Palatable office solutions

WORDS Lisa Johnston 

The trend of upcycling pallets as an affordable and earth-friendly decor solution has been gathering steam and now a new co-working office in Johannesburg – The Common Room – has shown how to make all your furniture needs, well, palatable.

Pallets used to just be crusty, old bits of wood you’d find lying around rubbish skips or alleyways –by-products from commercial deliveries. But you’d be hard pressed to find an abandoned pallets these days. They’ve all been snapped up by clever folk (like local design collab Palank) with upcycling ideas and DIY skills, who transform the bland slabs into bed bases, coffee tables, dog baskets, vertical gardens and whatever else their imaginations can come up with. The application has become so widespread that it’s developed into a recognised design trend and is now even being employed in office spaces.

The Common Room – a hot-desking and freelancers’ office and meeting space – in Parkhurst, Johannesburg, has taken the trend to its zenith by using pallets for, well, everything. From the reception counter to work spaces, and the communal kitchen to outdoor chill-out area. All furniture is built from recycled shipping pallets and designed to give each room a distinct feel.

The reason that pallets dictate is simple: it was cheap. But in this case, the clever upcycling of a discarded product fits in perfectly in terms of the available space, its function and the businesses’ core client base – students, and (mostly creative) entrepreneurs and freelancers in their 20s and 30s. The house in which the Common Room is based already had beautiful, old wooden floors and the pallets have been stained the same colour, as have the window frames, to create unity.

Single pallets have been strung from the walls by chains for individual work spaces in the front room abutting the reception area – the space people will presumably use for quicker turnaround times to get a fast project or assignment done. There are more of these casual desks in public and private spaces around the Common Room.

The sitting room area further into the house has long couches and coffee table strewn with magazines (all made from pallets, of course) for relaxed internet surfing or, perhaps a coffee break (there’s unlimited java on tap). In fact, with prices starting at R140 per day, and membership options including pay-as-you-go or come-and-go-as-you-please, the high-speed wifi, reception services, print and scanning facilities, and secure backup and data storage is well priced.

The boardroom is a meeting space with a long pallet table and a pallet feature wall encasing a TV screen. The quiet room is a space for more substantial and longer term projects – the desks here are more solid and have additional built-in work surfaces.

Overall the feeling is fun and relaxed in the way that makes one happy to spend time there, but not so relaxed that you’d never get any work done.

The Common Room, 49 Sixth Street, Parkhurst. 082 463 3288,

Read our feature about co-working offices in Cape Town here.