When part of a workplace brief is to create a space to rival surrounding bars and restaurants, to keep people inside the building outside of office hours, the crossover between hospitality and workplace design becomes more evident than ever. Interior architects and designers are as likely to take influence from hotel lobbies, private members clubs and the Chelsea Flower Show, to give workplaces the allure their clients are looking for.
It has now become de rigueur for global advertising agencies such as Saatchi and Saatchi, JWT and Ogilvy & Mather to offer a work bar, and following suit, boutique agencies frequently have a lounge space where drinks are served, before employees spill out into Soho or their respective office surroundings.
The trend extends to blue chip companies, looking to offer something extra to attract talent and leave an impression with clients. Mixed-tenancy spaces, such as the Tea Building in Shoreditch or Canalot Studios in Kensington and Chelsea also include a bar, to bring individual companies together, keep the building animated and attract potential tenants.
“The fact you’ve set your office up in this way, or included these kinds of spaces within your workplace, says much more about your company than brand colours or logos on the wall ever will”
For some companies, the need for a work bar is clear. Interior design practice, MoreySmith, recently completed the fit-out of a Grade II Listed Georgian building in west London for drinks company Moet Hennessy. “The company prides itself on being a high end drinks brand,” Dani Salamon, interior designer on the project explains. “Client entertainment is central to that.”
With no bar in the previous office space, for every event the company put on, a temporary bar had to be created. So for this project, a permanent space to host clients was key.
“They didn’t want to over-glamourise the bar, or make it exclusively a champagne bar,” Dani explains. “It had to cater for all Moet Hennessy drinks, and most of all it had to be timeless. For this we required high end materials and fixtures.” The back bar has a devilled mirror, glass shelves, and an anodised aluminium frame with champagne lacquer border. The bar front is made of chevron patterned tiles. The bar top, hand selected from Strata Tiles, is deep brown granite, with a complex edge detail.
“Whether a bar is in an office or a five star hotel the surface finishes must be reflective, first and foremost, of the company’s brand,” Jonathan Wiles, Strata Tiles director explains.
The office has three front of house rooms: the gallery, the boardroom and the bar, which can be linked or used individually. The boardroom has a huge feature wall, with openings for every sized bottle, which can be adapted for a branded event. The back bar displays all of the bottles in Moet Hennessy’s offering and is a vital marketing tool, as well as somewhere luxurious to entertain.
Since completion, the space is used for Moet UK and Moet Europe events, as well as other brands’ events, including Louis Vuitton.
MoreySmith is also the interior architect behind Sony Music’s Kensington headquarters, where the bar plays a different, but equally important role.
In this instance the new HQ brought together individual labels that had previously existed in separate buildings across London, into what the architects branded a music emporium. “It needed a shared space to bring people together,” creative director Andrew McCann explains.
The double-height atrium, at the heart of the building is a cafe by day and doubles as a venue for parties and live music showcases in the evening. “It was quite complicated, for example to get the soundproofing and the acoustics fit for so many purposes,” explains Andrew.
The space, which has a surrounding balcony, and connecting staircase, has polished concrete floors and exposed services. The stainless steel and back-painted glass server is offset with a large central wooden reclaimed wooden table to give an earthy, artisan cafe feel. By day a Barrisol ceiling creates the illusion of natural light.
“Whether a bar is in an office or a five star hotel the surface finishes must be reflective, first and foremost, of the company’s brand”
“When you’re working with a big brand, you have to ensure that every space lives up to the name, so the rawness, the exposed services, had to be matched with high level joinery elements and quality materials. We went for an underlying warehouse feel but the honesty of the materials was important,” says Andrew.
“A lot of different labels, with different images, must feel comfortable here. You want to offer something that is as good as what’s out there on the high street in terms of local restaurants and bars.”
Shed is an interior design agency with a mix of clients. It has designed the interior for burger and cocktail joint Meat Liquor for example, and retail fit-outs for brands such as Prada and Hunter. And it shows in its workplace design.
Its interior design for communication agency Freud Communications, for example, is bold and bright. The ground floor level of the office is a display for chairman Matthew Freud’s personal collection of artwork. In the agency entrance the visitor is confronted with a Banksy of a boy with a paintbrush scrawling ‘What?’ on the wall. The reception desk is a bright yellow, acrylic, and donut shaped, offering up a halo of yellow light, and beyond is a club lounge area, with stocked bar, which is low lit in the evenings for staff events and corporate funtions. Based north of Soho, it borrows from nearby media-heavy private members’ bars such as The Hospital Club.
Out in Oxfordshire, in a small historic town, made up mostly of the private Burford House estate, Shed has converted an old brewery, or hop house, owned by Matthew Freud, into The Brewery, a bit of a bolt-hole for the agency. The agency uses it to invite clients for big pitches or for major brain storms for staff, offering both a complete break from London.
The downstairs of The Brewery is a working office with computers, desks and all the workspace facilities, and the upstairs combines a lounge, kitchen and library area – still part of the agency extension, but more akin to a boutique hotel than your typical office space. Both play an equal role in the purpose-built workspace.
Continuing the theme, Shed’s latest workspace design, for digital communications agency, Bite, consists of a converted bus terminal in Hammersmith. Walking in, where originally there was a large reception desk, now sits a monolithic bar, where the reception at one end morphs into a bar with a double fridge, and high stools at the other. “In the morning it is a breakfast bar, where you have bacon butties and cups of tea, and in the evening, it’s a social space where alcohol is served,” designer Daniel Dalziel explains.
“The company decided to play on the fact that, despite being a global, online media company their offices are themselves a bit of a discovery, and a destination place to come for a meeting. To do this, it needed a distinctive and welcoming feel; and it needed a bar.”
When global media network business Mindshare moved into two top floors of the new Central Saint Giles Development, for the designers, BDG, it was the bar, restaurant and roof terrace that really offered up the opportunity to put a stamp on the space.
“When you take on a space like that you’re informed by a mix of venues,” creative director Colin Macgadie explains. “Often it will be from spaces you’ve visited and enjoyed, like the terrace at Shoreditch House, or the Conran-designed rooftop garden at the Boundary, opposite, or even the landscaping on show at Chelsea Flower Show.
“When you have a concept for a workplace, to match the ambition, you have to have the finishes and design language to back it up. And you have to steer clear of branding. The fact you’ve set your office up in this way, or included these kinds of spaces within your workplace, says much more about your company than brand colours or logos on the wall ever will.
“First off, the roof terrace was a fantastic offering for staff. At the outset Mindshare were aware they wanted to be able to use the space for corporate events, but they didn’t realise how far they could take it. Clients are now hiring the space for their clients, for functions and workshops. The views, the neutral space, the catering facilitates, make it a strong commodity. You can’t put a value on that, when you’ve got your clients bringing their clients to your workplace for their events.”
Future Designs, a lighting company which does most of its work in the City, have found that the advent of LED lighting has coaxed even the very corporate sector into a new treatment of space, if not going the whole hog with a work bar, at least adding vibrancy and colour to restaurant areas, and creating spaces that can be flexible to day or night use.
“The workspace has moved on. When you speak to potential tenants, they want their workplace to feel more like where they go out, and reflect the way they like to work at home”
For a recent client, law firm Clyde and Co, the company has designed colour-changing up-lighting in the restaurant area which can be blue or purple by day and warmer tones by night. “LEDs have made made lighting design feasible and financially viable for the corporate environment’ explains director David Clements. “Colour-changing LEDs present a cost effective way to take one space and turn it from a breakout area to a much more recreational space.”
“The workspace has moved on,” Andrew McCann surmises. “When you speak to potential tenants, they want their workplace to feel more like where they go out, and reflect the way they like to work at home.”
As long as people are seeking out-of-office experiences in the office, the line between hospitality and workplace design will continue to fade out.