Designing workplaces: An Irish man in New York

Furniture designer Ciaran McGuigan has upped the ante on co-working the Malin

Electric blue velvet sofa in the Malin shared working space. Photograph: Thomas Loof

Electric blue velvet sofa in the Malin shared working space. Photograph: Thomas Loof

 

Co-working for people who want to avoid long commutes to the office has become a fast-growing industry in Ireland and internationally spurred on by the Covid-19 pandemic. It offers members a social space and respite from working at home without losing any of its creature comforts. And now Irish furniture designer Ciaran McGuigan, based in New York, has upped the ante on co-working empires such as WeWork with the opening last month of the Malin, a super stylish, luxury space in Soho, Manhattan.

“We are thinking smaller but with bigger impact where overall design and craftsmanship can speak for itself,” he says.

In a lovely third floor loft with high ceilings, large windows and spacious working areas, the Malin’s striking interiors feature solid oak doors, Eames Soft Pad office chairs, leather-wrapped furniture, marble countertops, vintage furnishings, a custom-designed app and an executive assistant service.

Malin entrance on the third floor: solid oak doors, rug by Katie Ann McGuigan, Pop chair by Orior. Entrance desk upholstered in Pierre Frey fabric. Photograph: Thomas Loof
Malin entrance on the third floor: solid oak doors, rug by Katie Ann McGuigan, Pop chair by Orior. Entrance desk upholstered in Pierre Frey fabric. Photograph: Thomas Loof
Malin entrance on the third floor: solid oak doors, rug by Katie Ann McGuigan, Pop chair by Orior. Photograph: Thomas Loof
Malin entrance on the third floor: solid oak doors, rug by Katie Ann McGuigan, Pop chair by Orior. Photograph: Thomas Loof

“Everything we have created has work focus in mind. Co-working is on track to be about 25 per cent of commercial real estate in the next decade, so ultimately it is a very fast-moving market. Having been hunkered down for so long during Covid, I was thinking about how we could create an elevated space, neither minimal nor over-designed, that will inspire people and help them produce their best work,” says McGuigan.

It is easy to see how such a space might appeal to design-conscious consumers. There are meeting rooms, phone booths, Zoom rooms and a communal area he likens to that in the New York Public Library – quiet and comfortable.

Dedicated desk area – recycled crystal screens, vintage red lamps, solid oak desks with Herman Mill executive Eames chairs. Photograph: Thomas Loof
Dedicated desk area – recycled crystal screens, vintage red lamps, solid oak desks with Herman Mill executive Eames chairs. Photograph: Thomas Loof

“We are really facilitating a new work culture with flexible options for work, so we are here to meet that need and keep productivity going,” he says. Since the Malin’s opening, 70 per cent of spaces have been sold, its customers a diverse mix of architects, incubating brands, freelance graphic designers, lawyers and journalists. Its success has exceeded expectations.

Stylish and inviting

Co-founded with Charlie Robinson, a former senior vice-president of Australian multinational Servcorp which pioneered co-working spaces, the Malin is stylish, bright and modern, but also warm and inviting, a space of 8,700sq ft and outfitted with 38 desks, private offices, video booths, a library and a barista kitchen. There is also a curated art collection.

Every detail in this “elevated luxury space” has been carefully considered and unlike other bigger corporate workspaces that operate from 30,000sq ft upwards to make a profit offering yoga, food and beverages, McGuigan’s business model from 8,000-15,000sq ft strips out these services for a smaller but more aesthetically pleasing space “to promote different modes of working” without losing key amenities. There is, for instance, a weekly dry-cleaning service, the handling of packages and post as well as specialised access to local businesses and services. The Malin has also partnered with nearby hotels.

The interiors designed by Jean Morana and Jordan Trinci-Lyne, in collaboration with London-based transatlantic design studio Fettle Design, include custom-made pieces from Orior, McGuigan’s family-run furniture brand based in Newry, as well as high-end furnishings from local New York galleries Matter and The Future Perfect, along with Pierre Frey fabrics that adorn chairs and the reception desk at the entrance. A wide range of Calico Wallpaper serves as backdrops in each soundproofed video conferencing and Zoom space.

The Malin’s Zoom room with calico wallpaper and Arne Jacobsen vintage light. Photograph: Thomas Loof
The Malin’s Zoom room with calico wallpaper and Arne Jacobsen vintage light. Photograph: Thomas Loof

McGuigan is proud of the fact that much of the furniture, such as the Pop chairs by Orior, has been made in Ireland; the striking red and white floor rugs are by his sister, fashion designer Katie Ann McGuigan, the solid oak doors (a strong feature of the interior design) were made in New Ross by National Gates & Joinery and coasters, coffee tables and divider screens for desks were made in Cork by sculptor Eoin Turner from recycled crystal. Other items, including a vintage table and Arne Jacobsen lights, were sourced from Killian McNulty of Mid-Century Online in Dublin.

Partnership

Key to this venture was the partnership between the Malin and the landlord and the careful choice of the right neighbourhood.

“The landlord provided the space, so we don’t pay rent, we provide the members and the operation of the space and all we need to have for a profitable business is 250 members,” he explains. At the end of each month, profits are shared equally between the Malin and the landlord.

The Malin’s signature concentration on high design without losing focus on work as the centre of the experience has made it a talking point in New York circles and McGuigan now plans to “have multiple Malins in multiple cities bringing it nearer to people’s homes in the right neighbourhoods”, starting with Brooklyn or Tribeca in New York and then London. Nothing if not ambitious, he reckons he will have a Malin in Dublin within the next two to three years.

The Malin’s Mercer library room is stylish, bright and modern, but also warm and inviting. Photograph: Thomas Loof
The Malin’s Mercer library room is stylish, bright and modern, but also warm and inviting. Photograph: Thomas Loof
Meeting room with Travertine marble table to seat six with a TV unit on the wall. Photograph: Thomas Loof
Meeting room with Travertine marble table to seat six with a TV unit on the wall. Photograph: Thomas Loof

The 31-year-old former professional footballer from Newry and arts graduate from the Savannah College of Art & Design,  took over the family furniture business in Newry, which had been founded by his parents Brian & Rosemary. In 2019, he opened a furniture shop and gallery in Tribeca, an area of Manhattan known for design, showcasing new and reworked items from the firm’s archives all custom made in Ireland.

His sense of colour, immediately evident there in items such as a red console table, electric blue velvet sofa and a green suede credenza, is also apparent in the Malin. Its colours were chosen to evoke a feeling of comfort and ease and fabrics consist of dark mohair paired with bold patterns while bright hues in custom furniture and décor “energise the spirit, encouraging bright ideas”. Every decision was made, he says, to make the space as efficient and enjoyable as possible. “I firmly believe in doing something simple but well.”

The Malin, on Mercer Street, has 296 memberships with prices starting at a $50 (€44) daily rate, access membership $550 (€484) per month, dedicated desk membership $750 (€660) per month, and private office membership available on request.

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