Recognizing workspace as not just an amortized asset but a strategic tool for growth, boutique design firm Ollie Agency Inc. aims to create environments that move people
Photo: Nicole Monich and Kelly O’Connor of Ollie Agency Inc.
KELLY O’CONNOR AND Nicole Monich are betting that London’s commercial, retail and residential tenants are ready for a bold new approach to space design. The duo founded their boutique architectural interiors firm, Ollie Agency Inc., last July and are already working with some of the city’s biggest players — including Siskinds LLP, Drewlo Holdings and Davis Martindale.
The women met when O’Connor was the interior designer for CBRE’s contemporary new headquarters in Kitchener-Waterloo. Monich worked in commercial furniture sales. “We started talking, and Kelly suggested we go into business for ourselves,” says Monich. “Things moved pretty quickly after that.”
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Both bring more than two decades of experience to their new venture. O’Connor’s resumé includes a decade living in Italy, where she worked as an interior and architectural designer in the commercial, retail and hospitality industries. “That experience gave me a different perspective on design,” she says. “I still take a very European approach, which seems to work well here.”
O’Connor later returned to school to study architecture and urban planning at the University of Toronto. “Being able to combine architecture and interior design definitely influences the design solutions we are able to offer,” she notes.
Monich’s career in interior design led her into commercial furniture sales and workplace strategy, where she developed a passion for human-centric interior design. “I’m really interested in how space influences behaviour and can foster or hinder your team,” she explains.
Monich calls their combined skills and experience “a perfect marriage,” so it’s no surprise that the upstart Ollie Agency was selected to work on the new home of Siskinds LLP.
The 60,000-square-foot office space will occupy floors 18 to 21 in one of the twin City Centre Towers, located at Wellington and Dundas streets, with the law firm on track to move in sometime this fall.
“We wanted to create a very beautiful, timeless design that will be as relevant in 20 years as it is today,” says O’Connor. “We’ve installed an interconnecting stairway between the floors, which changes the whole dynamic of the office, and we’ve included some very flexible, communal spaces. The look and feel is very, very different from anything else you’ll see in town.”
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London, the women note, is growing and ready for change. “We have a lot of people moving here from Toronto, and they are going to expect more,” O’Connor says. “I think there is a real openness to think about doing things differently.”
And while both have been working from home during the mandated shutdowns, neither believe that remote work is here to stay. “People want connection,” says Monich. “Without collaboration and a sense of belonging, what do you have?”
In the post-Covid world, she thinks businesses will take a more conscious approach to the experience they are trying to create. “And design is a huge part of that.” Nicole Laidler