Providing financial services with Sun Life Financial for close to a decade, Hugo Donais recently opened his own office, HDF Wealth Management to continue with Sun Life as a non-occupant financial advisor and to expand his own business. With the goal of expansion to include additional financial advisors, leasable office space and support staff, Donais was searching for a generous space closer to downtown, but not directly in the core. An ideal mid-town location with accessible parking and walking distance to cafes and restaurants, Donais bought a space in The Mondrian building at the corner of Johnson and Cook Street.
Combining the chic modular DIRTT office system from Monk Office Supply with stunning natural wood showpieces from Autonomous Furniture Collective, the result is an elegant, modern office with a natural feel. Steeped in the energy of a space, Donais’ philosophy is that a clean, modern aesthetic, anchored by natural wood, adds to comfort and productivity, which just might be the key to his rapidly growing business.
Natural light being a central theme of his office aesthetic, Donais required a space that was open, modern and flooded with light. “I wanted a sophisticated, functional and hassle-free infrastructure, something that would be unique to Victoria,” says Donais. The intention was to create an effortless space where people could show up with their laptop and Donais would provide the rest: parking, reception, technology, and a bright, comfortable place to work. “There is a lot of shared workspace in Victoria, but not many that can boast a clean, modern appeal. I wanted to create a pleasant space to work that enhances creativity and focus,” explains Donais.
The DIRTT wall system from Monk Office Supply is the way of the future. Providing embedded technology and an adaptable, configurable system, it was the perfect fit for Donais’ vision. “We like to look at a client’s entire space holistically, its functionality and design,” says Mark Smith at Monk Office Supply. Arranged like a ‘lego’ type system, the appeal of the DIRTT wall system is that it can be reconfigured in short order. “You can move your desk around, pop out one of the tiles of the modular system and slide the electrical over to suit your needs. We also offer a three-dimensional rendering for clients to see exactly how the system will work in their space,” states Smith. For function and design, Donais went with Monk’s ergonomic Aeron and Setu office chairs by Herman Miller.
When it was time to think about showpiece office furniture, Monk introduced Donais to Kirk Van Ludwigat Autonomous Furniture Collective. “Kirk showed me a reception desk they did for a local law firm and I immediately fell in love with the energy that the wood provides a space. Natural wood really brings energy to a white, modern space,” says Donais.
As Van Ludwig emphasizes, “a boardroom table is an office’s first impression. Typically, I would say that functionality should outweigh design but I think creating a showpiece boardroom table is an opportunity for a company to leverage design and make that lasting impression,” says Van Ludwig. Once the design is nailed down, Van Ludwig then dives into functionality. What will work for the company? Seating positions? Audio/visual? Noting a definite increase in demand for custom boardroom tables, Van Ludwig observes a trend in wellness, supporting the idea that time spent at work should be enjoyable and comfortable. “Surrounding yourself with natural pieces is an important part of bringing that comfort. The net result is a happy employee,” states Van Ludwig.
For the boardroom table at HDF, Van Ludwig used a western maple slab with a natural edge. Furniture designers would typically book-match two slabs to look like one, but Autonomous used two completely different slabs and cut them in varying widths. With one side wider than the other, the result is an organic and dynamic boardroom showpiece. “The natural edge coupled with a clean cut edge provides a duality between the two to create a more interesting look, it is very clean yet raw and natural at the same time,” Van Ludwig states. Playing with that juxtaposition brings a dynamism to their work to enhance that unique, custom feel.
With natural light vital to Donais’ design, a lucite base for the boardroom table seemed the obvious solution to allow the energy and light to flow through the room. “The ability to see through both the walls and the base of the table is a nice pairing; it actually looks like the table is floating.” Van Ludwig adds that, “coupled with the sculpturalAeron office chair by Herman Miller, the table anchors the space and brings an organic palette to the neutral, modern look.
A nod to Autonomous’ culture of waste reduction, solid western maple cut-offs from the boardroom table were used to create a natural look on the stair treads. Each stair tread is unique with the natural edge facing front. Set on a stainless steel riser and backlit with LED’s, even the stairs become an integral part of the overall design.
Free of any strict requirements, Van Ludwig had a bit more play with the functionality of the reception desk. “Visible from the street, we knew we wanted this design to stand out as an art piece. Hugo requested a very rugged, natural wood, full of character,” says Van Ludwig.
Sourced from a private wood lot in Cowichan Bay, Van Ludwig found a beautiful slab of western maple that they air dried for 3 years before kiln drying it. Manufactured by United Engineering at Point Hope Shipyards, the curved, hot rolled steel legs, weigh in at about 500 pounds total. “I love it when 500 pounds of steel leg meet a 500-pound slab; designing and engineering come together for the moment of truth,” laughs Van Ludwig.
Part of their 1970 table collection, the checkmark table in the lobby of HDF is made of western red cedar and boasts an air drying time span of 44 years. Drying since 1971, the grain in the cedar shows a unique, almost iridescent, flaming look. Clear lucite legs offer prisms of light to scatter throughout the room depending on the sun’s orientation. Emerging as a controversial piece, Van Ludwig ranks the checkmark table as his personal favourite.
Sculptural and functional, Ludwig built four encounter tables using Douglas fir kants. Unusual in woodworking, Van Ludwig used the wood’s visually beautiful heart centre in each piece giving the tables that extra special je ne sais quoi. “The weakest part of the tree, you don’t normally see the heart in traditional woodworking, Van Ludwig says, “but it is pretty special to be able to showcase the beginning of the growth of the tree and I do enjoy the challenge of working with it.” The table offers an artful contrast with the exposed fractured lines Van Ludwig created with an axe and the clean cut smoothness of Douglas fir.
Elegant and modern, yet inviting and accessible, Donais states that, “the impact of his design is in the details and cautions against rushing the design process in a project like this. It was an intense process to piece it all together but we’ve had a really positive reception to our office so far and we are excited to see how we grow and evolve. “If you love your workspace you will feel that much more motivated and creative; you might even work a little harder,” laughs Donais.