Disclaimer: This article, renovation, and other services were not sponsored by Studio H or any other brands. The renovation that we did was fully paid for by our own company, GRVTY Media Malaysia, and no costs were subsidised by any third party. This experience and review is written from our own personal experience.
About a year ago, the GRVTY Media Malaysia team was contemplating the need for an office as the pandemic’s severity subsided.
Sure, we could’ve remained WFH, but after two years of WFH, it surprised our Managing Director, Sarah, that the majority (if not all) of our company members actually wanted to return to the office to work.
Eventually, Sarah decided to make a drastic change to our space to ensure the comfort and happiness of everyone at the company.
Another joke she made that drove her to renovate was so that we could stop overcrowding her place when it came to team meetups and games, as we were slowly meeting up more in more private spaces as lockdowns eased.
An office makeover was something we’ve made offhand jokes about, especially over the pandemic, and we even built our virtual dream workplace on the work collaboration platform, Gather.town.
Even if we hadn’t planned on renovating the office, plenty of maintenance work would still have been necessary before we returned to work in person anyway.
We had plenty of partitions in the office which blocked off the natural sunlight coming in through the windows.
While we did have fluorescent lights, these hung onto outdated ceiling panels which made the space look cramped, contributing to the overall “stuffy” environment.
Another issue we had were our carpeted floors in the underutilised studio and meeting rooms, which made the spaces unsanitary.
No matter how much we vacuumed, dust and hairs were prone to getting stuck in the fibres, not to mention the musty smells the carpets absorbed.
All these problems made ideal hiding spots for pests that were difficult to get rid of.
The toilets also lacked some much-needed privacy, with too large of a cut-out between the toilet door and the ceiling.
Noticing that everyone enjoyed working together in a more open environment, we needed a better open office plan with more spaces for us to work collaboratively.
With that, she offered two options: a) Move into a brand new office space once our lease expired, or b) completely renovate the existing location.
So, the hunt began
One of the things that crossed Sarah’s mind was having the option to move to a brand new place. So, the whole team spent a day together as a fun activity, scouting for other workspaces that Sarah shortlisted around our central Subang Jaya location.
Similar to hunting for your first home, we had to distinguish between our real, practical needs against the nice-to-haves that would fit the company’s budget.
One example of a “want” we later scratched out was installing showers in our toilets (no midday shower breaks for us).
As for the actual needs, everyone appreciated the work perk of having our parking costs covered by the company. At our old office in Taipan, we conveniently have a multilevel parking space just across from us, not to mention the abundance of food options available.
These factors helped us rule out many of the properties we visited that day.
After giving much thought to it, the final decision was made by Sarah to stick to our current location, with a brand new design to solve existing issues while fitting the team’s needs.
Tearing it down
In February 2022, we returned to the office to pack up our personal belongings, and move out equipment along with other items that would be temporarily stored in our homes during the renovation.
Sarah went ahead with laying out the office’s interior design plans on The Sims 4. The intention was to help interior designers visualise her vision via a working draft, and get clearer estimates for a quotation that would fit her budget from the get-go.
With the help of the chief designer of the company, Ellie Hong, Sarah’s design was refined with practical layout advice that would fit the team’s needs.
A word from Sarah: After you have a vision and the must-haves listed out, use The Sims 4 game to create your rough design idea. It doesn’t have to be 100% to scale, your interior designer can help you fix those details later on. Just have an estimated measurement of the office space, use the grids in the game to space furnishings and plan room layouts. It’s so useful and fun!
Based on the shortcomings of our old office, our new layout needed a few must-haves:
- More collaborative spaces to work together.
- Removal of the ceiling panels and wall partitions for more sunlight to illuminate the office from end to end.
- Fewer meeting rooms since they were underutilised.
From there, everything was designed with these intentions in mind.
Renovations began on March 18, 2022, by first tearing everything down to open up the space.
We officially moved back in on April 25. Most of us who’d worked in the old office and hadn’t come by to check on the renovation process were shocked by the total makeover it went through.
Entering the door, the first thing we noticed was how much brighter and larger the space was. On top of natural sunlight, warmer-toned lighting fixtures were also installed to provide a cleaner, modern look in replacement of the fluorescent ceiling box lights.
Although we initially imagined small phone booths for us to make calls in, this idea was scrapped due to office space (but this was later replaced by a portable booth from a local startup).
We were more intentional with using our feature wall to put up things that were important to us, like our company’s core values.
It’s located to the right after entering the office. Though it’s not backed into a corner, it never once felt like it was awkwardly jutting out from the middle of the room, blocking the “flow” of the area.
So far, we’ve been enjoying this setup for our work meetings, movie sessions, gaming, and even playing soft piano and jazz in the background, emphasising the cafe-inspired atmosphere.
Past this is the video teams work island, with a door leading to our new soundproof studio. It’s where our Dyson Lightcycle Morph floor light resides for our videographers to extend their lighting creativity.
To add, we also have a Dyson Purifier Cool Formaldehyde air purifier TP09 and Dyson Pure Cool air purifier TP00 to purify the air in the office.
One purifier is moved between the video team and editorial team’s islands every now and then, while the other unit resides permanently in Rikco’s office, keeping him cool through client calls.
Head back outside to the cafe area, and you’ll find our pantry on the left of the office entrance. It houses Samsung’s BESPOKE Bottom Mount Refrigerator and Convection Microwave Oven with HotBlast™ 35L to store and make our own meals.
Walk down further and you’ll find Sarah and Rikco’s soundproof private offices. They’re furnished with large Smart Desks from Alterseat, and separated from the rest of us with glass walls to keep the overall office design feeling spacious.
Towards the other end of the office is where you’ll find the editorial team’s work island with enough desks and cabinets to store our belongings away. So far, our backs have been thanking Alterseat for its KCE-170 Ergonomic Chairs that have been comfortable to sit on for extended hours.
Electrical outlets have been added under every table we could possibly work at to reduce the cluttered look that comes from extension cables. This goes for the countertops, cafe tables, desk islands, and meeting tables.
Given the team’s unfortunate experiences with plants, none of us believed we had the chops to maintain new ones in the office.
When thinking about what kinds of plants would survive around us, we suddenly recalled that our Managing Editor, Sade, had previously cared for a few office plants that came with something called Pafcal.
Pafcal is a Japanese “soilless” soil that makes plants easy to care for and maintain for the longer term. According to her, the plants survived well with minimal intervention, and so it seemed that this was our best option.
These plants in Pafcal are sold by Midorie Malaysia, and they were kind enough to send us about a dozen easy-to-care-for houseplants.
The leafy beauties are now scattered on every island and in the corners of our office, and I’ve been in charge of ensuring they stay happy and healthy.
It’s been four months since then, and despite a few scares here and there, we’re proud to say that all of our Midorie plants are thriving.
It seems like most of the team are as happy as our new plants with the better optimised, bright open spaces our office now has.
The many different workspaces around the office also give us a change in scenery whenever we’re losing focus on our tasks.
If we can’t concentrate at our own desks, we can easily move to another spot like the cafe area or window-facing countertop, thanks to the ample plug points.
The video team’s request for a more soundproof studio has also been addressed, with better window seals and a room further away from the toilets. By the way, the toilets have better privacy too, with the stalls sealed up.
Plus, with our ceiling boards torn down and our floors stripped of carpets, we’ve eliminated our former pest problem, much to the relief of those of us with entomophobia.
Sarah likes to remind us that a big reason we were able to have this makeover was because of our hard work, and also because of the clients and brands who have supported us over the past several years.
Other than working with us via content marketing, some of them were very generous in sponsoring products to help make our office even complete too. From all of us at GRVTY Media Malaysia, we’d like to share our gratitude and appreciation to:
- Enbooth, for its portable call booth;
- Dyson, for its powerful cleaning, cooling, and lighting tools;
- Samsung, for beautiful and functional home and office appliances;
- Alterseat, for its locally made ergonomic workspace furniture;
- Midorie Malaysia, for beautiful and easy-to-care-for house plants;
- Studio H Interior Design, for using the original The Sims 4 design as a starting point in making our dream office a reality.
- Read other work-culture-related content we’ve written here.