Uncluttered, efficient and communal-style workspaces are the buzzwords of office décor these days; these are clearly iterated in this young online portal’s office design.
At online portal – Toppr’s 1,500 sq. ft. office in Powai, Mumbai you can sense the feverish drive of a young start-up looking to make it big, right from the moment you enter. Gone is the traditional reception area so indispensable to hierarchical organisations. Instead, visitors are thrust straight into the heart of Toppr’s office where employees in the age group of 20-40 are immersed in coding and programming for the company’s online educational portal.
Kumpal Vaid, Founder and Principal Designer of Purple Backyard reveals that when her design firm was approached for the interiors of Toppr’s office, the brief spelled “An uncluttered space with the roomy feel of an old mill.” The designer admits she initially had reservations about creating an office space that turned its back on a reception area, but was convinced eventually as, “The client was keen on a space that broke free from the typical, corporate office design.”
To the design firm’s advantage, the office located in Powai had high ceilings and lent itself perfectly to the industrial look that Purple Backyard had envisaged for the interiors. Kumpal says, “We adopted the less-is-more approach to designing,” adding that “the client was more concerned about ergonomics and about maximising space.”
The final layout that you see is an open-plan format with the main workspace area comprising three long, communal-type tables that seat 36 persons. The office layout is fairly simple: central workspace surrounded by a service area, a breakout space and glass-walled cabins for meetings and for making phone calls.
What’s interesting to note is the complete absence of any drawers or storage cabinets in the workspace. “Toppr operates as a paperless office,” laughs Kumpal, “besides the client was firm about introducing only what was absolutely essential into the décor.”
The communal work tables may evoke a classroom layout but in effect are ideal space maximisers and useful in facilitating employee collaboration. Kumpal brushes away concerns about noise disturbance in the open-plan layout adding that the employees in this office are typically engaged in coding and other backend work and are not prone to making or answering noisy phone calls.
For relief from their computer screens, employees can retreat to the far end of the room, where a cosy couch by the window offers a change of atmosphere. “This breakout zone allows employees to literally detach themselves from work as the windows look out onto the calming Powai lake below.”
Potted plants, books, posters and other knick-knacks from the client’s personal collection are arranged in this area to create a sense of a personal space. Add to that the D-I-Y lights and book shelves and you have a space that exudes serenity and feels a lot like home.
The rest of the office however emanates a serious, hard-working atmosphere. The designer says, “We created the no-frills, industrial look with the help of exposed brick walls that are simply coated with white paint, and left the ducting exposed and in its raw state.” This was then balanced by wooden flooring to bring in an element of warmth, luxury and create an aura of professionalism.
The two large windows at one end of the office bring in a fair amount of natural light and these are complimented by LED ceiling lights generously distributed across the workspace. “The tin lamps on the other hand,” shares Kumpal, “are more for effect and to help complete the industrial look.”
“As a design firm, we are inspired by high-end, luxurious materials. But we also enjoy blending these with the mundane to create something new. It’s all about balance and about creating a look that doesn’t come across as trying too hard. That’s what makes the energy of this office so different,” shares Kumpal.
“We really enjoyed sourcing these,” says the designer excitedly, referring to the old, wood-panelled doors of the washroom that were discovered at a flea market. Simple touches like these add character and interest to even the most utilitarian areas.
Same with the whiteboards you see around the office. By replacing the standard boards with glass sheets placed against a white wall, the design team has turned the expected into the unexpected.
“The glass and metal screen between the workspace and service area can be used by employees to write messages, affix photographs and basically transform the screen into a playful, interactive space,” says Kumpal adding, “Why stick to one way of doing things when there are a hundred different ways of doing it better?” Why, indeed?
Text By Christabelle Athaide
Photographs By Biju Gopal