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A Playful Tech Office that Nods to the Past

For the company Spreetail, Perkins and Will imagine a cheeky and colorful workplace set inside a 19th-century building in Austin.

Spreetail in Austin, designed by Perkins and Will
Spreetail’s Austin office fosters wellness and collaboration through color and space. The company’s signature hues—turquoise, teal, and coral—suffuse the interior and furniture, including hammocks in the atrium, a multifunctional space for work and leisure. Courtesy Perkins and Will

The James H. Robertson Building in Austin, Texas, has many past lives. Erected in 1893, the structure served as a store and an ’80s nightclub, but was mostly unused through the late 2000s. In August 2018, architecture firm Perkins and Will Austin revivified the three-story building, transforming it into an office for the online retail start-up Spreetail. Despite some challenges presented by structural remnants—including aged plumbing and built-ins from the building’s time as a bar—the narrow redbrick building now stands as a bold workplace that playfully reflects the company’s dynamic culture.

In its restoration, the structure’s characteristic Italianate facade remained largely unchanged. “We wanted to respect its historic nature while also incorporating modern colors and materials,” says Perkins and Will design director Lina Murillo. Spreetail’s signature colors accent the interior’s corrugated metal and wood pallets on all three levels, from the lounges and communal workspaces on the first floor and mezzanine to the open-plan workstations and conference rooms on the floors above. Perkins and Will even deployed shipping container–inspired furniture pieces in the skylit atrium as a cheeky nod to the start-up’s e-commerce business. According to Madelyne Meylor, a Perkins and Will designer, “Aside from making the office functional, one of the most important design factors is embodying the company’s story in the space.”

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