Lara Knight – 5 May, 2020
This project is an unconventional way to fit out a warehouse. But if Gruff Design or Flipswitch Media outgrow a shared space, they can pack up their pod and move locations quickly and easily. Or sell their compact workspace to another business. It’s an office design with built-in fluidity that suits the 2020s and work/home/social distancing dynamics which could make the next few years challenging. (I can see container offices at the bottom of the garden being hugely popular if lockdowns continue!)
The man on the tools for this project, Matt Smart from Grummie Furniture, walked us through the conversion.
You completed these shipping container work pods in Geelong last year. What was the overall brief for this project?
Our clients work in the design and media industry so we wanted to do something cool, edgy and different. We needed to incorporate multi function meeting space, breakout space, a reception area and also a cyclorama wall for media.
Were containers used to reduce fit out costs, or was there another reason?
Andrew from Gruff Design and I met when I first started Grummie and we’ve become good friends over the years. We’ve done a lot of work together during this time and we both shared a vision of one day having our own container spaces for our business. His was in the form of studio spaces, and mine in the form of showrooms on our rural farm where Grummie resides.
A warehouse became available in Torquay and Andrew, along with Mia from Flipswitch Media, assessed their options for the concrete tilt panel space. The options were to build partition office spaces with a mezzanine floor area in a traditional “office” setup, or pursue the use of containers for the space. Budget wise, the containers may have cost a little more in the end. But the functional space they provided and the ability to remove the containers from the warehouse and relocate was a massive advantage.
Had you worked with shipping containers before? What were some of the challenges of installing/cutting/fitting in a small warehouse space?
We hadn’t worked with containers before but had done years of research. The first hurdle was getting them into the warehouse space itself. It wasn’t an issue for the 20ft container, but the 40ft container was a mission!
We discussed early on whether to build these offsite or onsite as they both had pros and cons. But as the warehouse space was completely vacant we decided to save on extra transport costs by building onsite. This took weather out of the equation and helped speed up the build in the end. We have a great crew of local trades and suppliers in the Torquay and Geelong region so we kept everything local and used Andrew and Mia’s clients where possible.
One of the biggest things I had taken from my research of other container projects was to look for containers in the best possible condition for your budget when purchasing. There are different grades out there and it really pays to see these in person before committing to them. Be picky! This can save a lot of time and money and improve the overall look of the finished product.
What other recycled materials were used in the project?
We wanted to give these containers the “Grummie” treatment so a fair bit of recycled messmate was included in this build. All office furniture was created by us for the fit out, lighting, meeting tables and some storage space, all from steel and recycled messmate. Nothing went to waste from the containers. One of the sections that had been cut out was reused in the reception as feature wall cladding.
Grummie does a lot of recycled timber, or timber and concrete furniture. What do you enjoy about commercial fit outs?
Commercial fit outs allow you to be more bold and adventurous with design and having some freedom with this is the best! We aim to do 2 to 3 fit out projects a year along with our custom furniture and joinery line. This gives a good balance and works really well for us, keeping the work enjoyable. We work with recycled timbers that are predominantly locally sourced from the Geelong region as this is super important to us.
As we write up this story Australia is in COVID lockdown and small businesses face an uncertain future. What are you doing to stay positive and move Grummie Furniture towards ‘after’?
As a small business you have so many obstacles anyway in predicting what the next few months look like, but COVID19 definitely put a spanner in the works. Early on when lockdowns were announced you have a certain amount of panic set in. What does it mean for me? Can I still work? Source materials? Are people going to pull out of orders?
We live and work on 50 acres in the surf coast hinterland so isolation isn’t an issue for us, allowing us to work like normal, and we are fortunate to have not been hugely impacted. Orders did slow for a few weeks but we are now busier than ever. Australia has a massive community of makers and creatives and it’s never been a better time to put yourself out there to all these people sitting at home!