A new flexible coworking space, Glee At Work, has opened in Green Point, Cape Town, with an interior that’s been designed to inspire calm and creativity.
Husband-and-wife owners Glen and Fee Ainsworth and self-taught carpenter Bheki Dlamini, Fee and Glen’s partner, are behind the design. The Ainsworths recently returned to South Africa after living in London for years. There Glen, who is a quantity surveyor, had specialised in office fit-out projects for almost two decades.
Not only is he adept at creating office spaces, he is also used to working in them, opting for coworking spaces when he was employed on a site some distance from his head office. While in search of a shared working space in Cape Town that offered the flexibility he needed, Fee suggested they create one themselves and Glee at Work was born.
They found the premises in just two weeks, attracted by its position, parking right in front and double-volume proportions. “The high ceilings allowed us to develop the space without being dictated to,” explains Fee. “I wanted to design a bespoke piece than rather work in the confines. It enabled us to tear down the typical office partitions and instead create our own designs out of timber, create planter rooftops, and make our own choices about office sizes.”
Glen used his experience and familiarity with the mix of spaces required for a successful coworking environment to lay out the office plan, and when it came to “building” they turned to Bheki. Timber was Fee’s biggest influence for the interiors, not just as a design trend but also as an effective acoustic tool. “Being surrounded by wood rather than plasterboard and paint gives a nice warm feel to work in,” she adds.
The walls, ceilings, cladding, framing system for glass, and the doors are all bespoke and made from birch plywood. “The challenge was that Glen didn’t want any aluminium, grid work, ceiling tiles or door frames. Even off-the-shelf doors were a no!” laughs Bheki. “Glen said, ‘Bheki, I want a giant piece of furniture’.”
The second challenge was that, due to noise and quality factors as all cuts are exposed, they couldn’t cut on site. “Glen and I sat down and discussed the way we were going to construct each piece. He’s good with numbers and calculations and produced a cutting list for the factory in Joburg, which we double and triple checked!” A week later, three thousand pieces of Finnish birch plywood were delivered to site and it took two days and eight men to carry each piece of timber up to the office. Bheki likens it to life-size Lego. “It all worked out perfectly with only two pieces being the wrong size – and they were, luckily, too long and not too short!”
Fee continues, “With the timber, indoor plants and a neutral base palette, it’s all about bringing nature in and cultivating a healthy workspace. I fought for everything. The painter was like ‘pink?’ The carpet supplier was like ‘red?’ Colour, for me, impacts productivity and bland colours are gloomy, so a vibrant colour palette should stimulate and encourage the creativity needed in an office space.”
A commercial actress and artist, Fee’s charcoal artworks can been seen dotted throughout, including a larger 5 m x 3 m palm tree jungle on a boardroom wall. “Our goal was to design and develop a completely unique office space, an ‘anti-office’ where one can feel totally at ease as this, I believe, is a great recipe for productivity.”