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TOG’s Head of Design Nasim Köerting tells Mix about the 40th space from the flexible workspace providers.
The Office Group (TOG)
Universal Design Studio
In-house: Nasim Koerting (The Office Group) and Universal Design Studios
The Collective Woven Image, Forbo, Sto, Grestec, MacCulloch & Wallis
Gravity Flooring, Mosa, Dennis Ruabon, Milliken, Grestec
Vitra, Artilleriet, Casamania & Horm, Classicon, Artek, Mitab, Hay, B&B Italia, Fogia, Resident, Gubi, &Tradition, Knoll, Thonet, Mattiazzi, Magis, Dirk Vander Kooij, Swedese, Muuto, Robin Day, SCP, Objeckto, Frederica, Moooi, Bulo, Driade, Matteo Fogale, Menu, Artifort, New Tendency, Gemla, Montana, Mobel, Tacchini, Arflex, La Palma, Rawside, Kusch, HK Living, Hitch Mylius, Clayton Contract
Bell Joinery, Timbateq Joinery
The Office Group has opened its first flexible workspace in Notting Hill, in the heart of one of London’s most creative districts and just a minutes’ walk from Notting Hill Gate station. United House marks TOG’s 40th building now open in the UK, with another 11 under construction, opening in the next 18 months.
TOG’s design team, headed up by newly appointed Nasim Köerting (formerly of Mixology winners Studio Köerting) collaborated with award-winning architects Universal Design Studio to transform the four storey, 41,495 sqft building into a vibrant, light-filled workspace that will house companies ranging from 2 – 500 employees.
Two distinct themes underpin the design philosophy for United House: a sense of ‘indoor, outdoor’ runs throughout the communal spaces and architectural features, and the eclectic, vibrant homes of Notting Hill’s inhabitants and wider community have provided the inspiration for closed rooms and accent furnishings.
‘As one of the first flexible workspaces in Notting Hill, we wanted the design of United House to pay homage to the unique character of the local area and its residents,’ Nasim tells Mix. ‘We’re catering to a new clientele here, with many prospective members living close by, so it was so important to get the look and feel exactly right. The famous Portobello Road market, eclectic mix of shops and cafés, the colourful Victorian terraced houses – all provided us with a rich tapestry of inspiration.
‘We translated these elements into the design of the building, from meeting rooms accented with playful, bespoke artworks, to communal lounges and breakout areas featuring unique vintage furnishings and exposed beams. It’s this injection of personality throughout the scheme that really makes it feel so unique.’
The team’s commitment to bringing the outside in is evident throughout United House. Communal spaces are flooded with natural light, with sheer screens and bold patterns partitioning different zones. Large windows reminiscent of the bay windows of the surrounding residential properties are prevalent on the second floor of the workspace. With a focus on naturality, the design team incorporated sustainable materials and practices at every opportunity they could – using materials which have a smaller carbon footprint like clay quarry tiles and hardwood timbers.
‘At the heart of the United House concept is both wellness and productivity – I think these should be the key pillars in any modern workspace and when executed well, naturally drive collaboration and connection,’ says Nasim. ‘We were also interested in exploring the links between design and sustainability; if you invest in timeless design, you naturally reduce the need for renewal and significantly cut wastage.’
The lounge and coworking spaces feature a softer palette than the closed rooms – materials such as timber complement an abundance of indoor planting to encourage a sense of openness. This is replicated in the furniture, featuring soft organic shapes in leather and linen upholstery alongside modern metal structures to create a contemporary and dynamic feel.
The area’s iconic Victorian terraced houses that surround United House (and the creative folk who sit within them) also provided the design team plenty of inspiration – every detail, from fun, bespoke artwork to unique vintage furnishings and exposed beams, reflect the characterful living spaces of the locals.
‘Getting the finishes right is of course important on every project but knowing that many of our prospective members could potentially be the super-stylish residents of Notting Hill added an extra layer of pressure,’ adds Nasim.
‘We looked at how people in the area furnished their homes for inspiration – particularly their living rooms – and thus sought to incorporate an eclectic, artistic aesthetic into this workspace. Most evident in our meeting rooms, focus booths and communal areas, we worked with artists including Adrianna Jaros, Rachna Garodia, Gareth Griffiths and LRNCE to bring bold feature pieces into the layout, making the space feel distinct yet homely.’
This neighbourhood-centric design philosophy is perhaps felt most in the meeting rooms, booths and studios, where vibrant pops of colour embellish walls and brighten furnishings – a nod to the eclectic treasures found at nearby Portobello Road Market.
So, how does the process start? ‘It all starts with the TOG co-founders Charlie and Olly, who seek out the right buildings that complement our wider portfolio,’ says Nasim. ‘The location, the building facade and how unique it feels are all key factors when it comes to choosing our next flexible workspace. We then partner with an architect that shares our vision and is as passionate about creating incredible workspaces as we are – and for United House, this was Universal Design Studio. Together, we then look at the history of the building and how the locality interacts with the space, and collaboratively work up the design.
‘It’s important to play around with different concepts, styles, colours, textures and finishes throughout the process – good design is about pushing the boundaries, testing and learning along the way, as well as being guided by experience.’
Reaffirming TOG’s mission to create spaces that enhance wellbeing, United House will also house a bespoke wellness studio on the third floor. In partnership with immersive meditation experts OPO, the Mindful Lounge will offer members the chance to take some time out from the hustle and bustle of daily life, with neuro-sonic soundscapes played throughout the day and a detailed programme of classes and events – from yoga sessions to acupuncture. Once launched, members will also be able to connect with their surroundings outside of the Mindful Lounge via the OPO app, with additional sessions paired to various ‘Luna’ touchpoints in the building.
‘We have learnt that opening a building during a pandemic is no easy feat! Picking paint colours virtually became a serious challenge, the camera lens does not capture the hues and pigments in the same way,’ Nasim comments. ‘Limitations on travel and physical distancing considerations on the building site meant the right technology was critical when it came to getting the job done – but we’re so pleased with the end result, and how everyone pulled together as a team and overcame these obstacles to get here.’
And the team’s favourite part of the space? ‘We wanted to make the space feel like an extension of the Notting Hill residents’ homes, and perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in the meeting rooms. Replete with colourful art, flooded with natural light and bursting with original design, I feel inspired and at my most creative walking into them. The meditation room with bespoke sculptural lighting installation by Lauren Baker is also a highlight, it’s such a relaxing space that I think will really enhance the wellbeing of our members.’
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