Employees and visitors alike can feel quite literally at home at Realtor.com’s new headquarters in Santa Clara with its welcoming hearth-centered lobby, lounge-inspired conference room and many other cozy features.
Sometimes, it can get too comfy. “If you sit in the bean bag, you can’t get up,” employee Ani Sarkar said during a team meeting in the conference room with the cushy seat.[contextly_sidebar id=”hVRgtmiuIyID3oNXY1YMk5Cb8zr0aW4k”]That relaxed, warm vibe is exactly what Realtor.com was looking for in its new digs designed by global architecture firm Gensler. The 52,000-square-foot office at 3315 Scott Blvd. integrates homely elements as well as innovative design touches throughout both large, open areas and smaller, more-private spaces.
The design seeks to meld employees with the mindset of their house-hunting and -selling clients, foster teamwork throughout the office and serve as a constant reminder of the company’s mission of providing people the tools and expertise to help complete their residential transaction.
“It’s not just a workplace but something more than that,” Gensler design team job captain Roberto Vega Peralta said during a recent office tour.
“It’s really connecting the product to employees,” design team member Marissa Everling added.
Since the company is all “about the home,” CEO Ryan O’Hara said, “we wanted a facility that brought that to life.”
The interior-design project started last August, and Realtor.com moved from San Jose into the Santa Clara office this March.
San Jose-based general contractor McLarney Construction, San Jose-based electrical contractor Mid-State Electric, Santa Cruz-based millworker Elements Manufacturing and San Carlos-based furniture provider Inside Source also worked on the project.
The office is spread over the second and third floors in one of the three, four-story Class A buildings of the newly completed The Campus development by Palo Alto-based developer Menlo Equities.
“It’s very open,” Sarkar said. “It gives you a more collaborative environment. It makes you work as a team.”
Among the many inviting open areas is the “Porch” room, where a giant screen projects different panoramic scenes as viewed out from the front of someone’s home. Elsewhere, the “Playroom” is tailor-made for large, productive gatherings with its multiple information-laden flat screens, amphitheater-type seating and writeable walls. In addition, the training room has a moveable wall to allow for increased space if needed.
The break room, resembling a large home kitchen with its long dining table and various pantries, is the main social hub of the office but can serve as another large and comfortable collaborative space.
The office also offers various options for teaming up in smaller groups or working individually such as the lounge room and phone-booth-like nooks.
A balance between open and more-independent spaces reflects a shift in thinking about today’s workplace in general.
“We thought for a while that the open office was the solution,” Vega Peralta said, “but there was an obvious whiplash where no one could get work done” because of loud conversations and other distractions floating from the open areas.
“We took that into account,” he said.
Further reinforcing the house motif is the use of traditional building materials such as subway tiles and shingles. Also, the top part of some rooms is angled, reflecting a gabled roof of a house, although Vega Peralta noted that manipulating volumes proved a structural challenge needing “creative solutions.”
Like many other technology offices, the Realtor.com headquarters has beams and pipes exposed above to add to the sense of openness and floor-to-ceiling windows to bring in plenty of natural light.
The design also incorporates the company’s brand colors of red, white and black on the walls, furniture and carpets.
Not only is the office-as-a-home design appealing to current workers, it can attract prospective employees. “When you bring people here, it also becomes a recruiting tool,” O’Hara said.