KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 9 — Natural sunlight imbues the second-storey office in Jalan Kemuja, Bangsar with a healthy glow. There is a long and colourful communal table that serves as a workspace for the staff.
Next to the stairwell, there is a separate meeting room cum library where books about batik, hotel design and feng shui share shelf space. The balcony overlooks the busy main road but inside there is an air of calmness despite the hectic work schedules and project deadlines that beckon.
Welcome to the office of Lisette Scheers, the creative genius behind L. Inc (formerly La Scheers Co) and innovative design campaigns for clients including the BIG Group, BRDB, Bank Negara Malaysia, the E&O Group and Harper’s Bazaar. Welcome to a designer’s playground.
The hunt for the perfect space
Scheers didn’t always have this beautiful workplace. When she first set up her company, she worked from home.
“Of course, working from home doesn’t work. Then I went to Hotel Maya and shared an office with another company. It was a nice office but I always wanted my own space,” she says.
The search for a perfect office space was fraught with adventure and disappointment. One early discovery was, in fact, just nearby.
“The house was just stunning; it was huge with lovely wooden floors. But it was too expensive for me at the time.
Then the seller found somebody else. The house was eventually sold and torn down. It was really depressing.”
But Scheers kept on looking and eventually found her current place. She was very hands on about the renovation, overseeing every step herself. “I put the clear glass in, and the blinds really helped. I also painted all the walls white.”
The result is an office that looks deceptively simple yet is stunning to behold. Scheers explains, “It’s important to work in a beautiful environment. Otherwise it wouldn’t be ‘We make the world beautiful’ [their company motto].”
Rules and no-rules
Besides plenty of natural sunlight, the shutters and fans provide natural ventilation. A few rules (and no-rules) also help make the office more liveable.
“It is absolutely forbidden to turn on the air-con in the morning. It is healthier and greener to use the fan. Look how cool it is!” exclaims Scheers.
She adds, “My electricity bill is about RM300 a month. How come? No air-con lah!”
There is also no dress code for the office. The renowned designer smiles, quipping, “Some staff even come to work in their shorts and slippers! Unless they go for client meetings, then they adhere to more conventional corporate attire. As long as you deliver, I am fine with it.”
According to Scheers, her new staff often need time to get used to the ‘open office’ concept – from the shared work table to having no cubicles or walls dividing them so the team works in a truly transparent environment.
“They should ban cubicles! Nobody should be working with cubicles; you should have daylight. Some people work in terrible conditions. In the Netherlands, it’s against the law to have an office without a window. You can be fined for it. It’s bad for your biological clock and extremely unhealthy.”
Freedom to be creative
It wasn’t always easy for Scheers to persuade her team to accept this unconventional work environment. She had trouble the first couple of years trying to find an administration manager as most weren’t comfortable with the idea of no walls and no fenced-off office!
“One candidate came in for an interview and walked right out when she realised there were no walls!” she laughs.
“The funny thing is they all complain when they come in but they are all used to it now.”
Grace Quah, an account manager at L. Inc, describes the open space as “inviting and very unlike the usual office environments that I was exposed to. It felt different in a refreshing way.”
She adds, “Productivity-wise, the communal area means we are less likely to procrastinate because everybody can see what you’re doing. This also encourages ad hoc brainstorming sessions when we’re stuck at a particular task.”
At the end of the day, it has always been Scheers’ dream to design a workspace that encourages her team to be creative. She says, “For me it’s very important to create a homely feeling. You have to enjoy and love coming to your office.”
8a Jalan Kemuja, Bangsar 59000 KL
This story was first published in Crave in the print edition of The Malay Mail on November 8, 2013.