With a remote working culture caused by COVID-19, Africa’s working populations have to settle for work in artificial, hastily put together home offices that lack energy, ambience, intelligence and do not promote productivity and collaboration.
Spazio Ideale wants to change that.
“Spazio Ideale” (in Italian, meaning Ideal Spaces) is a full-service interior design firm passionate about improving clients’ lives through creative design, experiential spaces, and excellent delivery.
Founded in 2015 by Tomi Bamgbelu, Spazio Ideale has earned a reputation as a top interior design firm in Nigeria, delivering exceptional spaces for the most recognisable Nigerian startups such as Kuda Bank uLesson, Softcom and Reliance HMO, to mention a few. In this interview with Konye Chelsea Nwabogor, Tomi, who is now regarded as one of Africa’s top Female Tech Interior Designer and workplace design expert, shares with us her opinion on the future of the workspace and the future plans for Spazio Ideale .
When did you know you wanted to be an interior designer?
As a 14-year-old in secondary school, I wanted to work in the architectural, building, and construction sectors, but I couldn’t transition into interior design until much later. And at 17, I was fortunate to get an internship opportunity with an interior designer when I was in university.
So, I knew I wanted to work in that space from my teenage years, and my love for the profession has grown continuously since then.
Is there any reason you focus on tech spaces?
I will not say our focus is on tech spaces. We happen to have done many of the tech spaces in Nigeria, coincidentally, but we have also worked with a lot of non-tech players.
I would say that I have found it easy to understand tech entrepreneurs and companies in tech spaces because of my tech background. I studied computer science for my first degree and worked in a few tech companies, notably Ericsson.
So, yes, it is pretty easy for me to understand them. Their thoughts, ambitions, and actions are not alien to me because, in many ways, we are very alike.
I should point out, though, that this ability to see through their eyes results from merging my passion for interior design with my tech knowledge.
This is what has made me proficient at creating tech spaces that tell stories, each as unique as every client desires.
Tell me about Spazio Ideale; what have you done so far?
Spazio Ideale is a turnkey interior design firm focused mainly on exceptional design and excellent execution. We have adept expertise across creative designs, experiential spaces, and flawless execution. We always ensure we deliver exceptional services by improving the lives of our clients in terms of the spaces they live, work, and play in.
So far, we have worked with individuals and companies to transform their spaces, thus improving productivity and their way of life.
Some of our clients are Paystack, Kuda Bank, uLesson, Max.ng, Reliance HMO, and SoFresh.
We also have several residential clients whom I cannot name due to non-disclosure agreements. Internationally, we have worked within and outside Africa. Spazio Ideale is a multifaceted design firm with multidisciplinary abilities to design not only commercial spaces. This is why we operate across a broad spectrum, from commercial and hospitality spaces to residential spaces.
Our diverse clientele is proof of how much Spazio Ideale has done. However, we have more commercial spaces within our portfolio.
What are the biggest challenges in designing a workspace that accommodates all supporting work activities?
One of the biggest challenges we typically face when designing workspaces is the size of the available space.
Quite a number of start-ups have limited open spaces for their offices, and this makes it challenging to work with the space to fit their requirements. Sometimes the challenge might be getting every client requirement into the space. But we try to marry them in terms of functions and best use.
One of the major challenges we face with start-ups is their expected growth. We try to plan for growth when designing spaces for start-ups. If I were to advise tech start-ups, I would say that they consider growth when selecting a space.
How does tech inspire your work?
Tech plays a major role in what we do because of my tech background.
As huge tech fans, everyone at Spazio Ideale is aware of how innovation constantly improves people’s lives globally.
Consequently, we draw inspiration from tech and current happenings and trends, especially with tech’s growing influence and infiltration of nearly all facets of human life. That’s not all. The grit and growth we see in the tech industry and entrepreneurs inspire us to think of innovative ways to improve our sector while also translating it into our work. And this includes imbibing their culture, which influences the designs created and ultimately improves their overall quality of life and productivity. The ripple effect is a similar improvement for their customers.
So yes, tech inspires us.
What is the most common client request you receive when designing a work environment?
I don’t think there is one, but the closest thing to a typical client request is to create functional spaces on a budget.
Did the pandemic affect how you work?
Yes, it did, particularly during the lockdown when we all had to work remotely. However, remote work isn’t new at Spazio Ideale as we already run a hybrid operational model.
We leveraged technology and productivity tools to ensure smooth operations, ensuring that we still got work done. However, site-related activities were suspended.
What’s been your favourite project to date?
I try not to play favourites because every project is distinctly different. So, I don’t have a favourite project. Nevertheless, I am hoping that we have amazing projects that blow our minds.
But if I were forced to choose, it would be any project that gives us 100% creative freedom without budget constraints.
Can you outline your daily routine and how your workspace is designed to ensure productivity?
This is an interesting question. I seldom admit it, but I am a workaholic.
My mornings start with prayer while in bed. I get up to face my laptop, and the last thing I do before I go to bed is close my laptop.
Though there are other activities like eating and exercising, that was the short version of my day.
My work revolves around sitting in front of a laptop, coordinating the team, and ensuring we deliver excellently to our clients.
Oddly, my workspace is no workspace; I am an interior designer who creates workspaces, but I don’t have a distinct workspace. This is because I am a millennial, and I like to work in different positions where I feel most comfortable, from a desk and chair, a couch, a beanbag, or anywhere comfortable, depending on my mood.
My favourite workspace would be a high table and a high stool. I have an Island in my kitchen, where I work the most because it is the most comfortable working position. I have a very fluid work environment, and this is in tune with my personality.
Understanding this makes our work design approach uniquely different from other interior designers as we acknowledge people’s preferences when it comes to work. I know some people who’d rather sit at a desk and chair all day because that’s where they are most productive, while others are totally against it.
I understand that people have preferences when it comes to productive work, so fluidity and having options is important. A big mistake when creating workspace designs is to assume, like previous generations, that everyone likes to work from a desk.
We are disrupting the status quo to embrace a fluid concept and achieve increased employee productivity.
What is the future of the workspace?
The workspace is becoming more fluid, allowing employees to choose where to work from — a desk, Island, or the lounge.
There is also a desire to choose whether or not to work out of an office or from home or a co-working space where they can interact with people other than their colleagues.
We are seeing a more fluid approach towards workspaces, one that allows employees to choose. We also see a hybrid model of operation where employees can work from anywhere that suits their mood or gives them maximum productivity.
Where do you see Spazio Ideale in the next five years?
Over the next five years, I see us expanding and executing international projects. I also envisage an entry into hospitality and other industries. I believe the future is bright for Spazio Ideale. Thank you.