"We're all about pushing what's possible," says Verda Alexander, the woman who, as principal and cofounder of SoMa-based Studio O+A, is behind the over-the-top magical interiors at some of the Bay Area's buzziest companies.
Studio O+A's interior design for Uber HQ melds Parisian chic with high-tech styling, with plenty of breakout spots for an elevated work-from-home feeling.(Jasper Sanidad)
You've definitely heard of them—Facebook, Uber, and Yelp to name a few—and you may even have the special perk of working in one of these extraordinary places where function, fantasy, and take-your-breath-away design come together in high-concept spaces that blow the old cubicle out of the water: Witness the "Paris Meets Bladerunner" vibe at Uber's downtown HQ, and the OMG-inducing digs at gaming app Giant Pixel.
Staffers at these elite companies know well the impact of Studio O+A's innovative wizardry, and this year, the team was recognized on the national stage with a coveted design award from Cooper Hewitt. The kudos are testament to a level of passion that is palpable in the walls of all their interiors, and it would be rather an understatement to say that Alexander puts her heart into her work: She's in it to win it alongside her partner in both business and life for the past 25 years—her high-school sweetheart and husband, Primo Orpilla, is O+A's cofounder and co-principal.
O+A's two-level digs on Tehama Street are the first indication of their approach to designing an awesome workspace: The open-concept office is sleek, simple, and light-filled, and pulses with positive energy. A front-and-center "active space" has a kitchen and an extra-long communal table where people can eat, drink, and powwow (when we arrived on a Friday afternoon, a lively happy hour was already in progress). And, while the team of 35 sits virtually elbow to elbow, there are lots of break-off rooms in which to escape.
A stroll by Alexander's desk shows hers to be immaculate—"He's a hoarder," she laughs, ratting out her partner. But when it comes to the couple's shared space at home in Orinda, the duo is perfectly in sync.
"It was built in 1972 by an architect [David Boone] for himself," says Alexander, of the house they've inhabited for the past 12 years along with their 13-year-old son. "There are lots of trees everywhere...it feels like we're living in a treehouse. It's completely contemporary, filled with little toys, pops of color, books—a lifetime of stuff," she says, obviously still gaga for the breathtaking house that's also filled with many of her own art pieces; in her spare time, Alexander is also a sculptor. Her eyes light up when talking about this passion, which she's been neglectful of lately: "I've been really busy the last couple of months, but my goal is to make more time for it."
A few beloved items are carefully arranged on Verda's dresser (from left): a small basket and sculptural blue rectangle handmade by herself; her vintage Rolex; her signature scents, including Dark Wave by Portland-based perfumer Olo.; and a small Chanel bag picked up at Jeffrey New York.(Courtesy of Verda Alexander)
"I like Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. The art is a little more radical there than at some of the other museums. I also like Ratio 3, a beautiful gallery in the Mission, and the Minnesota Street Project is awesome.
Save From a Burning House
"Our Bouroullec Brothers rug."
"I'm petite, so I like things that hug me. I tend to go understated at work, with a sleeveless top or cropped sweater, jeans or a fitted skirt, and my black Isabel Marant sneakers."
SF Shopping Spree
"Barneys and MAC - Modern Appealing Clothing."
Take on SF Style
"Hipster-nerdy. SF is the new Silicon Valley."
"Zero Zero, Split Pea Seduction. I don't like to walk too far from the office."
"Monarch is just beautiful, and I love Bloodhound."
Bold patterns dominate Alexander and Orpillo's living room, including an Established and Sons dresser; Paper and Silkscreen sculpture by Verda; cast glass cone sculptures by SF artist Alexis Arnold; and a Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec rug.(Courtesy of Verda Alexander)