When it began looking for a new showroom just over two years ago, Canadian contract furniture manufacturer Inscape had a good sense of what it wanted: an agile and adaptable space that could serve not only as a showroom for its furniture and systems and as an office for its employees, but also as an education space and events venue. In short, Inscape wanted a place that reflected the current working culture and its own ability to change with the times. In business since 1888, the brand – which still manufactures out of a factory just an hour north of Toronto – has seen first-hand how technology and changing social attitudes have transformed the office landscape. Plus, Inscape was aiming to better showcase its products in a site that was closer to its clientele.
Armed with this specific wish list, Inscape turned to local design firm Figure3 to bring it to fruition. Having already formed an amenable working relationship when the studio designed Inscape’s Chicago showroom in 2016, the two organizations began looking at a number of downtown Toronto locations before deciding on one on the 13th floor of a 15-storey building in the Financial District for its potential “to accommodate the right amount of flexible work and showroom space near their downtown clients,” says Figure3 principal Suzanne Bettencourt.
The design team first removed an access corridor and two separate entries from the original layout to create one open and seamless space. Bettencourt et al then took a residential approach to the 518-square-metre office, sectioning off areas with names like the living room, the kitchen and the veranda. “The residential layout is a behavioural thing,” Bettencourt says. “It’s a social environment that highlights the behaviours that companies are trying to encourage and shows various ways to use the space.”
Entering from the elevator, visitors first encounter a “decompression zone” with a drop ceiling clad in Zintra acoustic felt, which immediately creates a sense of calm. From here, the office opens up to its main area, where the 3.65-metre-tall ceiling was left exposed but painted white and polished concrete floors inject a raw industrial vibe. Already benefiting from wraparound windows, the space was further softened by the introduction of subtle but effective biophilic elements such as warm wood accents and Interface carpet tiles with nature-inspired patterning to demarcate work zones.
The floor plan is organic, not linear, allowing for the easy rearrangement of stations depending on who is using the space and how. Circulating around a central volume that contains a library (where staff and clients can work together) and a meeting room, the office moves from kitchen to living room to veranda, with each zone outfitted with the brand’s furniture and storage systems to perform a specific function: casual meet-up space, collaboration and exploration area, presentation or entertaining spot. “The space is like a gallery for the product,” says Mardi Najafi, director of retail design at Figure3. But it’s one that is hard-working, flexible and ever-changing.