This feature originally appeared in INDESIGN #89, the ‘Magnetic Workplace’ issue. Get your copy here!

Slattery, a leading quantity surveyor, was formerly operating from a floor in the same building as architects Elenberg Fraser. Ready for a move (just a block away) and a new way of working, Sarah Slattery, the company’s director, commissioned Elenberg Fraser for a less corporate environment than the one they were leaving behind.

“Post COVID-19, there’s been a new approach to working, spending a little more time at home and wanting the office to feel more like home,” says interior designer Melissa Leung, associate director of Elenberg Fraser, who worked with senior interior designer, Laura Graham, as well as director and architect, Callum Fraser.

How the workplace evolves: Elenberg Fraser and Slattery

Located in a 1980s high-rise on the corner of Queen and Collins Street, the designers were given a shell comprising an entire level to work with. While they couldn’t change the generic facade, Elenberg Fraser has managed to create a magical and considerably warmer, more engaging space than Slattery’s former digs, which had a minimal black and white graphic scheme rather than the subtle range of hues for Slattery’s new office – rust and olive-green velvet-upholstered furniture and banquette seating along with walls with splashes of blue. And the few white walls are thoughtfully filled with art or sculpture – predominantly by local artists which Slattery is keen to support.

How the workplace evolves: Elenberg Fraser and Slattery

Unlike the former office, with dedicated workstations where every staff member had their own desk, here there’s a variety of spaces – from intimate pods that allow for individual Zoom meetings to breakout areas that have a lounge-like feel.

To allow for privacy in the larger and curvaceous pods accommodating up to 10 or so staff to meet, these spaces are encircled with sheer tactile curtains to create a sense of domesticity. And rather than have a dedicated reception area, visitors steer towards the sumptuous banquette-style seating at the core, with a mini amphitheatre referred to as the ‘Forum’ (reception areas generally take up a considerable amount of space).

With generous lockers dotted around the office, the open plan working environment can also be free of clutter – with the omission of drawers below benches. This model, more activity-based, allows people to move freely around the space, whether working individually or in groups.

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How the workplace evolves: Elenberg Fraser and Slattery

“It was important to create a variety of spaces,” says Graham, who directs this writer to several areas, some akin to a small enclosed sitting area for quiet time, or to the kitchen/dining area that’s set up for both work and social encounters, including a large stone island bench that one would proud to have in one’s own kitchen. Another area is a library, with the understanding that this is a quiet space.

However, the library is also segmented with thick curvaceous glass walls and a sliding door that allows any noise to be contained. And to ensure that there’s a certain quietness, Elenberg Fraser included timber-battened ceilings in strategic areas, working with lighting and audiovisual consultants, Atmosphere Design. Keen to support local furniture designers as well as local artists, a number of the pieces found here were designed by Zuster.

How the workplace evolves: Elenberg Fraser and Slattery

Elenberg Fraser took a similar approach when designing the main boardroom at Slattery. Complete with an adjacent lounge, it is also thoughtfully framed by sheer curtains rather than severe office partitions. And unlike Slattery’s previous office, complete with a separate room for printing, the new space is completely paperless – considerably more sustainable. Here, art also becomes part of the working environment with Corinthian columns used as planters, creating an avenue along the terrazzo paths.

Slattery exemplifies a shift in thinking away from the traditional office where space was territorial and meetings were conducted behind closed doors. Here, there’s literally a space for all work modes, whether it be a communal lounge, a private nook or perched on a stool next to the bench in the kitchen area. Rather than having to go out for lunch, there’s even a sumptuous, blue velvet-covered lounge nearby, perfect for a relaxing break.

“This fit-out is reflecting the change in the way people now want to work, with considerably more options and fluidity than ever before,” adds Leung.

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Elenberg Fraser

Jack Lovel

How the workplace evolves: Elenberg Fraser and Slattery

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