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Don’t let the Georgian exterior of our headquarters fool you though; over the past few months, a totally transformative office interior redesign has been underway. I caught up with Co-Founder and Creative Director, Chris Mattingly, to learn more about the changes taking place behind closed doors…
It’s been on the cards for a few years now. There’s been quite a bit of change at blubolt lately and it felt like a good opportunity to take a more holistic view of the company, in terms of the improvements I’ve been hoping to make. In some ways, the office interior redesign is a statement of intent to our team and our clients. It feels right to invest in our work environment. We want people to feel happy when they arrive at the office and enabled to do their very best creative work. We’ve always provided great tech setups, standing desks, and a very respectable selection of biscuits, but the redesign is a true expression of our culture and brand as a business, something that our office hasn’t always been able to communicate as well as we’d like until now.
Part of the decision to update the office space was the inspiration of the “Broken Windows” theory. It’s a 1980s criminology hypothesis that was made famous by its successful application to the New York Subway. The thinking goes that by fixing broken windows, keeping graffiti and littering at bay and generally making an environment more aesthetically pleasing, people start to self-police, and hold themselves to higher standards of behaviour. Crime rates on the subway drastically dropped and as a result, it became a better-used public resource, as more people felt comfortable and confident in riding it.
I’m not for a moment suggesting that blubolt team were spray-painting the toilet cubicles and riding bikes down the stairs before we redecorated, but we’ve definitely seen a decrease in the number of coffee mugs and cereal bowls left lying around since!
Ultimately, I wanted our working environment to spark a sense of joy. There’s endless research proving the positive impact that surroundings can have on moral and mood. By working with colour, different textures and improved lighting, I wanted to generate a feeling of excitement and energy in the office. blubolt has a reputation for building beautiful, individual eCommerce sites that authentically reflect the character of the brands they support. It was important that our office did the same.
The project was all about taking small steps towards our ultimate goal, definitely a very organic process. We were very detail-focused, with attention paid to the many micro-interactions our team have with their working environment on a daily basis. The end result is a positive shift in energy and atmosphere – exactly what we were hoping for.
I was taught well by Amy when it comes to interior design. She had an instinctive ability to pick an item and build a whole room around it. Her creativity is definitely a huge influence on the way the office has developed; the kitchen, which features a lot of white tiling, copper and natural wood, in particular, was inspired by a Pinterest board she put together.
I also gained inspiration from lots of chance interactions whilst out and about; shop design (especially with regard to lighting,) the way that certain cafes in Bath made use of typography in their signage. Once you start looking for inspiration, it’s amazing what starts to fall into your lap. Junqiue was a fantastic resource for new wall art.
Overall, I’d say I have a good instinct for order and aesthetics, which has been largely trained by many years of building websites and online stores. You need a keen eye for colour schemes, textures, balance – all of these elements carry over into other areas of design.
Maddy and Matt have been fantastic in terms of the expertise and advice they’ve been able to offer in support of the redesign. I’ve bounced ideas off them from the very start of the project and they’ve been happy to challenge, redirect and confirm lots of my thoughts and choices.
The blubolt rebrand, which is the result of their hard work, has been referenced throughout the office design, so their influence is definitely felt throughout the look and feel of the new office space.
It’s hard to choose one element, but I’d say the shelving system that we’ve built into the new lounge area, on the second floor. Each of the backlit shelving spaces reflects one of the four colours used in our rebrand. They’re filled with fun little items in those colours – the overall effect is a really uplifting, bright and humorous pop of colour as you enter the space. It’s a nice way to set the tone, especially as its the area that our guests are now taken to on arrival when coming in for meetings.
We’re privileged to work in a Grade 1 listed building. A lot of Bath businesses will be familiar with the responsibility and restrictions that come with this! Although we were looking to create a fairly modern, bright feel with the design, all of our renovations needed to be sympathetic to the architecture of the building itself. In addition, anything we added needed to be fully reversible, meaning that, as one example, additional stud walls were created when adding the reclaimed cladding we put up in our lounge area. It took a lot of extra thought.
All the original decorative plasterwork was left exposed, so there’s still a nice sense of history as the cornices and ceiling roses work alongside the more contemporary touches. I also made sure to include some nods to the historical context of the building in terms of the choice of wallpaper and traditional darker paint in the hallways and stairways.
Beyond that, the general project management of contractors, on top of my day to day responsibilities at blubolt! Keeping things running more or less to time, and coordinating all the different tradespeople coming and going was a challenge. We didn’t have the luxury of closing or relocating the team during the work, so it was quite disruptive at times, and people understandably had a lot of questions around the timeline. Managing expectations and keeping noise and mess to a minimum within an open plan space wasn’t always easy, but people seemed to appreciate that it was a short term inconvenience leading to long term improvement. Building work is a lot like web development; you’ve got to be really proactive in keeping things running to schedule and even then, there are probably going to be a few plot twists!
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