Willo Perron is no stranger to spectacle. Over the years, the Montreal-born, Los Angeles–based designer, creative director, and partner in the firm Perron-Roettinger has orchestrated a vast array of live events for many of the world’s most influential performers and brands. He has crafted jaw-dropping stage sets for the likes of Rihanna, Kanye West, Lady Gaga, Drake, Florence + the Machine, Kendrick Lamar, Travis Scott, and a host of other global superstars. He’s collaborated with luminaries of the contemporary art scene as well as mega-corporations like Nike and Samsung. He’s even focused his avant-garde, zeitgeist-surfing eye on the annual Pornhub Awards ceremony.
Perron’s design for the L.A. offices of the entertainment behemoth Roc Nation, however, has little to do with razzle-dazzle. “I didn’t want it to feel like a caricatured media or management office, with music blaring and video screens everywhere. I wasn’t interested in that kind of sensory over-load,” Perron explains. “I wanted to do the opposite, to create a zen environment conducive to ideas and conversation, a space where you can actually think,” he adds.
The designer’s relationship with Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter, Roc Nation’s founder, dates back roughly a decade. The two have collaborated on everything from live performances and album packaging to home design. “He’s given me lots of freedom to explore and develop concepts that I find intriguing. The only boundaries I had for the office were the number of desks and offices. Beyond that, they trusted us,” Perron says.
Rather than relying on flashy gimmicks, the office gathers strength from its deep sense of materiality, expressed in the chunky marble counters that anchor the central meeting/dining/entertainment zone, in the bespoke benches and serpentine banquettes of muscular concrete, and, perhaps most noticeably, in the columns and accent walls sheathed in a pebbly lime plaster aggregate. “The mixture is a nod to where I grew up. Montreal modernism is wrapped up in the texture and aesthetic of concrete—a combination of brutalism and beauty,” Perron observes.
In the surprisingly serene open-office areas, Perron custom-designed workstations that blend Juddian minimalism with 21st-century technology. For the executive wing, where concrete floors segue to Dinesen heart oak, Perron boosted the level of refinement while maintaining the largely monochromatic palette and pervasive air of restrained luxury. Jay-Z’s private office, in particular, is chockablock with design treasures—a Charlotte Perriand desk, a Marcel Breuer lamp, a Gio Ponti mirror, and seating by Oscar Niemeyer, Erberto Carboni, and Afra and Tobia Scarpa—all arranged in vignettes with a tailored, residential vibe. “We selected pieces that tell the story of modernism as it evolved through the decades in different places. The Rick Owens chair brings the mix up to the present day,” Perron says of the heady brew.
In Jay-Z’s office, as throughout the headquarters, art-works by primarily African American artists sing out against a backdrop of hushed plaster walls and sleek glass enclosures. Unlike the art program at Roc Nation’s Manhattan digs, which is heavy on instantly recognizable, blue-chip names, the L.A. roster leans more toward emerging talents. “We wanted something less predictable,” the designer insists. “This felt more experimental and more appropriate for L.A. It’s all about the vanguard of culture.”