As soon as you step inside Sam’s home office on Leather Lane in Farringdon, London, there are surfaces you want to touch; they create a tangible connection to the space – from the glazed ceramic door plates and smooth tiled work surfaces to the textured stair rails. “I wanted it to be a multi-sensory experience,” Frith says, as we sit down for coffee to discuss the merging of work and home – and how blurring these lines creates advantages in both environments.
Firstly, tell us a little about what you do.
I’ve been at Pentagon for two and a half years. Pentagon has been a very successful tile distributor across the country for just over 40 years, with a vast, eclectic range of clients. We’ve formed a studio space with our materials to show how they can be finished. Often you don’t see that in showrooms, you see a little square in all the different colors and we’re trying to get away from that. I’d rather show one colour that’s detailed beautifully.
We have a very soft, slow process for generating our products – it’s much more intimate and focused on our relationships; we invite people over for dinner or for drinks and it’s very casual in that respect. In contrast, the work we do is also very detailed and quite demanding from a focus point of view – working from home allows me the freedom to do both. This mesh of relationships in a non-traditional work space is key to what we do, and it’s fascinating.
Why is a home office an important extension for the type of work you do?
The home is actually moving into the workplace and vice versa. Everything is merging a bit more. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to say where is work and where is home. I’ve found clients we’ve worked with end up coming to our homes for drinks or dinner. It’s less easy to define where the two places divide. I think technology has made it very difficult not to work, but maybe what we’re trying to do here is to make ‘work’ less of a bad word.
When do you work from home and what type of setting works best for you?
We work out in the field a lot, visiting clients in their offices, and we have our own offices as well – but we also need time and space to gather our thoughts, before and after those meetings. There’s a lot of preparation that goes into them, so the home office is the perfect place to do that, it’s a quiet, focused space.
Tell us about the sensory experience at home and how that affects your work.
The sensory experience is really important: the temperature of the room, the sounds around me and particularly the lighting. If I’m working on a visual project with tangible objects, colours, and textures then natural light is vital. Light is seen by many of my clients as a material – I’m influenced by this and try to ensure the space isn’t too bright but at the same time I don’t want the environment to be too sheltered from it either. I don’t always get it right, but I notice the difference when I don’t!
Is the kitchen an important area for you when working from home?
Our kitchen is very open plan so it’s easy to use it as an office as well as a kitchen. It’s multifunctional, I would say it’s a gathering space. The word kitchen is almost redundant. It’s a place where people communicate, come up with ideas – and they happen to eat there as well.
And is there a temptation to update your own home as you discover new materials? Or should they withstand changing trends?
I prefer to select materials for my home that are simple and timeless, because I have an inner fear of losing interest in specific products that have emerged from a trend-related design process. I like working with architects who place an importance on selecting materials with authenticity. People react to materials – effectively it’s just cement and marble, but these guys get very excited by real materials, materials that have some integrity. Porcelain is made from clay that is dug from the ground and then pressed and fired in a kiln. It’s an earthy material, and we make our products from what is beneath our feet.
How does technology play a part in your office at home?
The way technology has developed means we have the luxury of being able to respond from anywhere. I’m not always sat behind a desk, on the laptop planning or scribbling notes with paperwork all around me, it’s all a bit more seamless and intuitive.
What do you miss when working from home and, in turn, what do you gain?
Our work is very sociable and sometimes working from home can feel quite insular. If I spend too much time working from home then I feel the need to get outside and speak to people in the real world! Likewise, if I spend too much time socialising, I need to carve out time to focus.
I think that’s increasingly what work is about, that balance of the tasks where you need a lot of space around you and the tasks that involve networking and collaborating. Collaboration is a big part of what we do, so we often invite clients into our home life, to collaborate with us and better understand who we are. This makes our projects far richer and much more interesting.
Simon Astridge, a client and friend of yours has just dropped in for lunch. Tell us about the importance of these working relationships.
Simon is an inspiring person who has introduced me to so many people and ideas that have affected my life in a positive way. We have an unusual relationship in that not only am I his client, he’s also mine. While at the same time we’re friends and socialise outside of work. One of the best moments I’ve had in my life was a trip to Milan with Simon and his team to experience Christo’s Floating Piers. A testament to the moment and the importance we should all place on it.
This, I suppose, highlights the conversation we’re having about the expanding parameters of the office and the home.
Thank you Sam, for showing us how you balance work, life and friendship within the same space. Sam Frith is the creative director of Pentagon Tiles, based in London. Pentagon provide designer tiles that promote interaction with spaces, by developing intimate relationships with their clients.
Our understanding of spaces is rapidly changing with the advance of technology – the rapid pace of communication the internet allows, can turn our bedrooms into boardrooms. In this joint interview series, Siemens Home and Freunde von Freunden are exploring the phenomena of creatives who use their kitchens as studios, to find out how they balance living and working within the same space.
Text: Andie Cusick
Photography: Dunja Opalko
Protagonist + City
Sam Frith, Creative Director
Pentagon Architectural and Designer Tiles
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