” That would explain the guitars.
Another informal meeting area is situated between the chairman’s and financial director’s offices. This space, which adjoins the kitchen, is where staff can relax and indulge in some PlayStation – Guitar Hero to be exact. An iPod docking station is linked into the surround sound system and Vo-Ta says that the reactions from staff have made the investment worth it.
“We all love the new space. The atmosphere here is productive but it’s also a lot of fun,” she says. “It reflects the way you want to live. We are always hosting client and internal meetings in the office and are not often tempted out. We keep joking that Mr Eggerton is going to have to get beds in here because we all stick around far too long and never want to leave.” Night night then. Don’t forget to switch off the LEDs.