Twin brothers Matthew and Terry Squadrito formed Squad Ink in 2008 with a vision to build timeless food, beverage and lifestyle brands that are founded on open collaboration, enduring client relationships, and design innovation.
After 10 years in the business, they felt it was time for an HQ expansion and update, as did Matthew’s wife, the incredible Juliette Arent of acclaimed interiors firm Arent & Pyke. By late last year, the transformation was complete!
‘Lighting, circulation, spatial interrelation and flow, natural rather than man-made materials, colour, plant life and the presence of beauty were all as considered here as they would be for a home,’ details Juliette. ‘The latter — beauty — is best represented by the Nimrod-hued bar topped in Esmerelda Verde marble, backed by terracotta-hued tadelakt; the Gubi Beetle settee in emerald velvet and its surrounding cluster of top-tier furniture pieces and custom shelf displays that showcase their impressive portfolio of products.’
Matthew takes us on a virtual visit to see more…
Now that we’ve cottoned-on to your design studio’s name origins, can you tell us a little bit more about Squad Ink?
Terry and I have always had a love affair with food and its profound effect on people, particularly in a cultural context. Our parents are Sicilian immigrants and our father was a fruit-and-veg providore. The ritual of sharing a meal that is prepared with love and incredible produce has always stuck with us. We found the story of food to be fascinating. There was so much to talk about and design became that conduit to start the conversation.
From our humble origins as graphic designers, we’ve enjoyed the rewards that growth brings. Ten years on and we’re a squad of specialised talent that shapes products and venues into progressive and sought-after brands. We’re brand curators, designers, writers, illustrators, and technical producers. We look at the bigger picture, so to speak and build brands from the ground up and execute across packaging, venue, and digital experiences and content-led marketing.
We’ve been incredibly fortunate to have worked alongside some inspiring people over the years, shaping brands like Archie Rose Distilling Co., The Grounds of Alexandria and Felons Brewing Co.
It comes as no surprise that your own space looks this good! Can you take us through your newly extended and renovated HQ?
My brother and I bought our office around five years ago but it was only half the size of what it is now. Ten years on, we had evolved as a studio and we needed to acknowledge our coming of age, a space that would become the ultimate portrayal of our brand personality and cultural values.
My wife Juliette really has a way of ‘framing the dream’ so to speak. We loved Potts Point and our view into the garden but the office lacked warmth and sophistication. It just wasn’t us. I remember Juliette saying to me, “Matthew, I think you should take the office next door and knock the wall down, yep that’s what you should do… shake the daggy carpet, replace with timber floors and get rid of those hideous fluorescent lights, they’re soul destroying.” Well, it’s hard to argue with that – I was sold!
Evidently very wise words! What are some of your other favourite features of the space?
One of my original references I gave to Juliette was the layered concrete bar that featured at the Noma pop-up in Sydney. I just loved the organic and handmade qualities of it. To me this visual really spoke to the artisanal nature of the food and beverage brands we create.
Brands that are often linked to a grass-roots story about the people and places behind the products. With this in mind, Arent & Pyke conceptualised a custom desk structure with the face of it rough rendered in a terracotta tadelakt plaster finish. I’d say to Juliette, ‘Are you sure this is going to work – there is so much orange!’ But she was convinced that this was the element that would transform not only the layout, (as it was also a tool to separate Account Managers from the Creative Team) but the experience of the space upon arrival.
It really delivers upon the handmade element that I was looking for. It brings so much richness and character to the space and underpins the whole design!
What kind of atmosphere have you’ve tried to create here?
I have received subliminal training via Juliette, that a well-designed space can be transformative. The moment a potential client steps into the office for the first time, you can literally see their mood change. It’s extraordinary. They’re excited and inspired. There is a resounding impression that they’ve come to the right place.
Hospitality is our studio’s bread-and-butter, so above all, this space needed to invite clients and would-be clients to ‘sip and savour the good things in life’, a philosophy that we live and work by here at Squad Ink.
Juliette adds, ‘A marble-topped bar showcases the creative output of the team at Squad Ink, (fancy an Archie Rose Gin and Tonic anyone?) it’s lower cabinets and fridge drawer in dark green stippled-matte polyurethane delivers a look that’s worthy of the most distinguished bars in Sydney.’
Who were some of the key players in helping you create this dream workspace?
This was a creative, more than a corporate place and we selected Arent & Pyke for their experience in residential projects and ethos around ‘home’.
They transferred that to our studio via rich, natural materials; by eschewing white for a series of greens on the walls and joinery (and in several plants), and by disguising technology behind custom joinery. Spotlight tracks replaced fluorescent tubes and a traditional desk layout re-designed into open-plan zones to partition account managers and creatives.
There’s a warmth and sophistication that radiates throughout our new studio. It represents exactly who we are, and where we want to be.
What’s the most challenging thing about running a picture-perfect workplace?
My brother and I have always naturally found good people that also happen to be great designers and project managers. It’s really what makes it all work. It brings me joy to see them all inspired by the space. It makes it all worth it.
A healthy studio culture is just so vital to retaining and inspiring team members. It has to come from the top… as owners and directors you have to drive it. We run a Show-and-Tell session once a month where the team share their ideas and inspiration over a few wines and good food. It reminds us why we’re all here doing what we love.
What’s some of the nicest feedback you’ve heard about the space you’ve created?
One of our clients commented that our office has a lovely openness and warmth now. The timber floors and the soft green wall colour chosen by Arent & Pyke has really transformed the feeling of the space.
What’s next for your squad?
Terry and I are at an exciting time in our career.
We’ve recently launched two food brands of our own – Frankie’s Fine Brine pickles and Friends of Frank cookies. Building products of our own has been hugely fulfilling and was a natural next step for us. I think we’ll always be connected to food and its story.
Lately, we’ve had a deep yearning to reconnect with our family origins and traditions. I have twin daughters that are five-years-old and I want them to have the same rich experiences and connection to food culture that I was afforded in my youth. I really want to channel this mission into my future business endeavours and create products and experiences that enrich other people’s lives.
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