Forget filing cabinets and flipcharts. Forget bland walls, cheap carpets and hospital-style lighting. Just forget everything that comes to mind from traditional office spaces – because with the competition of stylish members' clubs and cool co-working spaces, office design is finally being challenged, and in order to keep up offices are making their interiors more cosy and inviting. And it's about time, too.
Innovative companies are trading cubicles for open, flexible office plans, with more inviting breakout areas for brainstorming, for meetings or even just to have lunch.
One design that has particularly caught our eye is the Chicago-based Hightower office and showroom, designed by Casey Keasler of Casework interiors.
This commercial space features cool curves and pretty arches, with living room style seating, a terrazzo kitchen and semi-circle breakfast bar island – transforming this office into something that feels, dare we say it, actually homely and inviting. It's the antidote to traditional offices.
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Female-led contract furniture company Hightower (with furniture, lighting and accessories so cool we want them for our own homes) wanted guests to feel welcomed and at home at their showroom in Chicago.
Hightower CEO and founder Natalie Hartkopf waited ten years before the perfect showroom became available at the Chicago Merchandise Mart. When she signed the lease for this place, she enlisted Casework to create a variety of 'moments' to sit and rest tired feet after walking the 4 million square foot Chicago Merchandise Mart all day.
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When creating the showroom, Keasler included living room-type niches so people can stop, sit and look through a coffee table book. 'We want guests to feel warm and welcomed without the traditional corporate vibe,' she explains.
Traditional arches were paired with upside down arches to create vignettes into other rooms. So the arches help to separate the rooms and zone areas, while also keeping a sense of open-plan.
Casework started with the furniture, then planned the architecture around it. From small scale to large – usually it’s the other way around. When the arches were put into plan, Casework already knew exactly how each 'vignette' would look. 'Furniture is often the last element we pull together but it’s one of the most important. It’s what you rest on at the end of a long day or where you sit to have a meal with your family. Here, we began with the human experience and built our environment around how space would be used. Then, and only then is the architecture built to complement that.'
From the custom blush pink 12’ Boxplay sofa by Swedish furniture partner, Swedese, to the 37’ Four Likes booth by Four Design in the atrium, the furniture could be at home in a restaurant or hotel as easily as an office.
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The colour palette is decidedly neutral with hints of everyday luxury like shearling and spun wool.
The kitchen and breakfast bar was designed to feel more like a kitchen where friends would sit and drink late into the evening. The bar features terrazzo from Concrete Collaborative, Hightower’s Suspence light pendants and the Nadia Counter Stools.
North Carolina-based Haand Ceramics contributed pieces for the plate wall installation as well as the serving pieces on the open shelving.
Beyond Hightower's own furniture collections, they were able to curate remarkable pieces from exciting artisans. Casey and her team spent a great deal of time searching, finally deciding upon pieces not just for their beauty but based on the inspiring stories of the artists;family-founded, female-operated Concrete Collaborative (terrazzo and tiles), North Carolina-based Haand (porcelain pottery), and JuJu Papers (hand-printed wallpaper designs), to name a few.
Casey brought the focus back to the female founders with a wallpaper installation by Chicago artist, Laura Berger and Portland company Juju Papers.
The interiors were awarded best small showroom and best in show at NeoCon 2019.
With a rise in cosy co-working spaces, could this be the new style for 'cosy' office design? We hope so.
Explore the project in full here.