Image above, the team from Molecule, left to right, Jarrod Haberfield, Anja de Spa and Richard Fleming.
Project: Escala Partners Offices
Words: Jan Henderson
Photography: Shannon McGrath
Location: Melbourne Australia
Elegant and sophisticated, the offices of Escala Partners are more like a club than a place of work. Molecule has delivered a flawless interpretation of its client’s requirements, which has become a home away from home for Escala’s clients and workers alike.
The top end of Collins Street, Melbourne is home to many of the most successful businesses in Australia. The offices in the high-rise towers along the ‘Paris end’ of Collins Street are home to national and international companies that shape the fortunes of their clients and the economic fate of our country. Now there is a new member of this exclusive domain.
Escala Partners has moved into 90 Collins Street and, although the company is new, those who banded together to create the business have been working at the top end of town for a very long time.
Looking back from the client waiting area to the reception desk, which is clad in a Rosewood veneer.
Escala Partners is a wealth management advisory business that was conceived in mid-2013 by eight like-minded people. Each has decades of experience with the big players, but all decided they wanted to do things differently and offer a more intimate and hands-on business approach for their clients. So, with a new company and name, they resolved to present their offices as an extension of their services, a place that was welcoming and where relationships could be encouraged – all in stylish surroundings. To make this idea a reality, Escala Partners worked with David Pidgeon from Design by Pidgeon, who detailed a design strategy and provided the graphics, and design company, Molecule. Molecule was formed in 2010 and has been making a name for itself ever since, delivering excellent residential, hospitality and commercial interiors.
A floor-to-ceiling window at the far end of the reception area features a spectacular view of Melbourne city.
In this case, the brief was complex and completion was required within four months. The interior was to reflect elegance with a contemporary touch and there was to be a feeling of ‘establishment’ without the stuffiness. Molecule has fulfilled the brief perfectly, delivering a stunning design, on budget and on time.
To walk into the reception area of Escala Partners is to arrive at a destination that is rather like a private club. The surroundings are sophisticated and have the necessary ‘weight’ of tradition. Entry is through a discreet doorway that frames a large floor-to-ceiling window with one of the best views of Melbourne. The reception counter is finished in a Rosewood veneer, which was chosen by hand to ensure correct pattern matching (Palisander Santos natural veneer, George Fethers & Co), and incorporates a small kitchen for making drinks and snacks for clients. It also delineates the ‘back room’ work area and the front-of-house client space.
Rosewood louvres provide a divider between the office area and the reception and client waiting areas.
An engineered hard floor (colour Walnut Ultra Matt, George Fethers & Co) adds gravitas to the entrance and client areas, and pendant lights and sconces (Modo by Roll & Hill, Space) add a touch of the contemporary. Beyond the reception is where the ‘club’ atmosphere really begins. Restrained luxury is the order of the day with a nine-metre, custom-made, banquette sofa (Arthur G) with diamond-buttoned back (NSW Leather ‘Sundance’, colour Bark) installed along the main wall and two groupings of Lloyd high back chairs and T006 coffee tables (both Café Culture and Insitu) for more intimate gatherings. Rugs (Galet, Cavalier Bremworth) pull the furniture settings together and create a ‘sitting room’ feel within the space.
On the wall above the banquette is a series of four light boxes displaying original photographic works by Katie Carmichael that were commissioned especially for the area. This is a place to relax, have a glass of wine or coffee, or just gather your thoughts. Opposite are two meeting rooms, one for intimate gatherings, the other for a larger party. Further along is the boardroom with Rosewood table (client’s own) and chairs (Caesar Cantilever chair, Zenith Interiors, NSW Leather Sundance, colour Bark). The walls between the client area and meeting rooms have painted wainscoting on the lower half and glass above, which allows light to penetrate, but offers privacy for those within. A stylised, elongated panel motif has been used throughout – as a decal on the glass (Tint Design) and as a subtle painted ‘watermark’ on walls and ceilings. The palette is limited to blue/grey (Dulux, colour Water Worn) walls and ceilings, and tan and black in the soft furnishings.
The elongated panel decal motif has been used on window and ceiling in the boardroom that features the client’s own Rosewood table and Caesar Cantilever chairs in tan leather.
This limited palette balances the light, defines the rooms and establishes the atmosphere. It’s modern without being sharp and, in the use of leather and fine wood, there is the right amount of old world references for clients to feel at home.
Behind the reception counter and the folding partitions is where the real work of making money happens. The heart of the enterprise consists of one large room and a small meeting room. An open plan kitchen with communal table and high stools (WB stool, Zenith Interiors) takes up a third of the space and is in plain sight of the rows of workstations (Baseline) and task chairs (Life chair, Zenith Interiors). There is no hierarchy here; this is very much an egalitarian work environment. Traders have always worked this way and the profession is probably one of the few where managers and their staff have historically worked in an open plan setting. To the side is a small utility area and extra storage has been configured along the walls (Planex).
The client waiting area has a ‘club-like’ atmosphere with a nine- metre, custom-made, banquette sofa with diamond buttoned back in tan leather and groupings of Lloyd high back chairs.
Escala Partners is a thriving enterprise and the future looks bright for its new style of business. Realising that the relationship is paramount has helped the partners achieve immediate success and Molecule has followed suit, forging a bond with its client that has helped it understand the needs and desires of the organisation. This is a beautifully resolved project by Molecule and a winning result for Escala Partners and its clients.
Article by Jan Henderson for (inside) Interior Design Review.