While most tend to spend their teens wondering about the career path to take in their adulthood, Penny Sloane knew exactly what she wanted to do when she discovered her passion for interior design at the early age of 14 as she began spending any free time rearranging the furniture in her family home.
“It was actually the architecture of interiors that really excited me,” she says, “So I studied at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), and graduated with a Bachelor in Interior Design before obtaining a Bachelor of Arts and International Studies from the Politecnico di Milano in Italy.”
This firm foundation set her in good stead to take on various projects that added to her prolific portfolio. Today, she is the co-founder and managing director of Siren Design Group Singapore, and is credited with propelling the start-up into one of the region’s top award-wining interior design agencies.
What specifically drew you to commercial design?
Commercial design is all about curating a space with multiple experiences that enable people to thrive at work. As we all spend much of our lives at work, the interior environment has an enormous impact on our health, well-being and productivity on a daily basis. To be able to improve this experience for other people is really rewarding.
People are always debating the matter of having too many distractions at work. how do you work around that while creating welcoming, informal offices such as the ones you designed for JustCo?
Our approach is to design spaces with specific zones to enable you to do your best work, and whatever your work style or personality.
We create spaces for different purposes based on what you are doing. It might be a space that enables you to focus, a space for collaboration, or a space that frees you to think creatively and to come up with aha moments. In business terms, that’s critical.
Why do you think such spaces are evolving into this type of versatile/fluid/open concept that we’re seeing in both co-working offices and at progressive companies such as Google?
Single-use spaces are becoming obsolete. Spaces that satisfy user needs in multiple experience modes are rated higher. As people are working, eating, socialising, exercising, having fun, taking classes and shopping everywhere, the traditional uses of space are less distinct.
Our role is to create spaces that harness technology that enables flexibility because, given the opportunity, staff embrace and flourish when there is flexibility. It’s about letting go of control in a design sense, and allowing the user to be the chooser. You need to be able to work where a particular activity is going to take you for the day. Hence, working in such a space enables you to do your best work.
How do you see co-working spaces evolving in the next decade?
The concept of shared economy is here to stay. Many businesses, whether they go into a co-working space or stay within their own premises, now own spaces which enable staff to work while still having the familiar vibe of a cafe, where it feels fun, and not necessarily like work. We are humans after all!
Technology will continue to play an instrumental role, but it is evolving continuously to enable the workplace to become incredibly efficient.
For example, there is now technology that recognises you on approach so doors automatically open when you are balancing a cup of coffee and your laptop, and even apps that enable you to be in a virtual room with your colleagues abroad. That is the future.
You have a predominantly female team. Does being a woman help you to connect with the EQ aspect of designing a space, so that it’s not just functional, but aesthetically pleasing, too?
Yes, it does. As there are traditionally more women who to study interior design at university, this means there are more female interior designers looking for work. However, we do have guys in our office, and that’s important to us. I think having a diversity of thoughts, ideas and processes that different genders bring is incredibly important.
Written by Polly Sweet. Photos by Siren Design.