Saje Natural Wellness is a Canadian retail brand that was experiencing explosive growth over the last 5 years. While the brand’s focus was on the development and expansion of their proprietary health and wellness lifestyle products, one of their biggest differentiators in the crowded wellness market has been their focus on smart and beautiful design. When it came time to find a new headquarters which would allow the company to expand five-fold, finding a design agency that could understand and express the connection between design and wellness was an imperative. This is what led them to us after an extensive international search.
The massive scale change for the company introduced multiple challenges with the design of the space: How does a company spread across multiple floors retain the connection and family feel between individuals and departments within the company? How and where do they come together to meet and celebrate? What proximities are critical to maximum efficacy? How is wellness expressed in a larger, corporate environment?
As with all of our multiple stakeholder projects, we invited representatives from each department to participate in our strategically designed and highly interactive discovery sessions. From these immersive sessions we were able to distill out the final brief for the project, which included the company values as expressed in each department, priorities by department, pain-points and dream scenarios, strategic proximities, and general space needs and growth projections for each department. From this critical starting point, we began to craft the vision.
Since the building they were moving into was essentially a glass cube, revealing breathtaking views of Vancouver and the North Shore Mountains beyond from most locations, the plan layout was essential to leveraging this special asset. In response to this challenge, we arranged the “dark spaces” around a center pod, keeping the perimeter open with workstations, open lounges, and glass-enclosed offices. The center pod was intentionally designed as a continuous curve to lead one around the space, maximizing views and light, and softening the acoustics of the concrete and glass wrapper. In addition to the shape, we wrapped the pod in a distinct fiber-based panel that absorbed any excess sound reverberation.
It was clear that their beloved in-house chef and her plant-based food program was the beating heart of their office culture. To address and celebrate this we created a front and center open kitchen with a casual, residential feel. This would be the crossroads and welcoming gathering point that was intended to draw employees from other floors. The kitchen space was strategically located to be a natural extension of their reception area, welcoming guests to the new space in a manner that reflected their inclusive culture.
At the opposite end of the space we created a quiet space of creation for the founders and their product development team. Clad in charred Shou Sugi Ban wood planks, this creative space consists of the founders’ offices, a formulation lab, an inspiration library, and executive reception area. Since the founders often collaborate on the formulations, the lab itself became a communicating space between their 2 offices.
Their highly collaborative work culture was supported by a balanced mixture of open workstation space, casual, open meeting lounges, the now requisite informal meeting booths, private phone booths, and strategically spread out meeting rooms of variant sizes. Rather than enforcing openness, we created a space that is about choice that caters to different modes of work.
The material palette was intentionally kept spare, clean, and light. While aesthetically aligning with their lean startup attitude and tight budget, this light and understated collection of materials allows the stars of the space to be the views, the natural light, the plants that will eventually live in the space, and most importantly the people that work, collaborate, and grow there every day.