Where is it: 601, 5920 1A St. S.W.
Office size: 1,667-square-feet
Number of staff: Six, plus Nyla Free’s French bulldog Lola.
Nyla Free first launched her interior design company, Nyla Free Designs, more than 17 years ago. Back then, it was a one-woman operation based out of a home office. Countless projects later, the company has grown significantly and the now six-person strong team recently graduated from its first team office in Currie Barracks to a beautiful new workspace in Calgary’s Manchester industrial area.
After a months-long search, Free discovered this current office space through a friend, who was temporarily leasing it for their own company at the time. It offered many of the things the team was looking for: more space in a central location, lots of natural light, room for a kitchen and storage, open areas for collaboration and more.
Nyla Free Designs took over the space in late 2017 and spent the next year making it their own. The final result features a neutral colour palette peppered with pops of colour, giving the office a comfortable yet professional vibe. The space balances workplace functionality with stylish finishes and furniture you could easily imagine in your own home.
“I want people to come in here and just have a great feeling,” Free says. “I want them to feel comfortable, feel excited about working with us [and] see what we’ve done here … [as] a representation of what we have to offer.”
Take a Look Inside Nyla Free Designs’ Office
This vintage dresser with hairpin legs is from local vintage shop Bex Vintage. Free originally bought it for a client, but when it didn’t end up working in that space, she hung onto the piece. Now, it’s the first thing guests see when they walk into the office entryway.
Free and office manager Ana Pena both have their own private offices, and this one belongs to Pena. Most of the walls in the company office are white, but they decided to add some colour with emerald green walls in this space. It’s also where you’re likely to find Free’s French bulldog, Lola. “[Ana’s] guest chairs double as Lola’s daily hang out [spot],” Free says.
The rest of the team works in this open desk area. Free’s former office desk in the middle acts as a work table where the team can spread out or collaborate.
The desks have a black cork backsplash where the team can post design inspiration and notes.
This open workspace is used for client meetings, big projects, product knowledge sessions and more. The closets along the wall hold a sample library of materials like fabric and tiles. Free says the closet doors, which they painted black, “get a ton of attention.”
“We did want a light, bright, airy office, but at the same time, I didn’t want people to feel like it was sterile at all,” Free says. “I think black is one of those colours that people wear all the time, it’s classic. But working it into interiors, I feel like there’s always a little bit of second guessing because of the depth and strength of it. So I think it’s nice to be able to show that in a space like this.”
Free’s office features lots of pops of yellow, which is the company’s brand colour. The encased figurine on her desk — a collaboration between Kidrobot, artist Huck Gee and fashion designer Marc Jacobs — was a gift she got for her husband years ago in New York.
Free bought this credenza from a client who was having their living room redone. The blue typewriter belonged to Free’s grandfather, who used it to type prescriptions when he was a pharmacist in Lethbridge.
The seating area across from Free’s desk features a gallery wall of artwork. But one of the pieces (bottom row, second from the right) is particularly special to Free. “This is the electrical plan that I did by hand when I moved into the Currie Barracks office, because I needed to submit that to the landlord for approval,” Free says. “When we were cleaning out the office and moving, the girls found this sketch and they framed it for me and gave it to me as a gift when we moved into this office. So it’s super special.”
Free knew early on that she wanted an oval Saarinen table with a tulip base for the boardroom, and saved up buy it for the office. The white wall on the left features magnetic wallpaper, which makes it easy to put things like swatches and presentation materials up for viewing.