When the 10th anniversary of Dubai-based business consultancy firm, Ideaspice, came around in September 2011, it celebrated in its second office, designed by its own interior division, Spiceworks.
Sajith Ansar, CEO, Ideaspice, said the thought process behind the design was to create a space which the staff would enjoy coming to every day. “A major concept behind the interiors was that we wanted to make it look like a blend of the outdoors and indoors,” said Ansar.
Ideaspice moved into the new office in Al Diyafah, Dubai, in July 2011, from Deira. The previous space was smaller at 900 square feet, compared to the current location at 1270 square feet.
Ansar said after 10 years, it was time to relocate into a bigger office for the growing firm. He said it started off as a design company, and has grown to a branding firm that also provides business solutions. It was this shift in the firm’s branding that caused the design to have a more serious vibe, yet not lose the quirkiness its first office had.
“The earlier office had bunkbeds. We even had strobe lights in the bathroom, and a pool table for recreation. That was definitely quirky and done up in dark colours. Now it was time to be serious, yet have some twists in the design as well,” said Ansar.
There were multiple brainstorming sessions within the Ideaspice team to get a better understanding of where the company stood as a brand and how it wanted to portray itself in the future.
“We had to take in all our office/employee requirements to create this space. The desks have been positioned in an organic and modular form to enhance teamwork and interaction. To make it more personal and customised, all the team members were measured so that the space they use could be specified according to their individual heights,” added Ansar.
He said Spiceworks used lighter and brighter colours as compared to the first office, and tried to source materials or items not seen regionally.
When people enter the office, a large black horse with a lightbulb and shade on its head stands to the right, with a break-out area for staff to relax. The main office is a series of inter-connecting tables and chairs.
The conference room is housed in a glass box, with green turf and a putting green for mini-golf. It also features a seating area at one end, surrounded by pebbles. Small, white dragonfly models are stuck on the walls, on the chairs, on the table dividers and more. All this was done to match the design brief of nature being present in the office.
“We felt turf added an outdoor feeling and kept our signature wackiness without going over-the-top. And the dragonflies worked for the same reason, as it gives a sense of lightness and a floating sensation to the office,” said Ansar.
The overhead ducting was coated an extra layer to get the desired shade of red, and turf was inserted into the bulkhead lights as well.
He said the dragonfly gave a feminine feel to the office, as he felt the other materials used were masculine. It also gives an element of surprise, he said. “People feel like they are sitting outdoors; it’s a subconscious feeling but it instantly makes people feel comfortable when they come here,” he added.
The life-size horse was another outdoorsy element, Ansar added, and was a symbol of the company’s success. “We’ve completed 10 years as a firm, during which time we’ve grown to nine offices around the world.
We wanted everyone to step up internally, and the horse is a symbol to the staff, telling them we’ve been running till now, but now we’re starting to gallop,” he said.
Ansar said the project was important and personal to him as CEO, which is why he took a hands-on role in the design process. In addition, space designer Rahul Solanki, and Lalu Koch, fit out production manager, worked with him to realise the designs.
“Overall the space was required to be fun, using unusual materials but at the same time being functional,” said Ansar.
A lot of the materials were found in different parts of the world. “For example, we specifically wanted ceramic tiles for the executive office and had to hunt around a lot for it. After looking around in many places, we eventually sourced it from Dragon Mart,” said Ansar.
The flooring of the executive office and the break-out area mimics the look of crates with writing stamped on them. “We wanted non-typical parquet flooring, like a crate with something written on it so we had to get it custom-printed,” added Ansar. The parquet wasn’t just used on the floor. In the conference room, it was used on the wall instead.
All the furniture was handpicked and shipped from Ideaspice’s company based in China, Dian, which specialises in furniture and product facilities. However, many items, in addition to the parquet flooring, were custom-made.
“We wanted a specific red theme in a Pantone shade. We went to factories and got things done to our specifications,” said Ansar.
The construction of the office faced multiple challenges and issues. “During the course of the construction, we had to change certain elements, but ended up using new ones which are more sustainable and functional,” said Ansar.
Another challenge the firm faced was the logistics coordination and time management for the furniture deliveries from around the world.
“The hardest thing was that we were our own clients, and we had a lot of designs created before selecting anything. We set our standards really high as it had to be better than our old office, which we were very proud of,” he added.
While the actual fit-out time took 45 days, it took Spiceworks three months prior to that to finalise the design.
He said an important aspect of the office was the break-out area. “We don’t like people working at a stretch, so a PlayStation was added to the break-out area. It’s also a place for clients to come in and interact, for an informal chat.” Since Ideaspice has offices in different parts of the world, a flat screen television was used to make video calls through Skype.
The conference room was fitted out for eight people. Ansar said while the room is supposed to be the most serious space in the office, he decided to use turf as flooring as an ice-breaker. He said seeing the turf always brought a smile to people’s faces.
In addition to the turf, there is also a putting green, and a golf ball and club, all of which have been used during serious meetings. “In a recent meeting, we had a client tell our architect if he could drop the ball in the hole three times, they could negotiate on pricing. They actually started playing a game in the middle of a serious talk,” said Ansar.
The office also used sustainable materials. Ansar said it uses less artificial lighting and more natural light within the office. In addition, LED lights are used as they consume lower energy.
“Even the materials used within the space are more environmentally friendly. We specifically used natural materials like concrete, pebbles and turf within the office,” he added.
Scheduling timelines is incorporated into the office space on one of the walls, rather than printing them. All of Ideaspice’s systems and processes revolve around a paperless office overall.
The young and funky vibe of the office matched the firm’s vision. “It essentially depends on what business you are in and the kind of vibe you wish to potray. For Ideaspice, it works for the kind of work we do and enhances the outcome of the designs,” said Ansar.
He added in the region, there is an awakening in small-medium businesses which have the flexibility to experiment with a youthful feel, to do so. Nowadays clients are asking for “cool designs”, which shows it is fast becoming a trend.
The final design was a surprise to the team at Ideaspice; only Ansar and Solanki knew what it looked like. “No-one was allowed to see anything: not the renders nor the pictures,” said Ansar.
Before moving, the staff were given a briefing on what they could expect from the new office, but were then blindfolded and brought into the space.
“We wanted to surprise them and it worked. Since they had no expectations, it was a big shock, but they love where they work,” said Ansar.