The Canadian Aesthetic: Fun and High-Performing

Grace Tatigian

When chatting with Nick Kazakoff, president of Onetwosix Design Inc, I wanted to get into the concept for the design behind their successful line of Loop Phone Booths. With a background in industrial design, he was happy to oblige. 

“Not a lot of manufacturers are owned and operated by two designers,” he says, referring to his cofounder Brendan Gallagher. “That gives us a lot of control over the design and materials of our products. We can prioritize what we think is important.”

And what is important to them? Two of the main things were sustainability and quality of materials, which go hand-in-hand. Approximately nine million tons of office furniture end up in landfills every year, and so Onetwosix wants to make something that lasts in their local Edmonton-based, full-scale manufacturing centre.

A big part of this is choosing high-quality building materials. The most popular wood for their booths is white oak, but cherry, maple, and walnut are also options. They come in hardwood, but there are also plywood options with laminate exteriors. These materials are essential not only for their quality but also for the sense of warmth they evoke. 

“We want to create products that elevate the human experience,” says Kazakoff. “We’re driven by function, but also aesthetic design. We take a lot of inspiration from mid-century modern furniture.”

The result are pieces many describe as Scandinavian-inspired with their northern flair and bright colours.

“I prefer to think of it as Canadian design,” said Kazakoff. “It’s fun, not too serious, but it still looks great and performs well.”

In terms of performance, one thing in particular I wanted to discuss was the acoustic design. Having spent a good chunk of time in coworking spaces and having seen my fair share of phone booths that were cute but ineffective, I wanted to know how they’d taken that aspect into the design concept.

“There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to acoustics,” explains Kazakoff. “A lot of people focus on [Federal Trade Commission] ratings when they should be looking at [Noise Isolation Class] tests, which tests the whole room.”

Onetwosix takes great pride in its design and craftsmanship, which is why they focus on the details.

“Sound is tricky, it’s always going to take the path of least resistance, so you have to stop it,” explains Kazakoff. That’s why Onetwosix’s phone booths have gasket door seals and acoustic sound baffles in the ventilation so the booth can have good acoustics without being stuffy.

“Another thing our phone booths take into account is how they can impact the acoustics outside of the booth itself, but within the office space,” says Kazakoff. Coworking spaces are notoriously loud and echo-prone, so this struck me as a brilliant idea. “Some of our newer booths can act as sound-absorbing furniture pieces to improve the acoustics in the office.”

They also want their pieces to be staples for their customers and continue to be essential as they change and grow.

“You can move the phone booth around the office; they’re very task-based,” says Kazakoff. “Maybe at the start of your business, you need it in one area, but as another department grows, maybe you need to move it. You can also disassemble it in case the office relocates. Recently, we had a call from a company that bought three in 2016. They called to say they were moving to a bigger space and taking our booths with them because they were still in great shape. Plus, they wanted to order a few more for where their company is at now.”

Needless to say, companies have changed a lot over the last year. 

“I’m not going to lie, 2020 was a tough year to be an office furniture manufacturer,” laughs Kazakoff. But Onetwosix came out on the other side of it because of their optimistic perspective. “This is a golden age of opportunity. Innovation comes from a paradigm shift.”

Kazakoff definitely sees a place for their product in the post-pandemic, office-space landscape. Gone are the days of everyone grabbing their notebooks from their cubicles and heading to the boardroom for a meeting. Now, with people working from home, the office, or wherever they can, Zoom is the new boardroom.

“There’s going to be a bigger strain on quiet spaces and virtual calls,” he argues. “There’s a shift in mindset in how we work, so we need options suited to hybrid work environments.”

We’ve all had to rethink how we work and where we work in the last year, but Onetwosix is there to offer physical solutions for post-pandemic workspaces.

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