Synthesis Design's Bespoke Office

Synthesis Design's Bespoke Office

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The desk's volumes conceal storage space (Peter Guenzel)

A carefully detailed private workspace conceals office equipment behind birch plywood ribs

It’s a reality of the modern work world that many people work from home. But a home office need not look like a corporate cube. That was the idea behind a customized workspace designed for a personal investment advisor by Los Angeles-based Synthesis Design + Architecture. Located in the client’s Chelsea home in London, the design conceals storage units and office equipment behind a sculptural work surface.

  • Fabricator Cutting Edge
  • Designer Synthesis Design + Architecture
  • Location Chelsea, London
  • Status Complete
  • Materials Birch plywood
  • Process Digital design, CNC milling

With a total budget of approximately $11,000 and a room barely measuring 11 feet wide by 8 feet high, the project team was constrained by cost and space. After considering all of the elements to go into the home office, the team morphed traditional rectilinear office furniture shapes—like filing cabinets and wall-mounted shelves—into fluid forms using Rhino and Grasshopper.

The piece would be built as a series of birch plywood ribs with horizontal spacers to provide lateral stiffness. As a nod to their globetrotting client, the Synthesis team applied the spacers in the pattern of a world map created by converting an image into a high-contrast graphic bitmap, then culled points from a regularly spaced grid to define the center point of each spacer.

Synthesis collaborated with UK-based fabricator Cutting Edge, with whom they have partnered on several previous projects, to build the design. The shop took Synthesis’ 2-D vector drawings of cut files for milling, as well as its 3-D file representing the entire piece, including its support structure and assembly details.

“We exchanged ideas to refine cost constraints, optimize the amount of material being used, and decide on installation and finish details,” said Synthesis design principal Alvin Huang, who worked with teammates David O. Wolthers, Thomas T. Jensen, Jurgen Strohmeyer on the project. “It was a very collaborative process and the project would not have been possible if it were not for their ability to understand our 3-D models and their expertise in woodworking. The use of Grasshopper allowed us to quickly respond to required geometric revisions.”

Cutting Edge CNC-milled the structure’s profiles and assembled them into modular components, which were installed along a series of horizontal channels mounted to the existing wall. In addition to sliding storage drawers and hinged cabinets, the piece conceals wiring and recesses for lighting. Using a fabricator who worked directly with 3-D files allowed the team to realize all of the design’s carefully detailed geometric shapes, said Huang, even as the Synthesis office made a transatlantic move from London to its new headquarters in LA.