Co.Design

An Office That's The Architectural Equivalent Of A Gray Flannel Suit

Not as depressing as it sounds!

You have to wonder what the employees of Tribal DDB, a digital marketing agency, thought when they first saw their new office in Amsterdam. It has gray walls, gray ceilings, gray lamps, gray desk dividers, gray stools, gray tables, a gray staircase -- gray everything. Sure, it’s got some glimpses of white here and there. But all in all, they might as well have put some buttons on it and called it Gregory Peck. They must’ve been horrified.

Except that the office, by the interior-design whizzes over at i29, is actually pretty clever. It managed to solve design problems both specific to the building and general to contemporary workplaces.

Tribal DDB wanted an open-plan office. To do that, i29 had to gut the existing space, which damaged the ceiling (where walls were ripped out) and left other visible scars. Worse still, there was one feature the designers simply couldn’t get rid of no matter what: a big, round staircase that stuck out like a sore thumb.

So they decided to patch the eyesores with gray felt. And they didn’t stop at the ceilings and staircase. As you can see in our slideshow, they proceeded to slap felt onto just about everything but the toilet seat.

The reason: Felt is an excellent sound dampener. As much as Tribal DDB wanted a nice, airy workplace, it also wanted employees to be able concentrate in relative peace. (Noise is a huge issue in open-plan offices and can adversely affect workers' productivity and even their health.) Covering virtually every surface in fabric was the best way to ensure privacy short of throwing up walls.

Can’t tell you why the designers selected gray. But it looks awfully sharp. And it’s practical, to boot. Imagine if they’d sprung for yellow or red or some sort of dazzle camouflage pattern. It’d completely overpower the space and probably give everyone a headache, or worse. Gray, on the other hand, is neutral without being bland. You’d never mistake it for the inside of your insurance agent’s office (though you might mistake it for his suit).

[Images courtesy of i29]

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10 Comments

  • shouse

    Amazing project! Clear space and a very subtile solution to gain good acoustics. (very important in open plan offices) I would love to work there.

  • taylormade1

    I love the sleek, clean look but really - all gray and white is really quite depressing. I think mixing it up with a shot of coloured felt here or there or even colour-backed office chairs could've broken it up a bit and not brought up memories of being in the isolation wing of a funky prison.

  • Jerome Robert

    It's nice like my grey Swatch, but where is the sofa where M Doyle, Dane & Bernbach used to find their best ideas ? They actually didn't create their agency in the garage !

  • Dave Abrams

    It's really gonna suck two days in when the first coffee spill ruins the whole sharp, clean look...

  • Daniela

    I like the monochromatic grey, it's certainly very calming. But this will look better once it's covered in all the plants and colored sticky notes and photos and other office detritus that comes with people settling in. 

  • Timothy Wikander

    Where are all the people in these photos!? I think the most interesting part of this design is how it must look mid day, with everyone right in the middle of it. Absolute total room for expression.

  • Baneen Mirza

    I almost want to walk upside down in this one :) plus its airy indeed. Spaces do seem to float, or atleast hung from the ceiling. 
    Love the tactility of flannel