By Meghan Hall
Battery Ventures, a global technology-focused investment firm, has been in business since the 1980s and has since expanded from its Boston headquarters to San Francisco, Israel and London. The firm moved into its newest San Francisco office in 2018, taking the seventh floor penthouse of a South of Market building and turning it into a refined space to accommodate the firm’s wide ranging clientele. However, Battery Ventures quickly outgrew its space and recently seized upon the opportunity to expand by taking the floor below them. In designing the expansion, Battery Ventures wanted to emphasize one point: they are anything but a traditional venture capital firm.
“What is different about this space is that it is not the main reception area, and so Battery Ventures wanted continuity in design, but they also realized that the ones coming down to the space would be more staff,” explained John Lum, founding principal of John Lum Architecture, the firm who designed not just the sixth floor space, but the original seventh floor penthouse. “The space originally was just a very bland tenant improvement project, and so [the firm] really wanted the space to talk about being South of Market.”
The goal was to produce a more raw, casual design—one that would not normally do, especially with a venture capital firm.
“The challenge was to design a financial office that didn’t feel stuffy and still conveyed authority. It also had to function for the staff’s daily needs,” said Khoan Duong, principal at JLA in a statement. “Our approach was to convert the finished space into a vibrant, agile working environment that references their existing suite above, but with a unique twist”.
The entrance to the sixth floor strives to capture the character of SoMa: industrial and relaxed, but modern. In the front entryway, the project team elected to leave the raw concrete and exposed the steel and fireproofing.
“SoMa was a previous industrial area, so there was a lot more usage of steel and concrete,” said Lum. “Most of the spaces in SoMa were converted warehouses and so they have an edgier feel, less refined, less polished is what I would say.”
The 4,370 square foot space features polished concrete floors instead of the terrazzo used upstairs and walnut screen accents throughout. JLA and Battery Ventures worked to organize the space into two sections: an open gathering space and a more private, residential-scaled office zone. Upstairs, the firm turned its existing offices into conference rooms and relocated private offices to the floor below.
The social area, which includes a kitchen and food center is highlighted with serrated cerulean oval cladding. Crimson bar chairs and a slatted wood ceiling act as additional accents within the space, while an additional nook acts as a flex space intended to foster collaboration. Seating clusters, communal tables and a variety of desking options for mobile workers.
“In respect to this space, we liked to work in simple forms and geometries,” Lum added of the social space. “We wanted something sculptural that would contrast with the walnut.”
The private office portion of the floor is more subdued, with gold carpet, white walls and wood accents. A brass colored entry portal creates a sight line to the reception, while more walnut screens allow for daylight to penetrate to the interior of the space, as opposed to traditionally used—and somewhat standard—tempered glass. Large, white sculptural boxes provide interest along the hall leading to the offices, and can be filled with knick-knacks and personal items contributed by employees. Furniture is mid-century in style, giving the office a balance between “hip and traditional.”
In a funky and unique display of personality, the bathrooms are accents themselves and a mix of hot pink and brown or blue and brown tiles—inspired by Chelsea Stoner, Battery Ventures’ only female General Partner. According to Lum, the bathroom tile colors are inspired by suits Stoner would wear to work.
“Chelsea is unusual, especially in this profession, as a female partner,” said Lum. “She really just wanted something different; she really wanted [the space] to not be like a normal office.”
In all, the construction of the space took about five and a half months. Both JLA and Battery Ventures are confident that the new expansion will continue to serve the firm well as it continues to grow and will provide the flexibility to work with clients of all industries and sizes, from entrepreneurs to blue chips.