Better Workplaces - The General Store's hospo-inspired office

Ashley Regan
By Ashley Regan | 30 October 2023
The General Store entrance

Employee preferences for WFH means workplaces need to utilise office spaces as a tool to connect with staff. In Better Workplaces, AdNews looks at how agencies use office design to entice staff to come in and create a company culture worth staying for.

Part creative studio, part production lab and chill-out zone, creative agency The General Store’s office is a hopso-inspired place where people come together – to be inspired, educated and entertained. 

Taking over a 100-year-old Surry Hills building covered in painted flowers, the building started life as a fashion manufacturing warehouse and actually caught on fire in the 1980s (you can still see the section where the floorboards were replaced) and when the agency moved in, it was an old solicitor’s office that had been around for about 40 years.


Office exterior.

Now the interior is inspired by a local cafe with dining tables and kitchen benches as staff desks - embracing a more human and less corporate approach.

“Our view is that offices now need to compete for patronage. And who does that best? The hospo industry,” Matt Newell, partner and CEO of The General Store, told AdNews.

“We understood that one reason people want to leave their homes is to socialise and collaborate. 

“So we designed our office from scratch, and rather than using traditional workplace design, we employed hospitality techniques.”

overview of kitchen area

Overview of the main communal area.

To create a space that people actually want to be in, 75% of the office is bar and cafe seating with loads of collaboration zones. 

Only about 25% of the space is conventional desk seating (boring but necessary) says Newell.

Designed wholly by 20 architects and interior designers that make up the agency itself, the office is designed for their people by their people.

Casual staff seating

Casual staff seating.

“We’re a multidisciplinary creative agency with our own team of architects and interior designers. So of course, it made sense for us to design our Surry Hills office ourselves from scratch. It took us about six months from start to finish,” Newell said.

“We often get locals popping their heads in, thinking we’re a new bar that’s opened up – so we definitely nailed the hospo vibes.”

From bistro-style seating and banquettes perfect for casual catch-ups or solo work, the office studio is split into several zones to cater for the various ways that the multidisciplinary team works.

 casual seating details 

“When you walk into our office, you may see a handful of people working with their laptops at the open bar or one of our freelancers working at a bistro table,” Newell said.

Whether staff prefer to work solo or collaboratively, if they’re chatting with a teammate or they’re presenting to a client in the boardroom, this office has a perfect spot for every occasion.

bar details

The main hub of the office is the seven-metre bar with a tree growing out of it, a great spot for informal meetings, celebrations, lunches and dancing. 

The bar hosts a range of drinks on tap and has been engineered to hold up to 20 people dancing on it - the office also doubles as an event space which has hosted up to 100 people.

dinning table =

In front of the bar, is a dining table where the team can hold meetings or share lunch together, for more private meetings there is a option to be curtained off. 

decor and couch

The lounge area is ideal for brainstorming sessions and our monthly family gatherings. 

board meeting room

There are also various-sized meeting rooms from boardrooms for formal client presentations or smaller spaces for casual conversations. 

staff desks at the back and more casual seating

The ‘deep work area’ is the more traditional staff desk area where everyone has their own seat, but largely the agency encourages people to sit wherever they like, depending on what they’re working on and what mood they’re in. 

Each of the agency departments have been given a ‘home’ where they can collaborate. 

The architecture and interiors teams are often found in the materials library, while the advertising and design team often use the production suite as a home base.

The materials library is where the architecture and interiors team can work alone or together, whether it’s rendering the latest retail project or checking out samples. 

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