Studio 103

Words: Jemmah Kelly
Photography: Aaron Pocock Words: Jemmah Kelly Photography: Aaron Pocock

A relative newcomer to the architecture and interior design scene, Studio 103 has quickly earned a reputation for excellence in design and bespoke customer servce. The Perpetual Trustees Project embodies just that, showcasing corporate sophistication while packing an impressive visual punch. Company architect and director Catherine Quinn  unpacks the design features of this inner-city office space.

Words: Jemmah Kelly – Photography: Aaron Pocock

Design – whether architectural, interior, graphic or otherwise – is subjective at the best of times. After all, we’re all familiar with the phrase ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder.’ How then do we make the distinction between a good design and a great design? Fortunately, Studio 103 has the answer. It begins, as Architect and Studio 103 Director Catherine Quinn puts it, with “no cookie-cutter designs,” and viewing each project from the necessary viewpoints of the architect/designer, the client and the user. It’s a principle the Melbourne-based architecture and interior design practice has studiously upheld and become well-known for since its inception three years ago, and is evident in every project Quinn and her talented team undertakes.
We started up in 2013 as a group of experienced designers with a common aim tocreate buildings and spaces that are unique to site and function, focusing on the user’s experience of the space,” says Quinn.

“We have a core team of four – two with architecture backgrounds [and] two with interior backgrounds – as well as a student architect and another interior designer who works for us part-time. We aim to have a melding of interior and exterior; we believe that buildings that have a flow between indoor and outdoor work best,” she adds.

As a multi-disciplinary team, collaboration is a fundamental part of Studio 103’s work ethic, beginning with the internal team and continuing with clients as well as local artists, designers and craftspeople. Doing so enables the practice to engage with and explore new design possibilities, work across and take each project in exciting directions. Whether providing healthier workspaces, creating harmonious living spaces or improving student-learning experiences, Studio 103 has truly perfected the art of delivering bespoke customer service.
Indeed, it is this philosophy, work ethic and well-earned reputation for creating inspirational interiors and exteriors that led to the practice being shortlisted at the 2014 Interior Design Excellence Awards (IDEA) in the Emerging Designer category for its Rialto Management Offices project (Workplace under 1000sqm). The accolade is a testament to the practice’s aptitude for creating spaces that beautifully unite function and form, and the Perpetual Trustees project is no exception.
Photography: Aaron Pocock
Photography: Aaron Pocock

Perpetual Trustees is an independent and diversified financial services group with  an office located in Melbourne’s CBD. The company called on the expertise of Studio 103 to refurbish and breathe new life into their workplace. The clients sought a vibrant and invigorating design befitting a financial services group. As Quinn explains, achieving such a design called for a careful balance between invigorating splashes of colour and a refined, professional aesthetic indicative of a corporate environment.

“The client was very conservative, and it was a challenge to break away from
their traditional concepts of how an office should function and what it should look like… Perpetual [Trustees] wanted an office space suitable for a conservative corporate company that was vibrant and energised at the same time.”
Quinn and her team responded to the brief, creating “a central open-plan workspace that challenged the traditional closed-office layout … Meeting rooms flow from the entry and waiting area, leading onto utility spaces and a quiet room. Central to the open-plan workspace, is the staff breakout. The focus of  the fit-out, it doubles as an informal meeting space, and a staff break room,” she adds.
A key feature is the use of geometric patterns on the walls and the window glazing, which is repeated throughout the fit-out and serves as a dynamic design element and intriguing focal point.
“[The] geometric patterning breaks up the window glazing throughout, while allowing light to infiltrate core areas,” explains Quinn.
Inspired by Perpetual Trustees’ trademark colour – a dark shade of blue – Studio 103 implemented a complementary colour scheme comprising blue and green hues that flow harmoniously throughout the office, enhancing the sense of space and openness of the design.
Photography: Aaron Pocock
Photography: Aaron Pocock

A carefully curated selection of distinct fixtures  and finishes, including blonde timber joinery and copper, punctuate the space against the  darker colours.

A hallmark of Studio 103 is its ability to use everyday objects in unexpected ways and find original solutions to ordinary spaces. Often, this includes recycled and reused materials wherever possible. A great number of environmentally, socially and economically sustainable elements often feature prominently in many of Studio 103’s designs.
“One of the client’s main objectives was to use sustainable, recycled materials wherever possible [and] all furniture, fittings and materials were selected with this in mind,” says Quinn.
Studio 103 turned to Something Beginning With (SBW) to furnish and complement the existing characteristics of the space, as well as add function and stylistic flair. SBW’s stackable Zac Chairs and Lili Stools tie in perfectly with the distinct colour palette and the vision Studio 103 had for Perpetual Trustees, while also providing additional seating that invites people to gather together and sit comfortably.
The seating area, coupled with a Loop Table, an Array Dining Table and elegant Oscar Chairs, also tie the design together and exude the vitality and the sophistication intended for the design, adding a timeless appeal and comfort to
the workspace.
Vibrant yet elegant, the Perpetual Trustees project featured here echoes the creative vision, talent and stylistic flair for which Studio 103 is quickly becoming renowned. The project is a depiction of the rich textures, quality materials and unique spatial experience of which Studio 103 is capable of delivering, without compromising on ethical and sustainable practices and that add value to the client, the environment and the design.
Undoubtedly, Studio 103 is an exciting and multifaceted architecture and interior design practice destined to leave a mark on the city of Melbourne and its surroundings, for many years to come.