Matali Crasset; Paris

"My studio is my home," Crasset says. "I don’t make a distinction between space to live in so-called privacy and space to work. There are no walls; tall storage units divide the ground floor’s space into an office, hall and combined kitchen-living area."

Studio Makkink & Bey; Rotterdam, the Netherlands

In the Dutch studio led by Jurgen Bey and his wife, Rianne Makkink, sits an plastic-walled structure resembling a glass house that insulates the staff from the cold on chilly winter days.

Studio Makkink & Bey; Rotterdam, the Netherlands

Trained as architects, the husband-and-wife team of David Boira and Zoe Coombes now design furniture, working with everyone from Issey Miyake to Warp Records. Here, Boira is working on a new series for MattterMade. The longest time they’ve ever spent in the office? "Thirty days, nonstop," Coombes says. "We were finishing our collaboration with Kenzo Minami, for which we produced 70 Richlite tiles with a surface and etching detail on each and every tile. It was horrible. We brought in an inflatable bed and we joined a close-by gym--just to shower!"

Item Idem; New York

Cyril Duval, a.k.a. Item Idem, says that his favorite aspect of his studio is that "it’s everything but a workspace--and that I work really well from here."

Jeremiah Goodman; New York

Goodman, who specializes in painting interiors, works in a small studio with expansive windows "from which one expands into freedom," the artist says.

Tin & Ed; Melbourne

Tin Nguyen and Ed Cutting, of the graphic-design studio Tin & Ed, define their space as "eclectic and chaotic, like our work."

Bompas & Parr; London

From their London food lab, Sam Bompas and Harry Parr create bespoke jelly molds and gastronomic installations. "We make jelly and work in the space between food and architecture," Bompas says. "This means using architectural techniques and practices to cook and making food on a monumental scale."

KesselsKramer; Amsterdam

Designed by FAT, the ad-agency office is housed in a former church. Strips of fake grass are laid throughout the building--a reminder, says Creative Director Erik Kessels of "the second-best job in the world (yes, we too wish we could be professional soccer players)."


Favorite corner? "Depends," Kessels says. "The brown room when we need a fag, the forest room for a good meeting, the tower when we need to take a nap."


Hate Your Office? Take A Look At Some Of The World's Most Creative Work Spaces

In Where They Create, Paul Barbera photographs some of the coolest (and hardest working) offices around.

The long-defunct Book magazine used to devote its back page to an image of a famous writer’s desk, with the author calling out various items and their significance. It was my favorite feature, and surely I wasn’t alone. A person’s workspace is regarded as an outward expression of her inner stirrings—the thoughts that in turn feed creativity—and the desk stands as a shrine to the muse. This is no doubt true of most designers, who immerse themselves in thickets of visual inspiration, tools, and materials. Some of these scenes are captured by the New York–based photographer Paul Barbera, who along with the writer Alexandra Onderwater, documents the offices of creatives around the world in their book Where They Create (Frame Publishers).

[The New York–based artist Jeremiah Goodman]

Barbera isn’t coy about the voyeuristic impulse that gave rise to the project. In an interview that serves as the book’s introduction, he states, "[T]here is a voyeur in all of us. Human beings are inquisitive creatures, intrinsically intrigued by what we normally cannot see, where we don’t have access to. The place where the magic happens." But to peer into where the magic happens, you need credentials. "The photography is almost a by-product," Barbera says. "You can’t just ask someone: ‘Can I come over to see what you do?’ They’re never going to let you in. It’s an instrument to be in a place and sneak around."

He shoots only in natural light, which often makes for some haziness and much shadow play. Oddly enough, despite Barbera’s self-confessed curiosity in human nature ("I feel I behave like an anthropologist, looking for little stories that make up the species."), the pictures are often devoid of the people who actually make the spaces worth looking at.

[The bookshelf of the graphic-design studio Tin & Ed in Melbourne, Australia]

Barbera has worked his way into some of his favorite designers’ studios, including those of Matali Crasset and Makkink & Bey, as well as some of today’s hippest ad agencies and fashion houses. The accompanying interviews with the principals complement the visuals with added insight that delves into the daily office routine. What comes through in all the portraits is the inspiring fusion of personal passion and everyday work.

Buy the book for $36 here.

Add New Comment


  • jmco

    Creativity and a well designed space do not always go hand in hand. Many startup design studios in Europe and the U.S. are usually pretty rough at first. I once visited a one woman studio that was in a one window office that was about the size of a small storage closet. Chip Kidd had his office in a windowless hole of a space (I think it was a storage closet) at his publisher when he did his best and earliest cover work.
    I once visited a number of new and talented firms around Europe and not one had decent furniture. All had peeling paint walls, dirt, dust, etc. and not in any romantic old world kind of way.
    But these young minds in rough spaces and places produce some of the most innovative work out there. Later, after some success, they move to bigger or better spaces and some of these studios become quite nice. Just visit the well known firms in New York City, LA, SF, Chicago, Minneapolis, etc. to see some incredible spaces. Sadly, many of the most incredible locations used to be pretty rough areas composed of warehouses and incredible loft spaces. But, once the designers and artists find a spot, it is not long thereafter that the developers cash in, take over, and these once cheap and great creative spaces become unaffordable to all artists and most designers. After 40+ years of this happening, most incredible buildings are now leased to lawyers and other firms that can afford them or made into condos.
    A certain designer, who has been at it for decades, went into a small to medium size two story brick warehouse space in a certain New England city decades ago. At first he rented but then he bought the building. It was plenty big enough for his whole firm of about 5-10 people. He did not bother to buy new furniture. He just found fantastic big old wood doors and put them on saw horses or old frames. He and his designers worked on those doors making some terrific work. 
    Seeing that studio is a lesson designers and most startups forget: the place you work in needs to work and be pleasant but, it does not need to be highly designed or somehow perfect to the point of sterilization. Keep it simple and cheap but workable and fun. Your best people will still make the best work.