Most people are familiar with the expression, ’you never get a
second chance to make a first impression’. Companies are increasingly
viewing their offices as crucial to their success - with agencies
particularly keen to present the right image to clients and prospective
clients. Having had little connection with the advertising industry, I
was fortunate to be able to take an unbiased first look at the reception
areas of four agencies.
My task was to visit each reception to see if I could form an impression
of the business from a Feng Shui perspective. Overall first impressions
come from the locality, the building, the entrance and, finally, the
reception itself. Within the reception, impressions can be broken down
into component parts such as lighting, colour, form and materials.
It should be taken into account that the following are not consultations
as no account has been taken of individual business issues and
objectives but, instead, give a general impression of Banks Hoggins
O’Shea, WCRS, BMP DDB and TBWA.
BANKS HOGGINS O’SHEA
Banks Hoggins O’Shea occupies the first three floors of a six-storey
building in Baker Street. Once a tired 60s building, the modernised
premises boast a substantial frontage - part-glazed and part-white stone
- on which is clearly mounted the building’s number in large silver
bloc, making it blissfully easy for my taxi-driver to find. I was
directed to the first floor by the concierge. At the top of the stairs
is a large display of Peace Lilies backed by a view of a beautiful tree,
providing a pleasing antidote to the pollution of the West End.
Entering the reception, visitors pass through large wooden doors,
permanently open in a welcoming fashion. The entrance faces south which
is excellent for gaining recognition. The wall immediately opposite is
slightly textured in a rich terracotta colour, with the company name
illuminated with ceiling spotlights. Although not all of the
triple-barrelled name was legible, due to the direction of the lights
and the subtle colouring of the type, this could be easily rectified by
redirecting one or two spotlights. A sloping wall leads the visitor
toward the reception desk which is built into the wall. On entering the
main reception space, I was immediately struck by the light, refreshing
and clear atmosphere. The walls are painted in vivid blocks of colour,
including golden yellow, terracotta and deep marine blue. The ceilings
and floors are tiled white, giving the spacious, airy feel of a
Mediterranean villa. The reception desk has a wooden veneer, is
uncluttered and has a warmth usually absent from ’minimalist’
At the end of the room, glass doors lead to an open terrace full of
Natural light substantially enlivens the space and enhances its vibrant
Ken Hoggins, the creative director, says he wants the interior to give a
friendly yet professional ’switched on’ impression of the company.
In short, this free-flowing, uncluttered space, with its bright warm
colours and masses of natural light suggests that the company is clear
thinking, organised, efficient - and very creative.
WCRS is in Golden Square, London. It is generally seen as auspicious to
have an open flat piece of land in front of a building (a ming tang) in
order for the chi (energy) to be contained before entering the building.
WCRS benefits in this way with a beautiful square with flowers and
The agency occupies the whole building - a substantial multi-storey
white stone affair with a huge arched glazed entrance spanning two
floors. This provides a wide ’mouth’ through which the sun’s light and
energy can pour in, positively affecting the occupants. The company name
is written on the glazed facade which, depending on where you stand, is
not easily visible due to reflections from coloured glass.
Once inside, visitors are led to a substantial, curved wooden reception
desk, favourably positioned to the side, rather than confrontationaly
ahead. It is interesting that the company manages to divide what is
essentially one open-plan working reception area into two distinct
spaces in Feng Shui terms, one yin and one more yang, giving
The initial entrance area is made more yang (active) by the substantial
amount of daylight coming through the doors, the light-coloured stone
flooring, the polished marble wall housing two lifts with metal doors
and the white ceiling. Together, this causes the energy to move around
quickly and makes this area active and vibrant.
Beyond the desk, one enters a more yin-like space with subdued lighting,
carpets and comfortable sofas arranged around a table with a floral
The soft furnishings and lower light levels, as well as the extensive
use of yellow, all help to provide a relaxing ambience. In keeping with
this ’softer’ area, a large circular yellow ’pod’ houses a meeting room
and catering point on the inside, plus two small TV screens showing the
company’s ads. The sound is muted, however, so as not to detract from
informal meetings in the lounge.
I would suggest glazing the top section of the pod to allow natural
light into the meeting room to provide a lighter brighter space. The
head of marketing, Amy Smith, says she wants clients and visitors to
feel comfortable and relaxed and that the aim of the reception area was
to emphasise the company’s philosophy of a collaborative approach to
working with clients.
Broadly speaking I feel that the layout and design of the elements
within the space all help to support this aim.
BMP DDB’s offices, at Bishops Bridge Road, near Paddington Station are
away from the hustle and bustle of the heart of pedestrian London.
The building was built as the headquarters of Great Western Railways and
is formidable and imposing.
Ever-narrowing steps ascend to a grand silver-encased revolving
This funnel-like effect is further enhanced by a curved glazed wall with
the company name emblazoned in gold and black lettering. From a Feng
Shui perspective, the entrance is very important and is referred to as
the ’mouth of chi’, the point where most of the energy enters the
It is particularly favourable where the door is elevated, so BMP’s
entrance scores highly.
Once through the door, I was slightly confused. A blank wall gives no
indication of where to go next. In order to ensure that visitors are
relaxed, a simple direction sign would make all the difference.
Following the staircase, which I realised was the only way I could go, I
was led to the reception. The curved desk with its warm wooden colouring
is well positioned in a non-confrontational side-on spot.
The predominant colours in the space are light grey and dusky red. The
walls, staircase, banisters and columns are all light grey and the
substantial ’members club-style’ lounge seats are red. The company is
about to undergo a refurbishment to reflect its change of company
colours from grey and red to grey and yellow.
Red is the most yang (energetic) of colours, representing the fire
elements of fame and recognition, and adds vibrancy to the pale grey.
Yellow, depending on the hue, represents the earth element, and is more
likely to provide a supportive environment, enhancing existing clients
Yellow will also increase the subdued feeling of the environment. The
predominance of grey represents the metal element which symbolises
organisation, leadership and respect. Behind the reception, a
multi-screen display plays back the ads of the company’s clients. This
demonstrates their success but, unfortunately, the constant flickering
of the screen is inauspicious when associated with the life-blood of the
In summary, the combination of history, stature and grandeur of the
building, the subdued lighting and the predominance of grey, metal and
wood suggest a well-established, solid company. The space was
reminiscent of an airport lounge for first-class passengers. The
interior was formal but relaxing.
TBWA GGT SIMONS PALMER
TBWA GGT Simons Palmer occupies a large 60s building on Whitfield Street
and its offices have recently been refurbished - with almost the entire
ground floor made open-plan. The architect, Barr Gazetas, has done a
terrific job of modernising the building’s entrance with elegant white
circular columns supporting a balustrade on which the company’s name is
mounted. Three semi-circular steps lead up to elevated double glazed
On entering the reception, my eye was immediately drawn across a yellow
strip of vinyl flooring to a bright yellow wall opposite, displaying
framed logos of the company’s clients. This ’wall of fame’ is
illuminated by halogen spotlights reflecting good Feng Shui in the
recognition/fame area. I was led to a long reception desk to the right,
backed by a deep red wall, which grabs the attention.
Having signed in, I turned round and saw the full extent of the
remaining space. A kaleidoscope of colour hits the eyes with extremely
vibrant reds and yellows dominating. Soft seating offers an informal
meeting space and the waiting area is also exceptionally bright, with
red, orange, yellow and pink lounge chairs. This might sound a bit over
the top but the expanse is then cooled and balanced by the central
feature - a long curved bar.
Other balancing factors are white walls, cream ceiling and earthy
parquet flooring which is an original feature. Behind the bar is another
more discrete soft seating area which is useful for meetings as well as
providing a playground to stimulate creativity. This contains a billiard
table, dartboard, Sony playstations and internet workstation.
Karen Boardman, new-business director, says the company’s aim is to
create a buzzy, fun reception area which crossed the boundaries between
business and social life for staff and clients (the bar is open until
9pm). I would say that the new environment certainly supports the
company’s objectives. It is bright, light and refreshing and, despite
its social ambience, I found it easy to relax due to the informality. I
found it invigorating but not overpowering and could have happily stayed
there longer. It suggested to me that the company is modern, energetic
but also relaxed and informal.
Robert Gray is a founding partner in the Feng Shui Academy which offers
a comprehensive consultancy service, tel: 07071 228080.