Online | Interiors

Playful Business

London, UK

Daytrip Studio's plush and punchy office design for a Clerkenwell media company evokes feelings of nostalgia – for an era when workplaces were never actually this good

At their first meeting with their client to talk about this London office project, Daytrip Studio’s Emily Potter and Iwan Halstead were presented photography by Slim Aarons, and pictures of the mid-century-modern houses of Palm Springs by way of inspiration. While the pair haven’t slavishly replicated the very particular kind of Californian glamour that these images evoke – their blank canvas was a Clerkenwell warehouse, after all – they have managed to capture a feeling of sumptuousness and escapism. “There’s a certain nostalgia and optimism that is evoked; hazy, relaxed summers away from the inner-city stresses,” says Potter.

A certain femininity was also called for as part of the brief from the client, a media company, and Potter explains how “we also looked at old vintage adverts of 1950s kitchens: spaces that, at the time, were specifically designed and marketed for women. We wanted to flip this concept for the career-focused women in today’s contemporary society. We also listened to the staff and understood the way they worked.”

Ultimately, the objective was to create a workplace that had the comforts of home

She adds that “ultimately, the objective was to create a workplace that had the comforts of home,” and while workplace design has been influenced by residential interiors for some time now, this space’s aesthetics seem much more tipped in favour of a stylish apartment than an office. That’s not without its challenges though, says Potter: one of them was balancing “the need for privacy and containment with cellular offices, but wanting to feel open-plan and communal. We used large glazed partitions that have a diffused effect to obscure views, but allow light and a feeling of openness.” They also fit well with the building’s industrial heritage, as do other materials such as plywood, pigmented MDF and passivated zinc.

Wherever there is lushness and femininity, it tends to be reined in by a contrasting element that’s simpler and more low-fi. A large meeting room features a four-metre-long pink veneered table, red velvet chairs and a crimson carpet, but suspended above the table are a pair of Lia angled lights by Austrian brand Kaia – a glam version of a tubular light.

Daytrip Studio describes the project as having “cinematic undertones”, and Potter expands on this: “Our influences include film, art, furniture and product design, architecture, theatre and even music video, but for this project, cinema was highly relevant. We looked at cinema in its heyday, and art deco patterns, bulb lights and deep red velvets entered the palette. We also looked at moving screen examples to help subdivide spaces, and we implemented a large bi-folding door to the boardroom which opens up the top floor lounge. It’s a playful reveal.”

A tubular-chrome vintage sofa from Talisman and Botolo chairs from Arflex, which have a chunky three-legged design, emphasise the seventies influence on the project, while the acid yellow and fawn striped fabric on the sofa (Reflex, by Raf Simons for Kvadrat) certainly looks like something that could have been inspired by the environments captured by Slim Aarons: it looks like it could have come straight off the sun lounger in one of his images of a poolside socialite.

Daytrip Studio’s colour sense is really magical, and choosing just the right hues to work with furniture from a variety of eras was not easy, says Potter. “There are eclectic influences: key mid-century design pieces mix with seventies vintage finds, sixties Dieter Rams fibreglass armchairs, or the contemporary meeting room chairs upholstered in classic silk fabrics from the 1920s.

“The exercise of bringing all of these together in a vibrant and colourful mix was certainly quite complex. It was a challenge to source the right colours in appropriate grades of material – for example an acid yellow carpet suitable for office use is unusual, or the right tone of light pink utilitarian tile.”

Playful and laid-back as this interior appears, it has an underlying serious purpose. Comfort and ergonomics need to support the business’ long workshop meetings, and the ample lounge space and multiple kitchens are there to encourage interaction, productivity and creativity. Why shouldn’t serious work happen against a backdrop of lipstick-red carpets and baby-pink tiles?