It has a feeling of inevitability: the tiny office.
Hidden away in Hand Eye Supply's Northwest Portland garage, Coroflot's new "mobile work unit" is the next step of Portland's obsession with making big things small.
A collaboration between Coroflot cofounder Eric Ludlum and Laurence Sarrazin of design firm LOS OSOS—a husband-and-wife team—the tiny office began life in 2012 as the foundation for a tiny home, as the couple plotted an escape from their downtown apartment for a one-and-a-half-acre property in Tigard, once owned by Ludlum's parents. Sarrazin designed and built the post and beam frame on top of the trailer, but that was as far as the the project went. As other obligations intervened, the tiny home skeleton went under a tarp until early 2016, when Ludlum decided to consolidate some of Coroflot's scattered manpower, a loose collection of developers in Oregon and Connecticut.
"We wanted to develop a customer facing and design team here in Portland, for content and creative writing and marketing," Ludlum says, whose company provides networking tools for designers. "We decided to take that portion of the Coroflot business and move it out here. Before this, there really was no dedicated office."
Sarrazin ripped off the tarp and got back to work, creating a modular, open work space with room for up to five employees. To stay within budget, they designed the trailer to live inside a protected garage and hook up to its existing power source. Wheel wells became benches. Plans for insulated walls became semi-transparent polycarbonate siding instead. For the floors and exposed woods, they cut and milled three Douglas Fir trees from his parents' Tigard property that the new owners wanted to cut down anyway.
“It’s a bit sentimental, but we also didn’t want the trees to go to waste," Ludlum says.
Sarrazin even designed a custom furniture system that fits together as elegantly as Lego blocks. Regularly spaced holes in the trailer's wooden framing allowed her to hang desks, shelves, chairs, benches, and even foam basketball hoops, which can be rearranged and reconfigured instantaneously.
While the MWU wouldn't be able to withstand the elements, Sarrazin says that they would need just a day of preparation to move the trailer if they needed to. Its relatively simple structure also means the basic design of the MWU could be adapted to other uses, say, a true "roadworthy" office, a pop-up retail store, or mobile classroom.
"The investment [we made] is not tied to the building. This thing could be wheeled outside or sold," she says. "This could be one version of its skin—the next version could be used for on the road."
Tour Coroflot's tiny office for yourself during Design Week Portland:
An Office on Wheels: Rolling out an Alternative Build
Talk + Tour + Q&A with Designer Laurence Sarrazin
6–7 p.m. Tue, Apr 25, Hand-Eye Supply (427 NW Broadway )