Fun meets function: designing ‘quirky’ telephone booths

In the last few years we have had more and more enquiries for office refurbishments that bring together design, practicality, careful project planning and… fun.

There are two big challenges for commercial refurbishments: how to avoid disrupting working clients and how to ensure their building work doesn’t affect all the neighbouring businesses.

This is easier said than done. All too often our site team will only have access during office hours when, after all, the office staff are also trying to work. Add to this the pressure of working around the different stakeholders – landlords, tenants, neighbouring offices, important meetings, internal management – and you start to see the importance of having a careful project programme from the very start.

Recently one of our projects involved all of this and more. The brief was fairly simple: to design and build two soundproof telephone booths so that staff could make calls without disturbing the rest of the office. They also specified that they wanted a ‘funky’ and ‘cheerful’ style.

As a starting point, the design team took the existing green colour scheme from the office floor tiles and matched it with a range of complementary tones for the booths. As these were to be fitted in a basement with no natural light, we chose colours that would make the space feel bigger and brighter (inside and out). The gradient of shade, going from black to ‘kiwi’ as the eye travels up also made the ceiling height appear higher, which is beneficial in an otherwise rather long and low room.

Soft neutral greys were chosen for the fitted benches and tables so as not to be too overpowering. The aluminium frames of the windows and doors were sprayed in Anthracite Grey: the perfect foil to the bright greens of the structure.

In our search for a suitable acoustic cladding we came across a French product that not only comes in a wide range of colours, it is also designed to fit naturally around corners. This limits the number of joints needed and increases the acoustic quality: the foam could wrap the whole booth, like a cocoon.

The apparent simplicity of the structure is deceiving. The design, choice of materials and technical details had to be thought through to ensure it fulfilled all standard work place requirements including good ventilation, light, internet and power outlets, and comfortable seating. In this particular environment we were also limited by the space and conditions available. The booths had to sit between existing ductwork and a fire exit and since it was a rented property, it needed to be easily broken down and destroyed if the client ever moved!

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