Looking unlike any law office you’ve seen before, LOC’s design for the P&C legal office in Mumbai has a fresh appeal. It steers away from the stern imagery normally associated with this profession’s genre.
Think law office. Think stern. Sombre. Dark wood panelling. But none of this applies to the P&C legal office in Mumbai, designed by Manmeet Arora of LOC (Left of Centre). A white colour palette, the geometry of squares and rectangles in the lines, all relieved by vibrant splashes of colour make this a departure from the gravitas of legal offices one has been accustomed to seeing since the beginning of the profession. The décor of law offices was meant to convey a sense of the powers available to be exercised on the client’s behalf by the attorney.
This office occupies a rented space. When people rent a space, as opposed to owning it, it’s obvious that they won’t want to spend too much on areas of the décor that they can’t take with them, if and when they have to vacate the premises. “Clients don’t like to feel that they’re leaving a lot behind,” explains Manmeet. With the same thought in mind, she was asked to revamp the décor of this office in Mumbai’s upmarket Nariman Point, for law firm P&C. “They were in a hurry, as their earlier lease was coming to an end, so they needed to move into this office as soon as possible,” she says.
Initially comprising four partners, the firm added a fifth one after the design of the office was underway. “So we suddenly had to add another cabin, increasing our 45 day deadline by a week,” says Manmeet. “However, this cabin had to manage without a sea view, since the work was already in progress and we couldn’t change the layout without adding to the cost.” An informal meeting area and a conference room were also needed, in addition to work spaces for the rest of the staff.
The décor which the premises came with was in wood, with black dominating the colour palette. “The clients’ design sensibilities called for a fresh, contemporary feel. There was also a budget. But what was quite unusual in my experience as a designer, was that these clients understood exactly how much was possible within their budget. Some clients can have a wish list a mile long and ask for the moon, regardless of strict budgetary constraints,” says Manmeet.
The cost and time saving decisions included leaving the conference room in its earlier location, painting the legs of some tables to spruce them up, and using lime plaster on the walls. “We chose to work with some of the existing décor, rather than breaking things down and starting from scratch.” Consequently, the washrooms and pantry were left undisturbed. The ceiling was also left as it was, to fit in with the budget.
Distressed wood on the floor, wall paper, glass and wood partitions as well as wooden louvered ones have been used. Moulding behind the reception and the existing veneer has been darkened. L-shaped work stations seat eight associates, while provision has been made to accommodate large printers. Desks are in black with storage in black and white. The soft board panels have a chevron fabric in black and white. Some of the furniture is from Freedom Tree, and the lights are from Polestar.
The cabins for the partners have been designed to accommodate their individual requirements, with two of them containing bars. Even the desks reflect the preferences of the occupants. “We’ve provided a long desk, a corner one, another facing the window, while a fourth faces inwards,” says Manmeet. Much of the art displayed in the office is abstract, playing with geometrical shapes.
Tying the spaces together, bookshelves are clusters of chequered cubes, while the glass partitions are in rectangular sections. Since the shelves are “backless,” the books can be conveniently accessed from the front or the back, by people working in different areas. Fulfilling the desirable qualities of transparency and connectivity, the glass partitions separate even as they extend the line of vision, their grid-like appearance acting as a design element.
“Breaking the walls, allowing for a more open plan as well as bringing in materials and finishes that are new to and untried in the legal atmosphere to give the entire office a completely new look, was the way we visualised the design,” says Manmeet.
“What used to be a maze of old school maple veneered walled cabins, is now converted into an open-plan office with new materials for a contemporary atmosphere. The 1600 square-feet space is designed with a play of sharp edged geometry on various surfaces, accented by splashes of colour.”
Lawyers and staff work long hours – and this office is as cheerful and comfortable as it can get. Traditionally made up of a beehive of closed spaces, this law firm just lays it all open, with Manmeet taking the open-minded client brief to its unorthodox, progressive conclusion.
Text By Devyani Jayakar
Photographs Kunal Bhatia