Silversquare is starting the Antwerp chapter of its expansion with a world-class collaboration. Belgian designer Stephanie D'heygere, known worldwide for her brand of accessories D'heygere, is taking on the interior design of the first Silversquare coworking space in Antwerp. The West Fleming from Kortrijk is returning to the city where she learned the ropes to make her mark on three floors of the imposing Antwerp tower. A project that, at first sight, is out of her comfort zone. Yet she didn't have to think long when Silversquare knocked on the door. She is always up for a challenge.
Inspired by the typical offices of the 80s and 90s, the golden age of corporate kitsch, she named the project Officeland.
You can read below about how the wonderful world of Officeland contains elements that have shaped Stephanie throughout her life and career into the person she is today.
Silversquare: The leap from accessories and jewellery to interior design seems pretty big at first glance. What encouraged you to do it anyway?
SD: "It wasn't really something I had planned. Silversquare invited me. I thought it was a really fun challenge and I'm always up for trying something new. I think that jewellery and accessories are not far from objects. If you look at my jewellery, it's inspired by everyday objects that very often are also incorporated into it. As the process didn't seem very important to me, interior design was something I wanted to add to my talents. But it's a very different way of working, and it's also the longest job I've ever done. In fashion, you work for a period of six months, but this project will have taken about two years from start to finish."
What will characterise coworking in the Antwerp Tower? What is Stephanie D'heygere's approval?
SD: "The inspiration for coworking is coworking itself. It is inspired by office life with a touch of humour without being too "Ha Ha". I called it Officeland, as if it were a kind of theme park inspired by offices. With this name I want to combine the seriousness associated with an office job with the playful and surreal aspect, like Wonderland or Tomorrowland, without it being too laughable. Humour is an important aspect of my life, so it couldn't be missing here. I also see it as a village with all the different little houses because the offices are really separate cubes like the typical 80s and 90s cubicles."
"The idea is that when you walk around the coworking space, you are constantly surprised by new elements. For example, there are a lot of oversized objects, based on the idea of Claes Oldenburg. Like two gigantic desk lamps with a seat at the base that provide real light on a higher platform. There is a coffee bag that will be used as a bar and a coffee pot that is built on two floors and therefore seems to pierce the ceiling. This represents the coffee corner and the floor is painted dark brown as if you were walking through a coffee shop. There are enlarged sugar cubes around that will be used as tables."
It sounds like you are very inspired by coffee. Do you have a fascination with coffee?
SD: "I personally have a strange relationship with it, because I don't really like to drink it myself. But I drink it anyway because I like the idea of having a coffee break and for me it's also something typical in the context of work. For the offices and meeting rooms, I was also inspired by distinctive materials that often come up in office life. For example, there are desks made entirely of post-it notes, cork, blackboard or whiteboard that are ultra-functional because you can write on anything."
You work with small accessories, is that why you started magnifying small objects in coworking?
SD: "My basis is to find beauty in mundane objects. Everyday objects. A lump of sugar in itself is nothing special but its texture is very cool and if you magnify it, it stands out even more. I myself have made a ring in my jewellery collection that is an imitation of a sugar cube. If you wear that while drinking a cup of coffee or tea, you create a strange vision."
"Also, there are lights in the cork offices that represent enlarged drawing pins and scattered in the coworking chairs that are made of large staples. We also try to devote a small part to upcycling: the floors are padded with shredded and perforated paper and the tables are covered with a layer of newspaper (covered in plastic)."
"I also want to give a new life to the typical vending machines of yesteryear, but with a playful twist. In addition to the usual snacks, the vending machines will also have space for office supplies such as ballpoint pens, fluorescent pens or notebooks. The toilets will also have vending machines, but with tissues, lip balm and tampons."
Is this the first time you've designed an interior?
SD: "In the past I have designed shop installations for some clients, but they were never bigger than 5 sqm. I think this project is great fun but sometimes you realise you can't control everything. There are so many elements, guidelines and coworking budgets to consider that some design ideas just aren't feasible. This makes it a unique project for me. The idea of designing things like a lamp, table or chair is something I definitely want to do in the future."
Should we separate coworking at Silversquare from your own brand D'heygere?
SD: "Yes, it's incredibly important! It's not designed by my brand but by me. I have my brand, but apart from that I also have other projects where I work for other fashion brands. I'm not just my brand, so that's a very important nuance."
Coworking is in Antwerp. Do you have any special ties to the city?
SD: "I lived there for five years when I was studying at the Fashion Academy (Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp), so it's a city I know well. I must admit that I really wanted to leave Antwerp after school. It was my student life and I had enough of it at the time. It took me a long time to return to Antwerp, but I have to say that I realise that it is a very nice city. I'm ecstatic that this project is in Antwerp. Of all the cities in Belgium, I really think that Antwerp is the ideal place. I really like the building too, where I partied upstairs (Klub Goud). I also passed the Antwerp tower quite often at that time, when I took the train back to Kortrijk."
What do you find beautiful or special about the Antwerp Tower?
SD: "I used to think it was more special. My idea of the tower has changed. I still had the image of the windows reflecting the orange in my head. At the time, it really gave the impression of an old commercial building that you see in New York. Now you can see it's a more modern and livable building, but I'm personally a little less of a fan of the brick facade. That doesn't change the fact that it is a very imposing building in a very good location. It is also nice that the coworking area is somewhat elevated, so that the view is open and you are not overlooking the other bricks. I also think the contrast with the opera house next door is super cool."
Where do you get your inspiration from?
SD: "Often from everyday life. I look at people on the street or in the metro. Then I notice their posture and the way they wear something. I also take inspiration from art, especially Dadaism and surrealism, because I have always found humour important. I used the example of Claes Oldenburg, the artist who magnifies everything, when I presented Officeland. Officeland, whose name says it all, was inspired by the offices of the 1980s and 1990s, when corporate kitsch was in vogue. Think cubicles, standard office chairs, vending machines and coffee corners, for example."
"Plants and flowers are also a common thread in coworking, there really are a lot of them. Some offices are even specially designed with a built-in flower box as a divider. I find plants very pleasant to work with and green is a beautiful colour. Especially when you're in such an imposing building in a big city, it's nice to have some greenery around you."
The name Officeland refers to the playful aspect you mentioned earlier. On the other hand, do you want to convey that office life and working environments do not always have to be boring?
SD: "Yes, absolutely! This is a very good point and it fits well with Silversquare's DNA of being "the most exciting square meters in town". This also translates into two specific offices built like a golf course with a real hole to hit a ball through. It's also a playful nod to the cliché of businessmen going to the golf course to close a deal."