Moving into the top floor of the former Kiwi bacon factory on New North Road in Kingsland means design-and-build company Box™ now has room enough to swing a pig and showcase their product beneath the structural steel portals of this warehouse-like office.
In five years, the company, which has developed a modular, modernist design system for homes built with certainty of cost, has expanded from a team of two to employing 25 staff. That’s a rate of growth not to be snorted at.
Creating a light, practical and fun-filled environment was top priority within the shell of the building that was designed in the 1930s. But hosting potential clients meant the fit-out needed to perform another role, too. “It’s an inspirational space to show people what we do,” says Dan Heyworth, director of Box™.
Box™ shares the 380-square-metre footprint with Dorrington Atcheson Architects and the two companies have a like-minded philosophy: happy staff makes for happy houses.
Co-designed by Sam Elliot (Box™) and Sam Atcheson (DAA), the vision was to combine old with new while softening the industrial aesthetic of the concrete floors and steel rafters where suspended trays house 3.6 kilometres of Ethernet cable.
Dispensing with a traditional reception desk, visitors are welcomed into an entrance area modelled on a living room. A four-metre leather bench-seat faces cabinetry, where a TV, along with a jug and toaster from the 50s, lends a homely feel. A standard lamp enhances the mid-century mood while hemp drapes do a good job of hiding the switch panel. “We just need some macramé to reinforce that retro feel,” says architect Tim Dorrington.
While looking back to the future is the theme at reception, other areas are strictly contemporary. Many elements replicate the particular design language of Box™, including the 8-metre long galley kitchen to the rear of the space. This boasts gaboon-ply cabinetry with a Dekton Domoos benchtop on one side, and black melamine cabinets with a Silestone Negro Tebas bench on the other.
A former lift shaft, once used to transport carcasses between the upper and lower level of the building is transformed into a compact meeting room with bench seats facing each other mere metres apart, rather like a train cubicle. Concrete and bamboo pendant lights from Mei & Picchi complete the picture.
In the centre of the office, a Vitex deck links two larger meeting room insertions, both clad in shiplap cedar, a typical Box™ treatment. Gaboon-ply wall linings and stained Strandboard floors mimic the humble but honest material palette seen in many of the company’s homes, while each room has a separate suite of aluminium sliders as working examples for clients to experience. “This pair of offices act a little like a show-home and we’re playing with the idea of naming the rooms ‘Streaky’ and ‘Shoulder’,” says Heyworth.
Two tubular structures down the central spine help to physically separate DAA from Box™. Made of curved plywood panels, cut by a CNC router, they’re akin to phone-booths designed to be acoustically quieter than the rest of the office. One (dubbed ‘the black hole’) is in darkened ply and furnished with an oversized ottoman. The exterior of the other becomes a circular filing cabinet which encourages tidy colour-coded storage; above it a felted Hush light by David Trubridge muffles sound. “They’re quiet pods that employees can retreat to if they want to get away from the desk to sketch or take a private call. They serve an important function but they’re playful, too,” says Dorrington.
Pops of bright yellow in the colour scheme and a living wall of greenery near the kitchen and staff bar, with a roster for watering, mean this shared space is a Goldilocks zone that gets the balance between work and play just right.
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