Jaime Gross -- Interior Design, 5/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
There's more than one way to hold your liquor. And after SKYY Spirits outgrew its previous headquarters in a converted four-story Victorian where employees crammed into renovated bedrooms, the San Francisco company chose RMW Architecture and Interiors to create a more sophisticated space for its offices—and much more.
"The company is really fast-growing, and we have this terrific high energy in the office," says Sue Hearn, director of events and PR. "We needed dynamic space."
Set in a 1920's warehouse overlooking Fisherman's Wharf, the new home office needed to accommodate the roomier work areas that the staff had been craving, plus offer flexible event space and ample places for displaying the product. The look had to say modern, international, and elegant—all the qualities SKYY's ad campaigns project.
Principal architect Gary Koshaba and project designer Jim Kaylor gutted the 15,000-square-foot space, ripping out old offices with dropped ceilings, to install a powerful monolithic look. "It was an opportunity to bring everyone together in away that would encourage lively interaction," Koshaba says.
Emphasizing the space's openness and volume, the architects left the 16-foot-high ceilings uncovered, then painted the drywall stark white from the 12-foot mark down. Nearly everything above that line, including the ceiling's exposed insulation and pipes, received a coat of medium matte-gray paint to make it disappear.
A simple gridlike arrangement in work areas solved the spaciousness issue. Executives' windowed offices, lining the north and east perimeter walls, have glass enclosures to share light with the interior. Deeper into the space, blocks of glass-walled managers' offices rise between the islands of low, blond-maple workstations for staff in marketing and finance.
The product, however—referenced in large and luminous ad posters, abstracted in glass focal walls, and bottled on shelves—drove the rest of the design scheme.
SKYY's reception area incorporates a vodka-stocked bar and low couches, suggesting a loungelike setting as well as showcasing the liquor itself. Behind the desk, a cobalt-colored glass wall echoes the rows of signature blue bottles presented in aluminum-backed wall niches like decorative art.
The L-shape, oak-and-glass lounge adjacent to reception performs triple duty as a spot for sponsored events, product-tastings, and informal after-work gatherings.
A sweeping, flanged wall that physically segregates these common areas (with their sexy ebonized oak floors) from the executive corridor (with its dark-banded nylon carpet) also helps separate moods. Koshaba likens the division to one you might find in a luxury automotive showroom.
"The product is displayed nicely out front, while the mechanics and machinery remain hidden," he says.
Still, RMW couldn't resist contributing a little attitude to marketing's conference room, where an 11-by-11-foot advertising photo is projected as nine transparencies in a wall of light boxes behind the sedate conference table.
Who needs the water cooler with so many areas encouraging convivial gathering? In the employee lounge, a custom maple billiards table converts to dining for events.
By all accounts, the improved fluidity between marketing and finance has been a success. "They tell us that on sunny days, people even bring in food to barbeque on the roof's deck," says Koshaba. The office picnic is back.