Our inclusive new workspace
Balmain builder Mat Wilk is inviting local freelance architects and designers to share the refurbished Ballast Point office
We’ve always liked our office, but we really wanted it to be more welcoming, user-friendly and to share it with clients, local freelance designers and architects. This philosophy was the driving force behind our recent refurbishment. We moved into this space in an historic building in Beattie Street, Balmain more than a year ago, as it was such a convenient location, just down the road from Darling Street. Before us, it housed a wholesale jewellery business. But after a while we found we needed to improve and rationalise the space, not least because the main space was partitioned, with one of our desks ending up in what was previously the storeroom! As part of our recent revamp we knocked out the wall, and it has made a huge difference. I didn’t realise how much of an impact opening it up would have, how bright and re-energising it would be, or how much more enjoyable it would be to meet and work here.
The redesign included getting new desks and incorporating a new storage area. There are now cupboards above the desks for extra storage, shelves lined with architectural books for inspiration, as well as some plants to provide a bit of greenery. There are also framed photos of previous projects we are especially proud of lining the walls. One of the quirkier items we have on display is a framed LEGO National Building Competition Master Builders certificate I received as part of a promotion at Grace Bros department store in 1984 when I was eight-years-old – something I am particularly proud of!
We really needed somewhere where our design team could meet, so we now have a table near the entrance, right beside the floor-to-ceiling windows and French doors, which provide plenty of natural light. We also removed a metal shutter from the front door which really liberated the place – we always thought it a bit odd that there were perfectly breakable windows either side. There’s a large flat screen TV on the wall for presentations.
Part of our motivation was having more room so we could invite local freelance designers and architects to come and work here, or have meetings with clients. If they want to come and use the space, we’re happy to book it in. Our clients are also always welcome here too, if they just want to say Hi or want to get away from their dining room or bedroom and work somewhere else.
We have three designers, an office manager, a bookkeeper, and occasionally our construction manager, who work different days of the week, so there is always room for more bodies. With so many more people working from home now thanks to COVID-19, we thought this might be an appealing option.
Ironically, the changes mean that we are one of the few offices in town expanding the number of desks, but it seemed somehow right to be bucking the trend. We consider it a shared space, and local freelance designers are welcome to organise a meeting and bring clients in. We have distributed a handful of keys and alarm codes. We could charge for this or try to rent one of our spare desks, but this would just be another thing to manage and it didn’t feel right. It’s not just because we feel charitable, we just think there is more to be gained in the long-term having an open and inclusive business and not being precious about protecting our turf.
So if you are in the area pop in and say Hi, or if you are a local freelance architect or designer please get in touch if you want somewhere to work or to meet with clients from time to time.