By Meghan Hall
San Francisco-based Reach Capital is an education and financial services start-up that seeks to expand the reach of education through technology. Like many rapidly growing firms, establishing a presence in the heart of the action, near other like-minded companies and entrepreneurs, is key. When Reach Capital found its new digs at the top floor of a classic warehouse in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood, the company wanted to establish itself as a firm with a more mature that invested in a wide variety of educational technologies, as opposed to ones that simply catered to younger demographics.
“Comfortable, approachable and functional,” responded Khoan Duong, principal at John Lum Architecture (JLA) and the project lead for the Reach Capital office project, when asked how she would describe the company’s new office. “Reach Capital is a venture capital firm with a focus on education. They needed a welcoming space that would communicate collaboration and engagement while expressing their core values, competencies and entrepreneurial spirit.”
The 3,675 square foot office is located in the heart of San Francisco. Reach Capital was drawn to the bones of the building, and its potential to create an office that was more refined and more reflective of the numerous clients that Reach Capital serves. Today, some of the firms that Reach Capital works with includes: Future Fuel, a student loan payment management service, CollegeBacker, which makes it easier for users to invest tax-free for college, Better Lesson, a start-up that features instructional training for educators and HandShake, a career network for college students.
“Reach Capital’s former space was too ‘elementary school’ and did not represent the exten of their clients,’ explained Duong. “. This is an unusual VC firm as their focus is educational startups and ventures. Hence, it was important to speak to all types of education versus just primary education.”
The office’s shell still boasted generous windows and skylights, and so the project team set to work creating a cohesive design that honored the architectural integrity of the building’s shell while catering to Reach Capital’s current and future clientele. Reach Capital and JLA sought to expose the wood beam ceilings and concrete walls and wanted to keep the office as naturally lit as possible.
“It was really important for the office to be kept as naturally lit as possible, which dictated the use of glassslidingdoors for the conference rooms and designing wall partitions with clerestory windows,” said Duong. “It was also important to address noise pollution. While the six partners are accustomed to working together in a large office, sharing a work table, they asked for some flexibility around having acoustic privacy, when needed. As a result, we also added the aluminum, 3-panel, glass sliding door system to the partners’ work room.”
The office features an open floor plan, with conference and huddle rooms arranged along the perimeter. The sliding glass doors, in addition to allowing for light to filter through the office, help to frame out the space and offset its natural character. Perimeter rooms are also subdivided by clerestory-windowed walls, creating spaces of various sizes to fit clients’ needs.
“We love how natural light permeates all the spaces. Both the private and collaborative spaces have direct access to daylight,” Duong added.
However, Reach Capital also wanted their office to have an air of whimsy with a bright, modern color palette and furniture. A chalkboard-like mural wall, complete with formulas and science imagery, is the focal point of the reception area. The office itself features brightly-colored benching workstations in blues and oranges that are complemented by ancillary furniture and neutral paint colors in shades of muted grays and additional tones of blue. Tables on castors and mobile task chairs were also added so that Reach Capital can redefine their space as needed.
“We always try to add an element of play into our projects — a personal touch that makes the space uniquely the clients,” said Duong. “In this case, we created a playful accent wall that speaks to research and the sciences, alluding to the broad clientele Reach Capital services.”
The design process from start to finish, which included construction, design and furniture selection, took approximately four months. As with many tenant improvement projects in San Francisco, Duong noted that both time and budget were challenges.
“Coordinating install schedules were made more effective with open communication with everyone on the project team,” state Duong. “Leading up to the move-in date, we scheduled meetings with subcontractors, reviewing timelines and logistics, to ensure a successful set-up. Simple techniques like wall paint and wall paper, and exploratory sourcing of furniture, helped achieve the client’s budget goals.”