I like to think that, at Karmarama, we have a strong and unique personality. We are collaborative, creative, confident and, above all, fun to work with. So we needed our new office space to reflect that.
When we were looking, we were after the impossible: we needed enough room for 250 to 350 people (around 35,000 square feet), ideally all on one floor. After four years in glamorous Olympia, it had to be in an interesting part of town – and it had to be cheap, because we’re not flash bastards at Karmarama.
Incredibly, we found the only building in London, and probably the only building in Europe, that ticked all of those boxes. It was the old disaster recovery site for Merrill Lynch in Farringdon that had sat almost empty for several years. So it was a great feeling to bring it back to life, fill it with colour and create a bold and unique office that balanced play space and workspace.
Often, agencies will have a swish reception with the workers crammed battery chicken-style into grey offices behind or above. We wanted to be different. We have a swish reception, and lots and lots of desks – but we also have a ping-pong arena, a canteen, a disco tunnel, cool little cubbyholes, lots of games consoles, a traditional tuck shop, a huge neon sign that says "No wankers" in German, a motorcycle repair room, the smallest pub in London, an 80s shipping office, an art gallery, the spankiest disabled toilet ever, the Karma Llama and an escalator that only goes up one floor.
To be honest, when I first saw that escalator, I fell in love with the place.
Our "Town Square" is the perfect setting for our Monday morning assemblies – but also for industry events, film previews and the occasional gig.
What has been fabulous is the reactions of visitors. Clients love the flexibility of the space and have used it for a variety of their own events – including an incredibly drunken and messy Christmas party.
We also hosted a seminar with drinks for a large number of procurement specialists, which ended with several besuited middle-aged men repeatedly belly flopping into our beanbag-filled "pools".
We’ve found being on one floor has huge advantages. There are no internal phone calls and fewer internal e-mails when you can see people. Also, quite a few catch-ups happen over lunch in our canteen. As food is a company-wide obsession, we hired my brother, Dino, as our first in-house chef.
We’re lucky to have him on board to serve up delicious subsidised lunches most days, so we can eat together as a family.
I hope we’ve created an interesting space that is true to our personality and doesn’t take itself too seriously.
A space that makes people happy to come to work each day and plays a part in them feeling inspired and doing brilliant work.
You’re welcome to come and see us any time – just remember to bring your ping-pong A game.
Dave Buonaguidi is the founder and chief creative officer of Karmarama