What a work­place feels like – and the ideas that are pri­ori­tised in the de­sign of the space – plays a cru­cial role in es­tab­lish­ing a cul­ture. And for EightyOne, Dot Loves Data and Oc­tave, their new of­fice in Welling­ton feels pretty damn good.

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It’s never easy to be tasked with re­design­ing a build­ing as iconic as Welling­ton’s old Press Hall. Yet that’s pre­cisely the chal­lenge In­side De­sign was re­cently pre­sented with, cre­at­ing the in­te­rior of de­sign and creative agency EightyOne’s of­fices in the cap­i­tal in a way that helps max­imise creativ­ity.

Seb Bern­hardt was the de­sign lead on the project, while In­side De­sign’s de­sign di­rec­tor Neville Parker was also in­volved. Ac­cord­ing to Parker, EightyOne, which also col­lab­o­rates un­der the one roof with its younger sib­lings Dot Loves Data and devel­op­ment and UX divi­sion Oc­tave, was an or­gan­i­sa­tion In­side De­sign had al­ready col­lab­o­rated with be­fore.

“We did a project a few years ago for Rugby New Zealand, and EightyOne did the graphic de­sign,” he says.

“De­sign­ers work­ing with de­sign­ers… it was in­ter­est­ing,” says Parker.

How in­ter­est­ing are we talk­ing? Think whisky bot­tles turned into light fit­tings, a yoga stu­dio, a gym, a mas­sage room (staff get one per week), a beau­ti­ful gin bar/kitchen and even an in­door cricket pitch. Ex­posed pipes and ducts com­ple­ment con­crete floors and matte wooden desks. And the open space is made wider by its street fac­ing, floor to ceil­ing length win­dows and the un­di­vided flow that ex­ists be­tween com­pa­nies and in­di­vid­ual desks. There are, how­ever, sev­eral cosy nooks to be found in the of­fice. De­signed for in­de­pen­dent work and down time, ham­mocks, swing chairs and comfy so­fas make for ex­cel­lent brain­storm­ing hide­aways (or the per­fect spot for a cheeky nap).

Level one has been decked out with plants and quirky decor, the board­room is a lounge and dou­bles as a fully kit­ted mu­sic room and a liv­ing wall is in progress. There’s also a spoo­dle named Ralph. Put it all to­gether and it’s a work environment where co­op­er­a­tion, com­radery and work­life bal­ance is at the core of all that the com­pany does.

In other words, kind of like a hip­ster’s dream, but some­how still pos­sess­ing a time­less qual­ity that lets vis­i­tors know right away they’re in the pres­ence of peo­ple who know a thing or two about good de­sign. “It’s quirky stuff,” Parker laughs. Parker says the col­lab­o­ra­tion with EightyOne ex­tended to in­clude the

main fitout con­trac­tor (Toby Jack­son of True Con­struc­tion) and the be­spoke join­ery con­trac­tor (Tom Fore­man from Tom­a­hawk). For ex­am­ple, Parker says the pre­sen­ta­tion room floor is a par­quet Tawa tim­ber floor that True Con­struc­tion’s Jack­son con­structed from tim­ber sal­vaged from the Bee­hive that was do­nated to the project by de­vel­oper/land­lord Mau­rice Clark. Parker also says the plate steel cladding to the pre­sen­ta­tion room came from a site brain­storm­ing ses­sion.

The en­tire fit-out process took be­tween three and four months, ac­cord­ing to Bern­hardt.

“What they were look­ing for was a re­ally wel­com­ing space,” he says.

Nat­u­rally, the large size and open­ness of the Press Hall – once the heart of all things print and now home to many dig­i­tal minds and trendy eater­ies – lent it­self to that.

“The fit-out fits in to it [the old Press Hall] quite nicely,” says Bern­hardt.

EightyOne’s co-founder Matt West says the com­pany now boasts a client list that in­cludes Trade Me, Ki­wibank, NZ Rugby and Nike, and has re­cently added Welling­ton brand Fix and Fogg to that list. But it’s not just serv­ing other busi­nesses. It has de­vel­oped a num­ber of its own suc­cess­ful brands over the years, namely Sa­cred Spring, a range of gin dis­tilled in Golden Bay that now takes promi­nence in the gin bar, Ul­tra Foot­ball, the world’s big­gest foot­ball store based in Syd­ney, and an on­line re­cruit­ment match­ing com­pany, All­sorts.

Much like the com­pa­nies of level one Press Hall, “all [of these] are chal­lenger brands that want to shake up the world. And that suits us just fine”, he says.

A re­cent se­nior hire, ad­ver­tis­ing le­gend Chris Bleack­ley, adds to the EightyOne, Dot Loves Data and Oc­tave fam­ily, which West says is made up of 50 em­ploy­ees and is ex­pected to see con­tin­ued growth.

“Ev­ery­one wants to talk data at the mo­ment, which will come as no sur­prise. The Dot team is do­ing some amaz­ing stuff. EightyOne and Oc­tave are bring­ing plenty to the data ta­ble as well, cer­tainly in how it’s rep­re­sented and in­ter­acted with.”

“Fu­ture is bright, world is ours, watch this space, and all that stuff etc etc.”

Fu­ture i s bright, world i s ours, watch this space, and all that stuff etc etc.

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