Small but mighty: five compact office spaces
Five of our favourite small-scale workspaces prove bigger doesn’t necessarily equal better.
Formerly the home of Channel 4, dMFK’s new Fitzrovia studio aims to embody the next generation of creative offices, transforming the space into an agile and high-quality workspace in collaboration with Sher + White Architects. The teams have drawn on their experience in both workplace and home design to create a space that focuses on comfort, calmness and face to face interaction.
The street facing studio looks out to the buzzing Charlotte Street, presenting as a showroom of architectural product and process. Noticing that showroom space is more affordable than traditional offices, dMFK saw the opportunity to transform the space into an agile, high quality and flexible workspace including many of the features the practice deliver for innovative, leading developers including The Office Group, Dorrington, GPE, Landsec, and Derwent London – also the practice’s landlord.
Both the layout and aesthetic of the new, 45-person office aim to draw together ideas developed from years working in the sector. dMFK’s work for some of the leading flexible office providers focuses on how offices need to look and function to attract people back after extended periods of home working. Working with Sher and White added a hybrid residential feel to this – the new office brings together that thinking in a way that meaningfully contributes to staff wellbeing, retention and attraction of the finest talent.
Outward facing, light and flexible, the 2200 sq ft space is designed to allow for different types of work. It features three meeting-cum-workspaces with different characters, focus booths, family tables and efficiently planned desk spaces. There is also a strong focus on less visible features such as air quality, comfortable acoustics, and a gentle combination of natural and artificial light.
“Whilst COVID accelerated use of some useful digital remote working tools, as a business we believe in the value of working face to face, with flexibility around the edges,” comments Julian de Metz, Director at dMFK. “To watch staff who’d been fragmented by covid, now chatting, working flexibly, and using the space as we hoped is incredibly rewarding, and a relief.”
As such, for dMFK the move to Fitzrovia is about more than just a new office. Taking slightly less space than an architectural practice would normally need, and being efficient in the design, a strong focus is on engaging and collaborating with the established network of local built environment focused businesses in the area, sharing space, meeting rooms, and facilities across other buildings locally. Staff all have access to Derwent London’s extensive list of tenant amenities and can use the workspaces available next door at DL/78 when they need a change of scene, to host a large meeting or to work on focused tasks.
Similarly, an arrangement has been agreed with nearby collaborators Elliott Wood Engineers, to use its construction focused coworking space ‘The Building Society’ when needed and pool efforts on things like CPD, events and social activities. An important bi-product of this approach is increased face-to-face interaction with friends, clients, consultants and collaborators.
“Our internal collaboration has immediately returned to how it was pre-COVID,” de Metz adds, “and our team has quickly understood and adopted more fluid and sociable ways of work that we’d been missing. In this spirit, we collaborated on the design with Sher + White, who cut their teeth at dMFK and who bring a residential feel, which is important when the office is competing with the home as a place of work.”
Wherever possible, quality aspects of the previous fit-out have been retained or repurposed, including a beautiful solid French oak floor, rusty Corten steel wall panels and doors and parts of the air handling system which has been significantly upgraded to provide superb internal air quality.
With an increase in remote meetings, an absorbent internal acoustic quality has been a strong focus. Ceilings have been sprayed with pale grey Sonaspray, an acoustically absorbent recycled paper product, and hard surfaces are deadened with the use of felt curtains. New materials have been selected for their warmth and texture giving the space a homely, calming aesthetic that blurs the lines between office and home.
“Working with dMFK again on an office interior has given us the chance to bring our residential experience into the mix,” says Gemma White, partner at Sher + White. “We have created a warm, calm interior that fuses the practicalities of office use with residential materiality, detail and scale – the result is an office space that rivals any home working environment.”
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