With over 70 years of continued legal services to Australia’s leading companies, institutions and private groups SBA Law has an outstanding reputation in the market. That same history meant that SBA Law’s new fitout in Melbourne’s CBD had to be professional and on trend yet timeless.
The team at SBA Law were very open and trusting in allowing a lot of free reign during the design phase. It is always very humbling to have a client put that kind of trust in you, especially for their client facing area. One of the key requests however was to create wow factor in the reception area without it being to over the top. With this in mind, we started experimenting with simple patterns, textures and different tones of timber. This is reflected through the materiality of the reception counter, using a mix of timber and stone.
Design Inspiration - Nature Within
We wanted to create a space that was noticeably different from what people considered a law firm to be. When people think ‘law firm’, there is usually a stigma attached that it is very corporate and sterile. Hence why the design for SBA Law was to be as far from sterile as possible, yet still be a functional, professional work space for the client.
Using natural materials offers a certain depth and grounding to a fitout. We leveraged this by using stone on the reception counter which ‘grounds’ the space, acting as a soft yet solid presence for when the clients walk through. Glass was also a major part of the design. Level 15 has some amazing views of the city, so it was essential to keep the views from all meeting rooms, as well as let in an abundance of natural light.
Another advantage of using natural materials is the smell. This is usually not considered with a lot of interior design. Sure, you can use candles and air fresheners, but the smell of wood is something that I have always loved. Although subtle, the smell lingers constantly from the timber which (I feel) is a nice little escape from the city streets and smoke which is present just outside. When people have a calm mind, people can work much more effectively.
One of my favourite architects, Frank Lloyd Wright (FLW), was a big advocate for nature within the interior, using principles and themes to guide his work. Once entering the space, I knew that we could draw upon his themes to guide the design process. As the space was linear in nature, we wanted to bring a sense of continuity throughout the entire floor.
Continuity Reflected Throughout
Timber encompasses most of the floor at SBA Law which instantly softens the space and takes away the pre-conceived ideas of what a law firm is meant to look like. The continuous application of the timber in the reception area, wrapping onto the walls and ceiling means that ‘continuity’ can therefore play its part again by running the length of the corridor and finally ending on the rear wall. This feature pays homage to the themes frequently worked by FLW.
‘Continuity’ is also reflected in the design through the glass partitions and aluminium frames. We explored the idea of having an unbroken line of sight down the corridor, both physically and visually. The timber guides the eye down to the rear of the space, and is complimented by the black glass frames standing either side. These glass partitions were designed specifically to portray the theme of ‘continuity’, where the doors camouflage within the partitions themselves by also having the same frame design.
The central design theme did rely on a good foundation, and while the space was great there was a bulkhead that could have been the project’s undoing! The reception ceiling did have a bulkhead that was angled and laying planks on this meant they no longer lined up with the wall. Eventually after reviewing a number of different solutions we decided to cut each individual plank so it could line up perfectly with both the wall and floor.
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