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Seaside retreat

“We felt passionate about delivering something that spoke of openness, where people would feel uninhibited within the space.” What is the true meaning of a healthy work-life balance? Vitale Design rewrites the formula at Modus Head Office.

Seaside retreat

A charming building of historical heritage sits in the heart of Cronulla – a suburb nestled within the beaches of Sydney’s south. The Banc building redefines the meaning of coastal luxury in a contemporary hub, blending myriad residential, hospitality and commercial suites. It is on the second floor that a new-age type of workplace sits, setting the new standard for the forward-looking concept of a healthy work-life balance.

Run by passionate directors Brad Berryman and Troy Mayne, Modus Projects is a facilities management company that prides itself on quality workmanship, innovation and trusted service.

There is always strength in learning from the past to create something new. The incoming wave of the next-generation workers with evolved work-life values has firmly put the emphasis on environments that look and feel bold and doubly operate as work-life centres. On the heels of this paradigm shift, Sydney-based design group, Vitale Design, was briefed to create a headquarters that did not look or feel like the standard office.

“Together with the directors we explored the idea of ‘the office’ taking the form of a coastal residence. There’s an innate comfort and ease about being by the water – we wanted to channel and develop that through a unique culture in the workplace for a place like Cronulla,” says Vitale Design director, Ben Vitale.

The new site at Banc provided an opportunity to bring that seachange to Modus’ working culture. The previous office site evoked a different atmosphere – a rigid and formulaic space that was outdated and rigid to the changing nature of the Modus family.

As a means for growth and evolving with the company’s changing demographic, the new office grew to become the destination that tied in the loose ends of work-life and everyday life: a ‘residence workplace’ that elevates employees’ daily work structure.

“The office needed to be an inviting atmosphere that broke down the stereotype of what a workplace is. We wanted a light-filled space without the corporate look. We felt passionate about delivering something that spoke of ‘openness’, where people would feel uninhibited [within] the space,” says Berryman.

This prompted Vitale and the team to completely strip out the stigma of the interior fabric within a conventional corporate workplace. They looked to provide a space that interwove the lifestyle and culture unique to the Sydney seaside into a productive sanctuary crafted for work and respite.

At the heart of the office is the kitchen and dining table. Much like that of a home, the central gathering space offers a space to connect, converse and revitalise. The kitchen island is a platform for internal interaction and culture growth, giving a sense of belonging within the space. The original Art Deco style of the Banc building features organic curves, heightened archways and ceilings – lending itself to a sophisticated softness to distinguish different zones and guide the individual through the office.

The workstations and meeting spaces are divided into spaces akin to a home, with a main living room in the foyer, the dining room as the formal meeting space, personalised desks as your study, and the private master suites for the directors’ office.

Thoughtful additions such as the filled pantry, striking art, a stocked beverage fridge, the outdoor gathering space, showers and round-the-clock accessibility service different modes of working, amplifying the intrinsic values of an inspiring home.

Drawing from the jewelled tones of the water and its coastal bliss, the colour and textural concept resonated with an idyllic home of familiarity, comfort and warmth. The end result is a material palette consisting of myriad hues of deep blue and grey, delicate textures of neutral-toned linen fabrics, and natural rich timbers curated from local makers. Hints of subtle opulence are seen through the embellishment of brass trimmings aligning the edges of the office, Carrara marble from Artedomus and Gitani Stone, and sculptural lighting elements from Living Edge – to name a few.

It was crucial to both Modus and Vitale Design that the heritage elements were celebrated, as well as bringing a new personality to the forefront of the design.

“There’s a juxtaposition between the darker shades within the office against the quintessential coastal colours of white, neutrals and light-toned designs paired with light weatherboards throughout the beachside suburb. Within Cronulla, the older and weathered structures are omnipresent and all follow the same design aesthetic. We came here to change the pace through a different coastal narrative: an oasis for both work and relaxation within an emerging, vibrant area with a notably agile lifestyle,” says Vitale.

According to Berryman, the Modus Head Office is the starting point for a distinct workplace resolving the present problems of contemporary office environments. It looks to integrate the reality of everyday life into an aspirational working model that simply ‘works’.

“Even with the changing nature of office environments married with the mobile, fast-paced and remote culture of the modern working community, there is still a need for a space that people go to for work. This is what we’re trying to achieve here at Modus – a collaborative residence for like-minded people to come together and enjoy what they do every single day,” he says.

Photography by Nicholas Watt. 


This article originally appears in issue #80 of Indesign magazine – the ‘Education’ issue out in stores now. Get regular design inspiration by joining our mailing list.

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