Sanlam Indie office make-over

As an ex-corporate world dweller (yes, that was my previous life) nothing gave me more joy than re-doing this beast of a space. Added to this joy was the luck of working with a client that was open minded and happy to renovate the space they had inherited, as in like – completely. They call themselves a not-so-normal financial services company and with slogans like “part giant, part giant-slayer” I knew we were a good match from the start.

Sanlam Indie’s brief to me was to eradicate all vestiges of the old corporate environment and to create an office that reflected who they are as a company. There was to be no enclosed spaces, so everyone can see into every other room. Transparency, tick.  They were also specific about no ‘demarcated’ areas like “marketing sits here, and finance over there”. The space needed to be a free flow of ideas and people. They only have dedicated office days on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and teams work remotely every other day, so as you can see they’re all about doing things differently. And if you’re in the market for quality life insurance that you can buy online (with some other really rad benefits) check them out here

Pics by Cindy Taylor

THE COMMUNAL WORKING AREA  – Before and during renovation

The low ceiling and bright overhead lights created quite an oppressive atmosphere. And everything from the walls to the floors was in a different shade of grey!  We started by taking down the ceiling and exposing the concrete above. Lifted a thousand grey carpet tiles and scraped off the glue. Tore down the divisions of mall Dilbert-style cubicles and opened everything up.

COMMUNAL WORKING AREA – after renovation

The sofas and armchairs are super comfortable, well made and affordable – from Basis furniture. The scatters were bought on sale at Hertex and ceiling pendant from Eagle Lighting. From a design perspective I wasn’t too keen on the the edison bulb look, but from a budget perspective this light was an affordable way to create a cosier atmosphere in the lounge. Jute rug  and black side table from Weylandts.

You’ll start noticing that there’s a lot of greenery. We started this project in the midst of the water restrictions and when it was time for the ‘decor’ phase we were at full scale restrictions. It was a real challenge to soften such a large space without any greenery so we decided to use fake plants. Not my normal go-to, but it meant no water usage and the added benefit of looking green all year round.

THE KITCHEN – Before and during renovation (so much grey!)


Whenever I visit the space I get a real sense of teams passionately working on some exciting project. They have grown from approx 8 people this time last year to about 4o at the moment. Developing talent is a challenge that’s new to them, but as Shawn Roos explains “what we’ve found to be true so far is that the most talented people are normally driving their own growth, we just enable them and get out of the way”.

One of the Indie values is “spending what needs to be spent, and no more”. Which means that everything we bought and sourced had to be good value for money and work hard to make the space more than the sum of it’s parts. The furniture is an affordable birch ply range made by Multiply.

A lush green planter box above the kitchen table, which will never need a drop of water. The lighting is hand-held search lights which I bought for a song from a hardware shop in Rugby. Custom installation by our brilliant Tiervlei electricians who were a dream to work with.


 OPEN PLAN WORK SPACE – before and during renovation. Lifting the tiled carpets and glue exposed a cement floor. We were excited to do a polished cement floor, but different composites of cement meant the sealant did not absorb evenly into the floor. It was the biggest hick up of the project, and meant the contractor had to grind the sealant off the entire space and re-do. The end result is not perfect, but works within the industrial look of the space. 

The wall paper below was cleverly printed as a solid sheet without panels by Artlab. The visual is from the Indie advertising campaign.

The before-shot below symbolises corporate hell to me…

We designed and installed two custom rope walls to break up the space but still maintain the feeling of transparency. The frames were built off-site and once installed, the weavers worked their magic.

And below is Mr Foley, the only real plant. The planter is from Weylandts.

BOARDROOM AND HUDDLE OFFICES – during and after renovation

We used hexagonal acoustic ceiling tiles to diffuse noise. The boardroom lights are the same hand-held search lights we used in the kitchen.  Custom installation by our brilliant Tiervlei electricians

Another request from the Indie team was to have standing desks where teams could stand and have meetings – thinking on their feet and not always having to sit down!

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