When Work and Play Combine – Workspaces for Innovation

The tech industry is leading the way in office space design. It has oft been proven that innovation is greatly boosted and employee satisfaction heightened when comfortable, cool, design-led workspaces are offered to employees. Capital One’s survey shows how design truly matters to employees. Whilst great work environments foster a positive attitude, productivity and collaboration, workplace design has fast become an expected pillar when maximising innovation.


The study reveals that 63% of employees feel that whilst innovation is an expected deliverable, the design of the workplace is not conducive to the development of creative thought. Employees now expect design-driven workplaces as a minimum guarantee if they, as talent, are to be retained.


With the arrival of new and disruptive communication technologies, employees are no longer bound to chairs, desks or offices. The office is now a meeting point, an anchor for employees, an inviting and relaxing ‘café’ where ideas are generated and positive interaction occurs in a creative space. The technology industry is pioneering this concept of creative workplaces – and with a spread of innovative working environments we have picked a few that stand out:



Playster, Montreal, Canada. ACDF Architecture




Playster, a company that provides subscription-based entertainment services, offers clients and employees an environment that matches the dynamic vision. Whilst balancing white minimalist common spaces with brightly coloured areas, Playster provides ‘energy’ houses perfect for teams – the bright colour interconnecting to and contrasting with the calming white. This semi-open workplace design, by ACDF Architecture, facilitates creative work by providing opportunities for rewarding social interactions between employees.



Photobox, London, UK. Oktra




Photobox worked with Oktra to plan a workplace that supported a collaborative environment for their 400 employees. Entirely open-plan, the layout provides for a combination of flexible work, daily stand-up and teamwork spaces thus empowering employees to unlock their creativity and unleash their talents. Photobox claims they now have more engaged employees, increased customer conversions and faster feature deployment on all their platforms



Pinterest, San Francisco, Cal. USA.  All of the Above / First Office




Built inside a former industrial space, four white cuboids stretch from floor to rooftop, connected by a steel-enforced mezzanine level balancing open-plan work and dining spaces. The white cube pockets display a curious layout of tables, allowing employees to invent new ways to brainstorm, meet and socialise. The designers believe that a creative office cannot function on efficiency alone, but that every individual contributes to the creative company culture  – ie a departure from the desk, the conference room and the office-culture, as we knew them.



Revolut, London UK. Studio Rinald / ThirdWay interiors




Based in Canary Wharf in London, Revolut has challenged the banking establishment with its open, agile border-crossing digital banking platform. With a nod to the banking model, they have added a flexible and adaptable working place.   A huge glass volume space provides a central focus with workspaces encircling allowing traffic to flow easily and energy lines to be respected. Varying sized desks transform spaces providing a ‘white-paper’ approach that encourages informal distribution where employees can both interact or create an intimate atmosphere as and when required.

Workplace Design in Asia

Wherever we look, a long sought after, healthier balance is being incorporated into working spaces. Co-working spaces, once a Western concept, are popping up in multi-cultural hubs like Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo. Architects in Asia are bringing the much-needed local Asian touches to these spaces, moving beyond the original concepts. Here are a few that stand out:


TransferWise, Singapore. Paperspace / Studio Of Design.

(Photos by Owen Raggett)


Whilst Transferwise has offices in Estonia, London and New York, their Singapore office looks quite different. Inspired by the diversity of the Lion City, a multi-cultural approach has been incorporated into the design and space planning.  “The idea of a sharing culture matched the trend of workplace planning,” says designer Ohm. “Informal meeting spaces empower people to exchange ideas, collaborate, co-create and transfer knowledge.” Integrating a local feel into the international design set up encapsulates Ohms objective of Thinking globally and acting locally.


Hojo Sanci, co-working space. Kamakura, Tokyo. Schemata Architects.

(Photos by Kenta Hasegawa – OFP)


This traditional Japanese house is located in a quiet residential district amongst lush greenery in Japan’s Kamakura, housing an eclectic collection of creative workers including a graphic designer, an AI engineer, a lawyer, a magazine editor and a stylist. The house was originally built by a naval officer and owned by the Hojo family. HOJO SANCI literally translates to Hojo’s Homeembodying the concept that people in this space feel as though they are at home, rather than in the office. And, with a Japanese garden at the site, a meditation room and other features designed to boost users’ productivity the Japanese sense of beauty, tranquillity and nature are incorporated to every day at the ‘office’.


Slow Office, Shanghai, China /Muxin Design

(Photos by Zhang Da-Qi)


“Office spaces are especially prone to becoming battlefields of power struggles, a character that often results in an overload of tension and stress, rather than enhancing the working experience”, says Muxin Design. Hoping that their new proposal will help improve communication between colleagues, the Architects propose a home sweet home from home that brings the familiarity of home to the workplace. Reflecting both Shanghai’s immigration tradition and its status as Chinese cultural hub, Muxin Design are pioneering Chinese design. “Why not transplant the elements of the slower residence spaces into faster office spaces?” they conclude.


Campfire Co-working. Hong Kong. Studio Cassels



Campfire co-working space, designed by Studio Cassels, provides workspaces to start-ups, freelancers and creatives reflecting Hong Kong’s Western connections whilst incorporating its industrial past. On the edge of Aberdeen Harbour, Wong Chuk Hang’s manufacturing hub status has been preserved with the aim of preserving a familiar and local sight. The interior elements of steel, glass and concrete coupled with touches of colour and an overall clean and spacious layout are a nod to Hong Kong’s feng shui ideal of using energy forces to harmonize individuals with their surrounding environment.

Compelling Table Design Choices for Offices

Tables are ever-present in the workplace.  Be they office or meeting tables, corner or boardroom tables, placed in a kitchen or conference room… tables are a key feature of the design of a workplace.


Whether for casual gatherings or a quick lunch, or a crucial business decision, or even a nap – life revolves around the table and the right table is important. The choice of a table reflects the companies’ vision; a table will talk about power or position if it’s too imposing in a boardroom; it may rise and fall at the touch of a button for the CEO watching their waistline; it may shine or sparkle in a luxury brand’s meeting room – tables bring people together and speak loudly about companies’ positions. Here are a few that stand out:


Big Table B. Konstantin Grcic for BD Barcelona

Big Table B. Konstantin Grcic for BD Barcelona at iroco.com
Discover Big Table B. Konstantin Grcic for BD Barcelona at iroco.com


With the addition of an aluminium extension, this modernist table can stretch to 5 metres. Elegant and imposing, Big Table B is definitely a contender for the ideal meeting room table.


DIDYMOS Table by Antonia Astori for Driade

Discover DIDYMOS Table by Antonia Astori for Driade at iroco.com


There is no doubt that oval tables are special. The lack of sharp edges promotes togetherness, which in exchange improve relationships. Didymos is all you expect from an oval table, and with its beautiful sculptural base, it certainly won’t go unnoticed.


Cantilever Modular Table by Molo Studio for Molo

Discover Cantilever Modular Table by Molo Studio for Molo


The Cantilever Table is designed with collaborative, co-working spaces and events in mind.  Built from a flexible, honeycomb geometry, it easily expands, morphs and connects to itself via magnetic ends, and folds back to a flat pack for easy storage. Superb for multi-use spaces and pop up events.


Aero Table by Daniele Lo Scalzo Moscheri for Pedrali

Aero Table by Daniele Lo Scalzo Moscheri for Pedrali
Discover Aero Table by Daniele Lo Scalzo Moscheri for Pedrali at iroco.com


Quintessentially Italian, elegant and modern, the Aero Table has both superb quality and striking aesthetics. Fitted with a glossy tempered glass top which balances upon a lacquered steel base, it works well in boardrooms and office kitchens alike. A perfect, design shabby solution for any working space wherever you are.


Snaregade Table by Norm Architects for Menu

Snaregade Table by Norm Architects for Menu
Discover Snaregade Table by Norm Architects for Menu at iroco.com


Restrained, sentimental, yet angular and impressive, the Snaregade Table is the epitome of Nordic elegance, neatly structured with an avant-garde six-leg design. At once odd and good looking this is the table to have in any creative office

Workplace Design Special

All around the world, reputable firms are fighting for talent, trying to keep employees engaged and workplaces exciting.



Offices are now much more than offices – they are workplaces: the meeting point for remote employees, for those with flexible hours, for client visits, the centres of creativity, of board meetings, of ideation, a coffee shop, a place to get a healthy snack, a place for fun. Hours are spent in workplaces and they need to feel right. Employees are demanding so much more from their workplaces, and millennials will choose careers based on how the office looks and feels. A number of factors underpin this change of mindset with technological advances being a key driver. Never before has the study of social physics and behaviour played more into the design of our workplaces.




Google Offices. NYC


At Google’s 8th Avenue headquarters, permanent desks don’t exist and it is said that even lifts are slower, both of which force staff to move around more. This ‘orchestrated chaos’ encourages what it calls ‘casual collisions’ that provoke unexpected conversations and new ideas. For many employers, this is workplace design at its best, engineering desired working behaviours that create better results. And it all makes total sense. Few dispute that the environment for our employees’ matters. There are countless surveys to back this up. In one poll of 1,456 workers by Office Genie in 2017, 45 % complained of a lack of collaborative space while 20 % felt their workplace environment actually hindered them doing their job.


Research firm Kelton Global carried out a study for National Business Furniture entitled Happiness in the Workplace. The research showed how American workers’ performance is influenced by their surroundings. 47% of employed Americans said the overall design of their workspace influenced their productivity, whilst 42% report it impacts the quality of their work. The study also found that millennials – currently the largest sector of the US workforce – are more likely to claim that their happiness, motivation, well-being and quality of work are influenced by their environment.


Nanokitchen. Youtube’s Office. NYC


Similarly, Steelcase found that one-third of workers across 17 of the world’s leading economies were disengaged. Given that engagement is so demonstrably linked to business outcomes such as employee retention, productivity and profits this is worrying. With statistics like these, it’s no surprise the office refit market is booming.


Through the study of behavioural science, organizational design, change management, performance metrics, demographics and technological advances companies have been looking at how behaviour is influenced in the workplace. And these trends and facts are influencing the work of architects and designers engaged in shaping our workplaces.


1. Top talent is shrinking


Many large countries – including the US, China, Japan, Germany and Italy – will face talent shortages as their work-forces age and experience declining growth rates..
This talent shortage will challenge organizations to find and keep the best people. They will need to engage employees with workplaces that support their wants and needs.
Creating vibrant offices is one tactic to recruit and retain talent. Providing flexibility and choices for where, when and how work happens is also critical for attracting the best people.


2.   Employee engagement matters


Engaged employees can boost a company’s bottom line by up to 20 %. (1). These employees are emotionally invested in and focused on creating value for their organizations. However, in a survey across 142 countries, 13% of employees reported feeling engaged in their jobs. (2)


Disengaged workers — those who are negative or even hostile to their organizations — outnumber engaged employees by nearly two to one. (2) Companies with disengaged employees experience 30% – 50 % more turnover. (1)


An open workspace, often designed with the input of the employees, gives a place to celebrate employees contributions, broadcast goals and objectives, providing comfortable and cool spaces for effective collaboration.


4.   Flexible work boosts engagement and satisfaction


Flexible work generally receives a positive response. 30% of employees with easy access to flexible work arrangements report feeling very engaged in their jobs. And 60% of employees with high access to flexibility are very satisfied with their jobs, compared with 44% of those with moderate access and only 22% of those with low access.


5.  Creativity in the workplace boosts creative thinking


Because the nature of today’s work is so complex and unpredictable, workplace designers seek to provide purpose-built collaborative settings, accessible to all – impromptu meeting areas, formal meeting spaces, project rooms, individual workspaces, indoor-outdoor areas, grassy areas for picnics, deck chairs and so on.


6.   Lighting matters


Better workplace lighting – both natural and artificial – has been linked to a 15% reduction in absenteeism in office environments (3). Other studies have reported productivity increases ranging from 2.8% to 20% attributed to optimum lighting levels (3).


The presence of ample daylight, windows and outdoor space, nature and sensory change and variability all has a positive impact on people’s well being.


7. People matter


“A building is 10% to 15 % of a company’s overhead, much less than the 70% to 80 % staff are,” according to TSK Architects. “Investing in the former is money well spent if it makes your biggest cost – employees – happier.”


Perhaps the greatest irony about workplace design is that by its visual nature, it is the easiest investment to actually see, much more than wellbeing or engagement projects. “That’s why chief executives will still put money into the workplace environment,” conclude Morgan Lovell. “While the RoI is hard to see, great design isn’t.”


It is therefore quite clear that the physical surroundings an employee experiences will directly influence behaviours, attitudes and feelings towards the employer. Organizations must think about the workplace as an extension to the home, an ecosystem where individuals have choice and control over where and how they work. Only then will they feel the support that will enable them to bring out their very best.



Six adjustable stools for the Hong Kong home

IROCO Design launches IROCO Design for Contract – www.iroco.com is a state of the art furniture sourcing and specification resource, easy to use and rich in detail, with everything a buyer should need – technical sheets, swatches, CAD files, project images for thousands of products from the world’s leading designer furniture brands, at exceptional trade prices. A dedicated account manager helps with ideas, choice and ordering, and goods are delivered to your door. See this week’s SCMP for some fabulous stools from IROCO Design….

Six stylish swivel chairs to take for a spin

IROCO Design launches IROCO Design for Contract – www.iroco.com is a state of the art furniture sourcing and specification resource, easy to use and rich in detail, with everything a buyer should need – technical sheets, swatches, CAD files, project images for thousands of products from the world’s leading designer furniture brands, at exceptional trade prices. A dedicated account manager helps with ideas, choice and ordering, and goods are delivered to your door. See this week’s SCMP for some fabulous swivel chairs from IROCO Design….

As Universities Go Online, Architects Rework Buildings For ‘Active’ Learning

In an interview with Andy Cohen, one of two Gensler Co-CEOs, Andy discusses the ever changing needs at educational establishments, especially true at universities. With most education now being online, ‘learning everywhere’ is the way forward, and the design of these spaces must at all times become more flexible and adaptable to accommodate this change. As he says, form follows function …. Click here to view full article

Airport Furniture

As we will have all seen whilst travelling across the globe, design and trends in airport furniture are on the rise, with much emphasis being placed on lounges. The recent launch of the luxurious Stockholm Grand Central station SAS lounge, designed by Ilse Crawford, has attracted much attention with its plush velvet-covered armchairs and sofas in rich browns and deep blue hues situated around the bar. Additionally, the workspace lends a very Scandinavian hygge atmosphere, complete with white tables, blue and grey upholstered seating, industrial-looking contemporary light fixtures and wooden floors.


The London-based designer who founded Studioilse in 2003 and has since designed the interiors of many VIP clubs, hotels and restaurants, has also been behind the airport contract furniture in Hong Kong’s Cathay Pier First Class Lounge Day suites. These are furnished with daybeds, elegant sofas and cognac-coloured leather wing chairs with matching ottomans and tables in onyx, limestone and bronze giving the main lounge a perfect sense of well-being and calm.

Brands always strive to find innovative ways to convey an exclusive membership feeling whilst offering travellers new ways of working whether alone or with colleagues. Steelcase and Coalesse are among the most reputed furniture brands in this space. Renowned for their century-long experience and innovative streak, their sturdy and elegant seating offers a variety of set-ups and a much-needed versatility with options such as screens, work tablet arms and power outlets. French designer Jean-Marie-Massaud’s lounge furniture collection for Coalesse was the winner of the Red Dot Design Award – Best Product Design in 2015, celebrating the perfect combination of comfort and technology.


The Massaud Lounge set comprises an armchair with a swiveling tablet, an adjustable headrest with removable pillow inserts for ergonomic sizing and comfort, and an ottoman with a side pocket and interior storage space.
Another of the leading furniture brands in this space is Arconas: this Canadian company has designed furniture for over 200 airports. To Lynn Gordon, VP for airport solutions at Arconas, the latest trends in airport contract furniture include at-seat power, accessories such as drink holders, tablet arms, foot rests, and diversity in terms of configurations. When it comes to the overall design, organically-shaped layouts are now preferred to linear rows thus welcoming the flow of travellers.

Whilst many restaurants and lounges in airports around the world from Mexico to Mozambique favour the vast selection from Pedrali http://www.pedrali.it/en/references/airports-and-stations/, Arper is a popular choice for airport lounges with Munich Airport favouring Arper’s Catifa 70 and Singapore VIP lounges Arper’s Catifa 60.

Click here to see our selection of airport furniture for purchase in Hong Kong.


Long before ‘green’ entered the popular vernacular, American company Emeco was salvaging aluminum to produce functional steel seating. When a 1944 commission from the US Navy demanded a resilient and lightweight design, capable of withstanding salt water, sea air and the odd torpedo, the 1006 Navy Chair was born.

Back in the 1940s, no one imagined the Navy Chair would find its way into fashionable circles (courtesy of Ettore Sottsass, Giorgio Armani and a large order from Philippe Starck, for The Paramount Hotel in New York City), or that it would become a frontrunner for an extraordinary range of trailblazing designs produced in collaboration with international designers including Starck himself (the Hudson Chair) Frank Gehry (the Superlight Chair), Norman Foster (the 20-06 Chair) or Ettore Sottsass (the Nine-O Chair). Click here to see our selection of Emeco furnitures for purchase in Hong Kong.

Similarly, no one imagined recycling would become the defining signature of this pioneering company, but Emeco is constantly exploring new ways to use consumer and industrial waste, and environmentally responsible resources to create and built simple, timeless furniture. Witness its collaboration with Coca-Cola, who approached them with the idea of recycling discarded plastic bottles, and resulted in the funky 111 Navy Chair.

Today, Emeco’s craftsmen use PET (polyethylene terephthalate), reclaimed wood polypropylene, previously used wood, eco-concrete and cork to hand make stylish and beautiful chairs that are also strong, engineered to last and designed to be passed down through generations – with a keen eye on the future.

Click here to see our range of Emeco products.

Meet The Iroco Team

Founded by Alex Henrich and Sonia Jackson in 2011, IROCO Design is based on a passion for contemporary design, and a desire to make it more easily available to everyone. Here’s a low-down on the key players:


Alex Henrich
Three best things in life? My kids, my wife and the outdoors.
Last item you bought for yourself? The Slab Table in natural lacquered wood by Tom Dixon. It has rounded edges and corners, and is simply a delight to touch and feel. The size, 200cm in length, is ideal for a large family, or to host a dinner party!
If you were a piece of furniture, what would you be? A bench made of solid oak, reliable and eternal.
Which piece of contemporary design or designer do you admire most and why? Patricia Urquiola for her innovative use of materials, and continuous evolution across a wide range of furniture.
Give us a hot interior design tip? Following the onset of mass production of plastic-based furniture over the past 40 years, and the smaller homes we are all living in, people want to curate their spaces, according to needs and taste. This has lifted the craftsmanship and custom-made furniture industry to new heights. This trend will surely continue.
What’s the biggest misconception people have about you? People think I am balder than I really am!
What would you be doing if you weren’t running IROCO Design? Designing and custom-making hand crafted sculptures or furniture.


Sonia Jackson
Three best things in life? My family, the great outdoors, a notebook and my camera (that’s four!)
Last item you bought for yourself? A long dining table with plenty of room for a huge Spanish-style dinner party.
If you were a piece of furniture, what would you be? A large round sofa covered in a rich brightly covered fabric, perfect to snuggle into.
Where do you draw your inspiration? I’m obviously inspired by travel – places like Laos, South American, Sri Lanka and Africa are so rich in colour. I love colour!
Which piece of contemporary design do you admire most and why? For me it has to be the Voido Rocking Chair by Ron Arad – a classic piece that was inspired by an old Mini seat in a scrap yard.
Give us a hot interior design tip? Invest in Spanish and Portuguese designers – they are right on the cutting edge at the moment.
What would you be doing if you weren’t running IROCO? I would be training to climb Mount Everest with my eldest daughter.

The Art of Maximising Small Spaces

Hong Kong residents are expert when it comes to living in small spaces, but rising prices in big cities across the globe has meant the ability to maximise every square inch, is an important one. Sonia Jackson of IROCO Design provides five tips:

Opt for Light and Bright: Pale furniture is light and fresh and will lift a room – choose a white desk and chair for an unobtrusive home office, or a see-through acrylic dining or coffee table to maximise space (the Pic Table by Max Design is an ideal choices). Tables with open metal bases will also create an uncluttered impression – try the Tray Table range or the DLM Collection from Hay, which comes in a variety of different sizes and colours. Click here to view our large selection of Hay furnitures for purchase in Hong Kong.

Find Double-duty Pieces: Pieces on castors can be easily rolled away, when a room is to be used for several different purposes. Think carefully about whether furniture can double up – a stool as an end table, or a convenient spot to perch; an ottoman with a tray can become a coffee table or additional seating. IROCO Design has a range of ottoman and poufs that can double up as seats or tables.

Be Creative with Lighting: Instead of standard or table lamps (which require a table!), consider using sconces or wall mounted lights instead.

Don’t Neglect Corners: Squeeze an accent chair into an overlooked corner (Starck’s Louis Ghost or Victoria Chair would be perfect), or create an attractive reading nook by placing cosy seating (such as the Pasha Armchair) and side table at an angle against the wall.

Swap Sofas for Settees: There’s an argument that oversized sofas can make a tiny room look larger, but another solution is to consider swapping a substantial couch for a less intrusive settee. Try the Pix Poufs by Arper, perfect for smaller spaces, or the Loop Centre 3S. Leaving a few inches between the wall and the back of a sofa or settee, will give a room the feeling of openness.

The Shape of Things to Come

New year, new trends: it’s no secret the interiors world follows the international catwalks, but seismic shifts in global politics and culture also affect design aesthetics, and ultimately how we want our homes to feel. Here are six design trends IROCO Design CEO Alex Henrich, predicts will fly this year:
Jewel Tones: Pale pinks and blues will be replaced by rich, dramatic jewel tones for an elegant look the style pundits have christened Modern Natural: midnight blues, forest greens and chocolate brown hues are the new colours to desire. Hay has produced About A Chair in covetable shades including Hunter, Dusty Blue and Warm Red, and Insidherland’s striking upholstery comes in dreamy tones of Atlantic Blue, Espresso, Olive and Esmerald.

The New Metals: Warm metals like copper and brass will continue to be a hot interior pick this year, but high gloss or super shiny finishes will be replaced by a more muted or burnished, vintage look. Tom Dixon is still the go-to designer for warm metals; new lighting for 2017 includes the spectacular Curve, Fade, Melt or Etch Mini designs. Also worth a look is Heritage Lighting from DelightFULL, and the range of elegant tables in mixed metals from Italian maker Pedrali. Click here to see our large selection of Pedrali products for purchase in Hong Kong.

Texture: A traditional favourite with interior designers, the layering of textures has become more interesting. New techniques such as pleating or folding in velvets or cottons are everywhere this season: look at DelightFULL’s new collection – the velvet rouche of the Doris Armchair and pleated upholstery of the Bogarde Armchair are both strikingly unusual.

Artisanal: Skilled craftsmanship and a folk-inspired, handmade vibe continues to be a sought-after trend, as taste-makers move away from manufactured finishes. There are some truly innovative pieces in Insidherland’s new catalogue, from fantastical mirrors fashioned from leaves, to rock-inspired furniture. Like fellow Portuguese brand DelightFULL, they also offer custom-made furniture.

Wood: There’s a love affair with wood and wood panelling this season; combine dark woods such as walnut or oak with steely greys and metallic finishes for an enviably contemporary interior. It’s worth looking at DelightFULL’s stunning Anthony Sideboard, where a polished marble top and solid walnut structure is combined with brass detail. Insidherland has some of the best solid wood pieces this season; the Special Tree Sideboard marries brushed brass with three types of exotic roots in natural colour.