If you’ve spent much time reading Catalyst, it will come as no surprise to learn that we’ve got a thing for offices with lots of plants. Plants clean the air, put us at ease, and just generally make for more pleasant work environments. As such, we’ve seen our share of creative ways to incorporate some greenery into the office, from simple window planters to plant walls.
But this space from JOANY, a Los Angeles-based insurance startup, took us by surprise.
Featured prominently in the kitchen is something that seems more fitting of a sci-fi movie than an office—a wooden pod, covered in plants, with seating for four inside.
“I get a lot of my inspiration from the natural world, and there is nothing square that grows naturally,” says Kelly A. Robinson, who designed the space for JOANY. “Whenever I see round spaces, I get very excited.” The pod, or rather “The Growroom,” was designed by Space10, a design research hub backed by (who else) IKEA, and debuted at the CHART festival in 2016. It was such a hit with designers worldwide that the team at Space10 found themselves with a bit of a problem. The item was intended to promote local, sustainable food production, but shipping a large item like that all across the globe wasn’t exactly environmentally friendly. So they opted to open source the design and posted instructions for making your own online.
Which is exactly what Robinson did for the JOANY office.
“I pitched it to (JOANY CEO Christine Carrillo) and she loved it,” says Robinson. “It’s a meeting room, it brings nature into the space, it’s spherical, it’s different.”
The kitchen isn’t the only place where you’ll find unique furniture at JOANY. In the office’s library, workers can take a break in the “hush pods.” The tent-like chairs envelop users in thick felt, providing a private (and quiet) space. Robinson came across these chairs, designed by Freyja Sewell, while working on another project and they immediately came to mind when Carrillo described one of her requirements for the JOANY office: it must provide a private place where people could escape and let emotions out as needed—a “cry room.”
“(This) product immediately came to mind, because it’s very sound proof, it’s very private, and you almost feel like you’re back in the womb, into this place where it’s okay to just be a little child again,” says Robinson.
Besides funky and functional furniture, the other thing to likely catch your eye at JOANY HQ is the view. Located in a high-rise office tower in Downtown Los Angeles, the large windows in the office offer boatloads of SoCal sun and sweeping views of Great Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Mountains in the distance.
“I think (the view) helps people think, rise above the ‘micro’ and really think big,” says Robinson. “I tried as much as I could in that space to really use the view and focus the furniture and point people outward towards the windows.”
For Robinson, the JOANY project aligned perfectly with one of her values as a designer—helping people live healthier lives. “That’s been a theme in all of my work. I believe that our spaces can inspire healthier lifestyles, so (this project) felt easy and aligned to bring that theme through.”