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Modus create an Instagram-worthy workspace for SLG

As regular readers will be all too aware, we like to get out and about. With both London and Manchester within easy reach of our editorial team, it’s important to us that we don’t just focus on these two centres. So, a day out in the lovely West Country ticks a number of boxes for us!

13/11/2019 6 min read

Project Team

  • Client

    SLG

  • Interior Designer

    Modus Workspace

  • Furniture Provider

    Platfform Ltd

  • Flooring Suppliers

    Medifloor, Quadrant, Crucial Trading, Polyflor, Permafloor, Amtico, Smartply, Grestec, Forbo

  • Furniture Suppliers

    Andrew Martin, Carl Hansen, Dauphin, Frovi, Gubi, Icons of Denmark, Knoll, Lapalma, Norr11, Style Matters, Techo, Relay Design, Bisley, Spacestor, Workstories, Pedrali, Rigg, ICF, Vitra, Allermuir

  • Surfaces Suppliers

    Profile, Valley Blinds, Innerspace

  • Other Suppliers

    Woodwards & Co, Profile, Maars, Brad Waters

When we do get out and about, we find ourselves in a whole number of different environments, from out-of-town business parks to emerging new CBDs. In fact, the one place we seldom seem to visit is the high street. Well, that’s all changing today.

Gloucestershire beauty brands company, SLG, who has worked with clothing label Superdry, YouTube star, Zoella, and pop group, Little Mix, has moved its workspace into The Brewery Quarter in Cheltenham, literally opposite the likes of The Botanist and above Urban Outfitters, in the heart of the city’s retail centre.

SLG, who was previously based in sites in both Cheltenham and Gloucester, now calls this amazing 27,000 sq ft premises in The Brewery Quarter its home – or Studio 19, to be precise.

What’s even more incredible is that said 27,000 sq ft comprises a single floorplate, one floor up from the bustling street level and, on entering the space, you could easily be forgiven for thinking you were in Chelsea Village or Shoreditch and not Cheltenham.

We’re met by SLG’s CEO, Miles Dunkley, and Tim White, the MD of design firm, Modus, who can talk us through this unique project. ‘It is fairly unique,’ Tim agrees, looking around the open space, ‘especially in a town such as Cheltenham, on a ‘high street’. It certainly helped that we had a client with a real vision and a great story to tell. This initially was going to be retail space when it was built – ground floor was retail and this was supposed to follow suit, hence the amazing ceiling heights. We started with an empty, concrete shell. It was great to have such a blank canvas to begin with.’

Tim tells us that the most significant intervention Modus added is the feature staircase in the centre of the space, which has allowed the entire floorplate to be opened up. Before taking the tour of the space, we ask about the working relationship between SLG and Modus. Had they collaborated before? ‘No, we were working on projects in Bristol and London for a client and the project manager was also working with SLG – and so introduced us to Miles and the team,’ Tim explains.

‘When I first saw the building, it was a vast and empty concrete shell,’ Miles recalls. ‘In fact, it was a larger space than the space we currently occupy because beyond the far wall is another 7,000 sq ft, which is also part of our lease and which we’ve subsequently sub-let. The tenant is a creative community workspace business, which is a great tenancy adjacency for us.

‘During that first viewing, an early vision that came to my mind was for a gently arcing walkway to run the full length of the dramatic rectangular footprint, connecting one end to the other – which we now call The Freeway. This would connect a stylish social area at one end to the various work areas at the other end.

‘The freeway flooring is made from skatepark OSB board, inferring an urban street culture vibe and we have customised SLG skateboards and a vintage Raleigh Chopper – which are available for anyone who wishes to glide rather than walk from A to B.’

As we stroll through the space, we ask Miles about the decision to make this move. ‘We were in the midst of a major business transformation,’ he explains. ‘We’d recently sold our manufacturing business in order to concentrate on our branded business and that left us with the end of a lease on that property, so we decided to bring all of our people together. The relocation project therefore began as a practical necessity and then quickly evolved into a creative opportunity.

During that first viewing, an early vision that came to my mind was for a gently arcing walkway to run the full length of the dramatic rectangular footprint, connecting one end to the other.

‘We really wanted Studio 19 to express who we are – creative, fashion-centric, global. From there, a fusion of international café culture, relaxed luxury and contemporary workspace innovation emerged. The raw concrete space offered up design opportunities – for example, a vast concrete wall jutting out into the space became a giant media wall on one side and on the other we were able to accommodate a somewhat concealed social area, which we call The Pavilion. There’s a real buzz here throughout the day – and it really helps bring together people who wouldn’t necessarily normally socialise.

‘The bleachers stand, which faces into the media wall, is also the scene for our major social events and at the diner bar we have drinks here on every payday Friday, and last month we brought in a local gin distillery pop-up as our guests. These were things we weren’t able to do previously.

‘Then we have the staff shop next door.’

When Miles says staff shop, what he is actually referring to is an amazing 20ft bright red shipping container where staff can get a 50% discount on goods. It’s branded with a ‘dispatch date’ – 1985 – signifying when the company was founded, and the ETD of 04. MAR. 2019, signifying the date the company moved into the new space. ‘We had a bit of fun with this. It wasn’t the easiest thing to get into the space – but was very much part of this creative adventure we wanted to go on.

‘You’ll see that there is also a recurrence of street art throughout the space – and I feel the concrete walls really cried out for that. It’s real, artisan creativity, which says far more about us – fluid, unexpected and dynamic.’

The vibe is continued through many of the finishes and materials throughout the space, including the floor. ‘This was Modus’ idea – to fuse faux concrete with skatepark materials, which I thought was great and really expressed us accurately. Our brands are for young people and this is really on point for those brands, while also naturally working with the fabric of the building.’

Making further use of the aforementioned wall, there is a campus space, complete with bleacher seating and a giant presentation screen on the other side of The Pavilion. The versatile space can be used for formal presentations, staff get-togethers and even yoga sessions.

‘Our company designs, develops, distributes, markets and owns beauty brands – it’s a truly holistic approach,’ Miles explains. ‘It was therefore important to us that we have our R&D laboratory within this environment and that it was a very visible element of our functioning.’

Moving back through the floor, we pass Hammock Avenue – which overlooks the street below and features hanging chairs, imported from Brazil, allowing staff to get away from their desks.

The Chilli Bean room, on the other hand, is a space where SLG’s people can really chill out. There are no shoes allowed in this quiet, analogue retreat, Miles tells us.

We return to the centre of the space, where the meet and greet facility (there is no reception desk or barrier here) sits opposite the new staircase. Inspired by mid-century design, there is a great selection of cool seating products and soft furnishings across the space. ‘We really wanted to create a sense of arrival and welcoming theatre here, rather than putting in a standard staircase and a corporate reception,’ Tim explains.

To the other side of the space we find smart open plan working, a creative lounge and, on the perimeter, a series of glazed meeting rooms and offices, and the boardroom.

The latter is particularly striking, featuring masses of non-corporate graffiti on the ceiling (including a couple of hidden messages, we’re told).

We really wanted Studio 19 to express who we are – creative, fashion-centric, global.

Speaking of graffiti, we pass a pillar in the Freeway that is clad with love and peace motifs and features a really touching detail; the names of three women who worked at SLG are ‘tagged’ on there, following the sad and untimely deaths of Emily, Mon and Jan in the last four years. ‘This means they’ll always be here with us,’ Miles says.

We can’t leave without checking out the bathrooms, we’re told. And we can see why. They boast shelves of the company’s own brand products, alongside GHDs and Dyson hairdryers. ‘Our people might want to go out on a Friday straight from work – well now they can get themselves ready right here,’ Miles grins as he helps himself to a spray of Superdry Body Spray.

‘There are a lot of ideas here – real Instagram moments – but they are also deeply considered,’ Miles concludes. ‘That said, there’s spontaneity too. It’s iterative. Modus were brilliant at organising and amplifying all those ideas.’

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