The first time I visited vitruvi’s downtown Vancouver office, all I could think was, “Damn, I wish I worked here.” The soft neutral tones give the space an immediate sense of calm, and the various lounge areas with couches and comfy chairs allow people to work on their laptops from wherever they feel most comfortable.
Anyway, somehow my wish came true, and now this is my workplace—and I can say with all honesty that it’s as wonderful as it looks. There’s a stretching zone to get people out of their chairs, an apothecary stocked with all of our oils, and a selection of books and magazines for people to read. Among the smaller details, there’s hot water on tap (for tea), a special cupboard for women to store their purses and bags, chic dog beds for the office pups, and of course diffusers scattered throughout, helping mark different scent zones within the open-concept space.
Our CEO Sara Panton designed the entire office, which was essentially bare when vitruvi took it over. So I sat down with her to chat about her inspirations and motivations for the various elements and details. Here’s what she had to say.
On the overall vibe
“We wanted it to be like you walk up the stairs and you’re working from your friend’s apartment in Soho. I feel like people work better when they’re relaxed. I put a huge emphasis on different places of conversation; when I built it I was thinking about the different groups that work together and how people work together, and grounding everything through texture. I think a lot of offices are so sterile that they almost have no personality. But I wanted people to throw a jacket on the chair, put their feet up on the coffee table, have a blanket to pull over their legs if they’re working on their laptop. Just having that homey vibe instead of feeling like you’re going to an office.”
On the space itself
“We picked it because of the location, the fact that no one was above us, and there was a lot of natural light. We’re a wellness company but we’re also really urban, and we liked the idea of being downtown and right in the thick of it. Beside Nordstrom, down the street from Sephora—tapped in where we can just go and walk and see what’s happening.”
On the kitchen as a gathering place
“Because we’re all so independent when we’re working, I wanted a place where everyone was coming together and having one point of refuge—and I didn’t want that to be necessarily the boardroom, because I think that’s kind of old school. I just wanted it to be really seamless; I took one material and then matched everything to it, so I found the stone that I wanted on the counter surface and from there we matched it to the cabinets. I think when you work in a creative team, the space needs to be neutral and simple. People are in their heads all day and the eye can get overwhelmed. Things like doorknobs and handles can add clutter to a space, so we stripped all that away—everything is touch so that it’s really intuitive. And we had to have a really great espresso machine, which we bought five months before we moved here. We were just waiting to plug it in.”
On the boardroom being less boardroom-y
“The boardroom has a dining room table with dining room chairs. I didn’t want the boardroom to feel like a boardroom, because I find that people don’t speak up the same—but everyone can sit at a dining room table.”
On the framed photos from her travels
“They are of Morocco and Kenya. Morocco is where I became inspired by the spa culture there and going to hammams, and riding on trains with missing flooring; Kenya is where I started working with women’s cooperatives and became really, really passionate about women’s health and access to care.”
On building the desks
“My dad, myself, Chris [vitruvi’s VP of online], and Sean [Sara’s brother, vitruvi’s co-founder and COO] built the desks in one night. We had whisky and it was 12:00 in the morning. We lined them up in a relay race, and we all had different jobs. The first one took over an hour because there were so many drawers, and by the end of it they got it down to sub-seven. My job was the pit crew—so they would rip open one of the Ikea boxes, start a timer, and then I was responsible for taking the foam and all the different pieces and putting them under their knees so that they could move faster. It was hilarious.”
On not having a separate office as CEO
“I just didn’t think it sounded like us. Sean and I do use the boardroom a lot more than other people, for calls. But I don’t envision myself ever having an office, I don’t think.”
On the furniture
“A lot of it was from Rove Concepts, which is amazing. I did everything in neutral palettes so it all kind of went together and you could mix and match. The chairs in our smaller meeting room are antique armchairs from around 1910, from New York. We wanted something with grit and age. I like to think about the kinds of deals that were made on them. They’re hilarious and falling apart, but I think in a start-up, it’s easy to have everything so squeaky clean—and our brand has grit, and it’s lived-in, and it’s not perfect. It’s okay that there are oil stains on our boardroom table; there should be. So when I was designing this, I didn’t want it to be chrome and bubble chairs. That just wasn’t us.”
This interview has been edited and condensed.