Cafés and patios have become staple spaces for ad agencies, says Inger Bartlett. The president of Bartlett & Associates is something of an authority on this — her firm is now working on its 18th agency project since 2008.
“They vary in theme and character, depending on the agency and how they think of themselves,” she says, “but that’s one of the things that’s very important to them, because [ad agencies are] about people, and they like to project that image that they’re about people.”
One of Bartlett’s most recently completed projects, the renovation of Match Marketing’s Mississauga offices, delivered these must-haves, as well as a revamped reception area, in 2,500 square feet of space. The high-impact redesign was just recognized with an American Society of Interior Designers award that ranked it number one in the large commercial category.
Match Marketing, which has counted among its clients Adidas, Ford and L’Oréal, is ever-expanding through acquisitions. When Bartlett was brought on for the project, the shopper marketing agency was contemplating a move, but the math didn’t make sense. So instead, she was tasked with overhauling its existing space.
“They wanted a patio, they wanted a café — a work café — that really streamlined so many of the collaborative meetings that they have, and they wanted a fabulous entrance,” says Bartlett.
Entering the facility, visitors would have to walk through a second set of doors to find reception, essentially leaving a blank space in between. The interior designer pushed the reception area into the wasted two-storey space, whose height — which is scaled with large, orb-like light fixtures — gives the reception area instant presence.
“We do a lot of ad agencies, and everybody wants the wow factor, because that’s how they transfer their brand — through their interiors — to their potential clients,” Bartlett explains.
The reception area is finished in crisp whites and warm woods and punctuated with primary red lounge furniture. The reception area flows into the café, which carries through the palette of crisp whites and warm woods.
Before its transformation into a café, the space was bare bones and populated with old workstations, recalls the interior designer. Now, more than a mere amenity, the café is a multi-purpose space equally suited to casual meetings, client pitches and social gatherings.
In the café, the wood finishes draw attention to the bar, restaurant-style booths and wall-mounted TV screens offering audio/visual support for client or staff presentations. These wood slats — another big trend in Canadian ad agencies as a sort of cultural nod, Bartlett points out — also bring warmth into an otherwise crisp and minimalist space, which features exposed (but painted) HVAC and concrete floors.
Four-seat tables, paired with metallic chairs, provide the flexibility to rearrange the furniture classroom style or to clear the floor for cocktail parties. (The bar was a must-have for the beer-appreciating, party-hosting firm, says the interior designer.)
Match Marketing added its own touch to the café — a black-and-white graphic featuring boxer Muhammad Ali and a splash of primary red cutting through the phrase “Fortune favours the bold.” This is one of a few ways the agency injected its spirit of playfulness into the project, notes Bartlett.
The café, like the reception before it, flows into the patio space — also decked out in wood slats as a point of continuity — which offers yet another area in which employees can either entertain or relax.
“Ad agencies work long hours, it’s very competitive, and so they need a social release,” Bartlett says. “The café and patio are part of a work strategy that most [agencies] have; also, it’s the demographic — they’re very young, most staff would be in their 20s.”
Bartlett & Associate’s past design work includes projects for agencies Saatchi & Saatchi, Edelman PR and MacLaren McCann. It was recently awarded a Lowe Roche project.
Michelle Ervin is the editor of Canadian Facility Management & Design.