My mission: Find a new office and turn it into a creative, playful space.
- Parker Barry
In early 2015 I got a mission from Toca Boca CEO and Co-Founder Björn Jeffery and COO Caroline Ingeborn: Find a new office for Toca Boca in Stockholm. We were quickly outgrowing our current space and desperately needed room to grow. We wanted a large space, an urban factory feeling and high ceilings — in the “right part of Stockholm.” As I started my search, I soon realized that the size and style we were looking for wasn’t that easy to find in Stockholm.
After spending more than 480 hours looking at:
- 27 properties …
- in six parts of the city …
- covering a total area of about 29,700 square meters (about 320,000 square feet) …
I’d finally found what would become Toca Boca’s new home in Stockholm.
Photo courtesy of Fabege/Jeanette Hägglund.
The building is fantastic. It’s an old factory from 1930 where they produced light bulbs. It’s located in Hammarby Sjöstad district outside the center of Stockholm. The building is surrounded by water, a ski lodge and fantastic nature — so the view is amazing. The actual office space is on two floors and we have almost 1,100 fantastic square meters (11,600 square feet).
I was a bit nervous when I showed the space to the steering group, since the location was outside the city center but they all liked it. Plus, it was a bit hard for them to see how this seemingly boring office could be something for us, but I could — and they trusted me.
- Finding Inspiration
I traveled a lot to get inspiration for this project before we started. For example, I visited Google in Los Angeles, different advertising agencies in Stockholm and a lot of different hotel lobbies.
Why? I think it’s good to see other offices — not always to see stuff you want to copy; most of the time it was to see things that you realize that you don’t need or want to have. The idea about the hotel lobby was to see where people like to hang out, what have they done here to make people feel comfortable or why is this lobby empty, what did they miss?
- Finding an Architect
Then I started to interview different architects to find someone who I liked, who got who and what we are and who could work within our relatively small budget.
In August 2015, I started to work with Fabian Wanqvist from HOW arkitekter. Working with him was perfect: He really got what I wanted to do and who we are as a company and a brand. We were on a tight schedule so we quickly got to work and sketched up a first draft.
- Step 1: Surveying Toca Boca Employees in Stockholm
We held workshops and small interviews with all the employees at Toca Boca in Stockholm. We showed everyone our first draft, answered questions and heard everyone’s ideas and thoughts. We also wanted them to answer some questions to get in as much information and requests as possible.
This was the only time where we involved the people at the office. Why? Because otherwise there would be 45 different questions and opinions about everything we did. This ended up being a good decision. I wanted the whole thing to be a surprise for everyone more than a bunch of disappointments, which it easily could have been if everyone was involved and we just picked out a few of the suggestions.
But … that was really scary as well! From that point I had to trust myself and Fabian in every decision we made. In my office manager role, I like to please everyone. I had to work a lot with myself and trust myself in every step in the process.
Here are some of the guidelines we worked with in how we wanted to space to look and feel:
- Not too perfect (“dirt in the corner” as we say in Sweden)
- Straight lines
- Toca Boca pattern
- Many places to work at, including small spots where you can sit alone or with someone, have meetings or just be quiet
- Visual connections between the Toca Boca offices in Stockholm, San Francisco and New York
Our last office focused a lot on old apps and characters, and since that would be outdated quickly we decided not to have characters or apps in the new office. We wanted to have a more mature but still playful feeling.
Our old office.
- Step 2: Working Through the Details
We realized pretty soon that we had to work a lot with colors — it fits us as a brand and it’s not that expensive but gives a really cool effect. So we brought in a couple of my Toca Boca colleagues — Mathilda Engman and Seb Roux — to get their perspectives. Both have an eye for color and Mathilda, head of consumer products, has thought a lot about Toca Boca as a brand, while Seb, art director, worked a lot with the shapes from the Toca Boca pattern for the design of the San Francisco office. We wanted to get some inspiration from him.
- The look. We decided to do the two floors pretty similar to each other. They are like two long wings, with an incredible view (especially at one direction). We decided to have meeting rooms on one side, a hallway in the middle and then the workstations with an open landscape at the other side, on the side with the best view.
- Meeting rooms. The meeting rooms have one color each (we worked with the colors from the Toca Boca pattern). The walls, the carpets, everything — all the same color. On the glass walls we have a frosted Toca Boca pattern. In all rooms you can find a big whiteboard in a thin shape with no frames and a TV connected with an Apple TV to make it easier for everyone to have meetings and presentations.
- Workstations. All the walls in the office are white, but with big colorful shapes, the same shapes that you can see in the Toca Boca pattern. We decided to let everyone go crazy with toys, printouts, etc., at their own desks, so we left the desks a bit clean: black floor, white desks and white lockers. Everyone has their own locker to keep their stuff in, to keep the area around the workstations clean. Three months after we moved in the workstations are now starting to be really fun, personal and playful!
- Kitchen and pantry. We have one big kitchen on the top floor where we wanted the feeling to be homelike — a small-kitchen feeling in a big space. I decided it would be fun to have all different chairs. I bought different kinds of wooden chairs at Blocket (like a Swedish Craigslist), and when we had around 35 different chairs I sent them to be painted in the same color, this time pink. The chairs in combination with a really long table and the Toca Boca pattern on all the cabinets gave the kitchen a perfect home feeling in a Toca Boca spirit. On the first floor we also have a smaller pantry where you can grab a coffee or just some sparkling water.
It’s in the same theme as in the kitchen — pattern and fun colors.
- Fun things: Toca “Big World.” We have one room in the entrance that we call Toca Big World. This was something we started to talk about early in the process. Fabian had an idea to create something that could let adults feel like kids. We ended up with this idea to have oversized furniture and an oversized door and door handle. You have to climb up into the oversized furniture, and you have to reach up for the door handle since it is placed higher up than normal. It’s a fun room for a company that works with kids to let the adults to see the world from a kid’s perspective.
- Fun things: Secret room. Under the stairs we have a secret room. You can go in from two directions, under the stairs it is a small hole you have to crawl into, but of course you can reach it from a normal door as well. We don’t want a kid to be stuck under the stairs. 😉
- Fun things: Games. We have a play area with board games, a ping-pong table, a gachapon machine and more. This is where we hang out, play games and have meetings with our SF and NY office on a big (really big) TV. On the first floor we have a gaming room with a lot of TV games and Guitar Hero.
- Step 3: Building
During the building process I was on standby with the building team, so if they had questions or problems I was there for them as a project manager from our side to help out. That way we could work out things when they actually happened and not when it was too late. I think this was both fun and a time saver. I got to know everyone on the building team and worked with them more like a teammate than their customer. During the last weeks I was at the building site than in the office. We were on a tight time schedule and they worked into the last days but with an amazing result.
Managing this project and pulling everything together was hard work, but it was an amazing and fun job for me. I learned a lot, both in my role as an office manager but also as a person. But without Fabian the architect it would never have worked out as well as it did. I’ve learned so much from him, and we worked closely together. So it is his office as much as mine. 🙂
The Move: A Really Good Day!
The office was almost done and there was just a small detail left: The Move. For a few days in the middle of February 2016, everyone helped out to break the old office down in boxes so the move could take place.
Finally it was time for everyone to come to our new office for the first time. No one knew how it would look but once there … everyone seemed to like it!
As Toca Boca co-founder Emil Ovemar said, “It felt like Toca Boca as soon I took my first step into the office. That’s amazing!”