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In the Studio

by Charlotte Butterfield on Monday, 12 March 2007
Inspiration was taken from Bluehaus’ simple circular logo for much of the studio’s interior.

As an interior designer of commercial spaces, when Bluehaus decided to relocate to bigger premises, its own corporate image was paramount. With a company name derived from the modernist German design school famed for rational minimalism, Bauhaus, the feel of the space was always going to be bordering on industrial.

Ben Corrigan, co-owner of Bluehaus explains: "When we were looking to relocate we wanted a design studio that had a definite industrial feel to it, something easily found in the old warehouse conversions in London or New York, but lacking in Dubai." They found the perfect solution in the Gold and Diamond Park in Al Quoz. He continues: "We were lucky because these offices were built to be manufacturing units and so the finishes were very rough, which was exactly what we wanted."

The space is 2,200ft², slightly more than was needed at the present time but it future-proofed the design company against expansion. Coincidentally, the adjacent offices belong to advertising and graphic design agencies, making an accidental creative floor. When Bluehaus moved into the building, the concrete floor was exposed, the piping overhead was uncovered and the walls were untreated block brickwork. This was the blank canvas Corrigan was hoping for.

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He says: "We didn't want our office design to alienate any of our clients, potential or existing. Sometimes flashily designed offices makes people assume the fee they pay you is paying for your office design and we wanted to make our design approachable while still inspiring. A majority of our current workload is corporate projects and we want clients to come to the office to see what we can do with their spaces."

Interestingly, after Bluehaus devised an initial layout it enlisted the help of a feng shui expert, Vicky Moane, who was a previous Bluehaus client. She changed the floorplan around and divided the space up slightly differently to the original plans. Corrigan explains: "We both agreed on positioning the entrance where we did, and then she placed all the staff in positions suitable to their jobs and status. As the owner of the company she said that I have to stand for at least an hour a day in the central library space by the reception, and I actually enjoy being there so much, it's almost a permanent spot for me now." The CAD department move around the least and so they were placed in the area of least disruption. The designers are in the creative corner and a central meeting table and break-out area unites the space and provides a more informal conference facility right in the middle of the office.

Heeding the advice of a feng shui expert is a delicate balance as Corrigan explains: "You don't lose anything by placing an ornament here, or moving a water feature there and it could enhance our business. We placed a pot of vinegar on a shelf above Justin, the general manager which is supposed to soothe and calm, and so far we think it has worked!" The actual placing of the desks according to the compass direction of each element also appears to be successful within each department.

A semi-private room for client presentations and internal meetings was needed, so there is a separate boardroom. This is still open to the rest of the floor as it has glass partitions by Century Glass with a frosted circular design on film from Al Sanani that both emphasises the brand's logo, but also provides additional privacy. There is acoustic cladding by Fantoni on the back wall of the meeting room to minimise noise disturbance.

The furniture was provided by both Kinnarps and Fantoni while GDS created all the custom made joinery such as the bookcases and cabinets. All the lighting solutions are provided by Accoulite, they range from directional spots to a circuit board-inspired glass light over the high-level library desk. On the outside of the glass-panelled meeting room is an innovative light switch from German company Wieland, which sticks onto glass partitions and is wireless so is sleek and unobtrusive. Graphics of past projects were provided by Omni Designs and sporadically adorn the walls.

For the flooring, tempting as it may have been to emphasise the industrial theme by keeping the concrete, Corrigan chose an epoxy black floor by BASF for the reception floor and opted for multi environmental award winners, Interface, for the carpeted areas. "Eco-friendly design is one area that we are committed to promoting in our future projects. I'm not naïve enough to think that we can push environmentally-friendly products all the time and still retain a competitive edge, so wherever possible we will try and do the right thing and use environmentally-aware companies."

Such an attitude is refreshing and heralds the growing demand for eco-friendly suppliers in the region. Presently, Bluehaus centre on corporate projects, counting Al Mazaya Real Estate; The First Group; Barclays Capital, British American Tobacco; General Electric and Napoli Ice Cream as its current clients, although expansion into retail and leisure projects are planned. Corrigan says: "We are a small to medium process-driven design company and we want to take the same product into other countries. We are currently setting up in Qatar as we are already doing three projects there and therefore need to be more of a permanent presence." Although reticent to admit a house style, Corrigan acknowledges that the design studio of Bluehaus proves a definite reverence to the functional forms set by the purist Germans eighty years ago.


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