The Future Is Calling
Vonage looks ahead at a central New Jersey headquarters by HLW
C. C. Sullivan -- Interior Design, 5/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
Mention Vonage to the telecom-savvy, and you'll get an earful about bringing phone service through the Internet's fat pipes. To many others, however, Vonage simply means that color. The young tech company's brash tangerine graces an avalanche of ads and mailings, so one might understandably envision headquarters as a landscape saturated with Pantone number 021.
Quite the contrary. Vonage has ballooned from a 50-head start-up to 1,400 employees and 1.7 million customers in five years. But as the Wall Street Journal recently proclaimed, 35-year-old CEO Jeffrey Citron is now toning down. His new 350,000-square-foot headquarters—four white brick buildings set amid farm stands and McMansions in Holmdel Township, New Jersey—presents an unlikely oasis of high- tech civility, courtesy of HLW.
As with the lone corporate flag flying over the generous lawn, orange appears only in choice spots for a "strategic pop," HLW design director Kimberly Sacramone explains. "It's so vivacious, ideal for accents."
A few orange columns and a swath of orange-spotted carpet mark primary pathways, which unify each sprawling floor plate. "They create neighborhoods," Sacramone notes—not to mention high-traffic locations for flat-screen displays looping Vonage propaganda. The circulation routes are echoed overhead by faux-maple plank "boardwalks," a reference to the Jersey Shore.
Where the buildings intersect, double-height lobbies raise the eyes to cylindrical pendant fixtures. "The ceiling plane became the main organizing element," Sacramone says. "You could really sink your teeth into that." Curved canopies of white-painted perforated aluminum break up large office areas into pods, dampening noise and bouncing light from linear fluorescent fixtures.
Universal layouts require everyone to inhabit humble cubicles. Engineers and top executives share efficient double workstations with scooped maple desk surfaces, curved and eased at the edges. Net-backed task chairs are no-nonsense but comfy.
Vonage's lifeblood runs somewhat bluish-gray through the spaces dedicated to engineers, software developers, and tele-service callers. The latter inhabit the "care center," where workstations are angled for privacy. Service-reps-to-be experiment with role-playing in the 1960's-inspired training area known as Vonage University. Judging from the semicircular sectional sofas and the round ottomans, school colors must be blue and orange.
For every work idea, it seems, there's a corresponding break option. Most uplifting is the central courtyard, dotted with orange umbrellas. Indoors, the "quiet lounge" features chairs covered in silvery fabric—but no data service. "If you only have 15 minutes to get away, that's where you go," Sacramone says.
To keep good people happy in central New Jersey, Vonage invested in food service. A cafeteria and break rooms offer varied settings for meals. Over here, delicate halos of elliptical track lighting hover below an exposed ceiling; over there, white burnout drapery frames a more private dining zone. The menu is ample—yes, that's Starbucks coffee—and the pantries are well stocked. To work off the calories, there's a 10,000-square-foot fitness center with maple-fronted lockers. Restrooms sport white subway tile and sinks with hand sensors.
The key amenity, however, is an airy, lively vibe. Save for the cordoned-off data center and conference rooms behind partially frosted glass storefronts, installations exude a fresh 'openness. Meandering through, one discovers amiably recurring motifs, including a few gaggles of vivid orange lounge chairs.
Sacramone's strategy of serving color in moderation is most sophisticated in the executive briefing center, where VIPs are received. An oval central column, painted to the brilliant brand spec, still doesn't out-pop the pale marble and terrazzo, which dazzle under two skylights, especially in the pinkish cast of dusk.
The craftsmanship of the executive briefing center may be lacking in other spots—the head- quarters was designed and built in less than a year, after all, to accommodate Vonage's breakneck growth. Yet that's somehow consistent with company values. Focus attention where it matters: on treating guests and staff well, on matching gee-whiz gadgetry with attentiveness to customers.