Bruno Guelaff uses American Hardwood as central design theme for real estate office

Dubai-based studio Bruno Guelaff designed an office for a real estate client, giving the space a ‘treehouse’ effect.

Dubai- based designer Bruno Guelaff and his team were commissioned to design a 250m2 commercial space for Unique Properties, a real estate company in Dubai. The owners of the real estate brand wanted not only a space that would satisfy their logistical needs but more importantly a space that would make a bold design statement while creating a modern and urban environment for their employees.

“The client Unique Properties has a ‘unique’ branded office setting, which not only provides its client with a dynamic space, but also provides its employees with a stimulating as well as serene work setting,” explains Bruno Guelaff, owner and managing director of the studio. “We accomplished this design exercise by straying away from typical office systems and designing every system within the office from the glass and wood partitions, from the suspended light systems, custom wall panels, all work surfaces inclusive of stools and reception seating and even the meeting environments.”

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Designing all the elements within the office gave Guelaff and his team the liberty to dictate the feeling of the space instead of using plug and play systems.

“Angled oak columns within the space create a treehouse-like feel encouraging and young fresh atmosphere all the while providing a bit of privacy within the rooms without sacrificing the natural daylight to all spaces,” he says.

“The angled panels also act as a motion catalyst as they give a sense of speed and movement. Once the wood lined doors are open these lines are broken, giving the office an organic feel. Custom wall panels are dual sided with one side using oak wood panels complete with lines of sap and the other a yellow gold fabric from the Danish supplier Kvadrat, which is a punchy addition to the office and acts not only as colour blast but an acoustical companion. The ‘Unique’ project was surely a creative endeavour, which now affects employee life in a positive and inspirational way.”

Design challenge

“The main design challenge was the state of mind of the people that inhabit the office,” says Guelaff. “Employee mind state is such an important factor in an office setting and the more you can stray away from a typical office setup with predictable materials and office systems the more you will stimulate the ones working within. Coming up with a design language that is a bit atypical and in turn providing a space full of life and inspiration was the challenge at hand.”

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Main features

For Guelaff, the standout feature of the office is the angled wood cladding in front of all glass parti-tions. American White Oak was also his choice of materials for its distinctive grain pattern and colour consistency.

“The angled patterns vary in widths from 750mm to 100mm, which gradually change throughout the office. Besides giving the office a ‘treehouse’ effect, which brings smiles to all who visit, the angled panels actually provide great privacy in a unique way,” he says.

The challenges

The hardest part of the project according to Guelaff was finding the right wood to work with that would provide a natural feel and making sure the wood had a proper mix to make sure the designers didn’t have repeats in the grains.

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“We worked hand in hand with Fritz Kohl, who really helped us in terms of wood selection. The next toughest part was finding the right sealer that did not change the quality of the wood and exposed its true character. The matte sealer was flown in from Germany and was a key element in the project,” he adds.

Sustainability

Sustainability was a major aspect of the project requirements, but being sustainable does not always mean being expensive or lacklustre.

The designer explains: “The first overall effort was to make sure we can use as many local products as possible to reduce any shipping requirements. The carpet system used within the office is locally made by Standard Carpets, which has been in the UAE since 1999 and is promoting environmental sustainability in all areas of its business. The adjacent flooring solution is polished concrete, which again reduces any form of shipping as the core materials inclusive of the sealers are locally produced and manufactured.”

Sustainability did not stop at the flooring, but was also considered for the ceilings, which are exposed in all the open areas, which reduces the amount of materials used. Lighting was also a key factor in the space.

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Guelaff continues: “Most of the lighting is indirect lighting facing the ceilings in open areas, which gives an overall glow, as well as cove lighting in the personal offices to reduce the usage of down lights or actual shipped in fixtures. All lights are custom designed, LED emitted, locally produced fixtures and unique in their own right. Natural daylight is filtered through all the open spaces and angled wall elements limiting the need for over powered lighting specifications.”

The next component was furniture, which was also custom designed and locally produced, requiring less shipping and promoting local economies.

“Every sales table, conference table, CEO table, stool and the Zizag table is custom designed and includes its own proprietary cable management system,” he says.

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“Sustainable farmed American white Ash veneer is used over medium-density fibre boards, which comes from fast-growing tree species or waste wood from other manufacturing processes. Since the faster growing trees can be replaced quicker you need disturb less forest to get an end product. Partition systems are also custom designed and locally made from locally produced glass with American White Oak angled wood cladding, which is part of the sustainable American Hardwoods species as per the American Hard-wood Export Council.”

The design team proved that to make a space unique does not always mean it needs to be complicated, nor does it mean purchasing expensive materials and furniture from abroad.

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Guleaff concludes: “We have provided a sustainable, efficient office design all the while promoting local craftsmanship as well as keeping lighting proficiency at the forefront.”

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