Contract - Hive Life: The Moderns, New York, Designed by The Moderns

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Hive Life: The Moderns, New York, Designed by The Moderns

31 May, 2011


What does a design and branding firm do when a flood destroys its office? Creative minds seize the disaster-turned-opportunity and redesign it into a workspace that facilitates ingenuity, environmental and social equity, and multidisciplinary branding. In October 2009 when 8,000 gallons of water rushed into The Moderns’ New York office in 10 minutes, Janine James, the firm’s president, solutionist, and chief creative director, dubbed the incident “tsunami for change” and reevaluated what her 20-year-old company would be in future decades before designing a new office.

“We brainstormed: What is our brand? What makes us relevant?” James recalls. “Everyone wrote down where they work best. The funny thing is no one said the office.” Instead, they cited at home or a hotel, in an airport or an airplane, on a front porch or at the beach, at a Starbucks or a café. The designers questioned whether or not they actually needed physical space, and decided: “Yes, we want space, but we want it to bridge us to the outside world, as opposed to isolating us from it. And that informed the design,” James explains. “We thought: Why—through paint, materials, and aesthetic—can’t we make it feel like one of those places other than an office?”

This brainstorming incited the concept for the new workspace, which The Moderns found in the same building their previous office occupied. The double-height gem of a space perfectly lent itself to the creation of a workplace that shatters the typical office mold. The 2,500-sq.-ft. floor plan was split in half. On one side, bleachers rise up like an “amphitheater,” culminating in a “front porch” area just outside the executive office shared by James and her partner, Kevin Szell. On this porch, two Artek chairs by Alvar Aalto create a beachy vibe and form a perfect spot for morning coffee, overlooking the conference area below and out through oversized arched windows to the bustling street. The Moderns uses the bleachers area to conduct its “corporate alchemy process,” the brainstorming and innovation methods for the firm’s strategy work, which is very private. A massive door, milled from 50-year-old hemlock beams, slides out from within a wall to close off this half of the office to offer privacy.

This side of the space also accommodates a program called “Imagine the Next Friday,” a concept that James and Szell devised to keep their team inspired. The idea is The Moderns work four days a week inspiring clients, and they take the fifth day (Friday) to inspire themselves. Each staff member owns one Friday and can do anything to inspire coworkers—show films or work; engage in a project, social-media endeavor, or self-promotion piece; or bring in speakers or guests. “This space has really been used to activate,” James explains. It’s also great for fundraisers.

On the other side of the hemlock door is the “wizard room,” where the workstations are—though employees are encouraged to work anywhere in the office. “It’s designed to be very nomadic,” James notes. “There are little moments throughout the space,” including a nook in the entry hallway, a window seat in the wizard room, and a café table in the open kitchen.

The space also feels refreshing and soothing, in part due to its palette, which is “based on prismatic opalescence,” according to James. “I always thought I would love to work inside one of those tall quartz crystals, and that informed the palette of white, blues, greens, which change in the light.” The polycarbonate sheet walls of the executive office further foster this crystalline, ethereal, clean aesthetic.

Designed to be as clean energetically as in the materials selections, the space boasts low-VOC paints, reclaimed wood floors, and salvaged furniture and fixtures from the previous office. “We didn’t want things to feel über designed,” James says, but she confesses that she always longed for the Florence Knoll table and credenza because as a twentysomething she associated them with a woman “really making it” in the design profession. These pieces and the Saarinen side chairs are the only new furniture.

James and her team feel strongly that their offices should be an absolute representation of all that they are—not only as design professionals, but as environmentalists, social activists, and urban farmers, who promote health, wellness, and energy. After studying bees and deciding to become beekeepers to make their own honey, The Moderns came to this conclusion: “We see ourselves at a hive of thought leadership and creativity—we’re solutionists, using design methodologies to solve problems,” James explains. “If we inside the hive can’t be fortified and inspired, then the honey that comes out of the hive (all the creative good that we share with our clients) won’t be enriched. That’s why we work four days being the honey for our clients, and one day enriching our hive so that we can continue to inspire people.”  

Sources:

WHO
Owner: Janine James, The Moderns. Architect, interior designer: Janine James, The Moderns; Janine James, president, solutionist, chief creative director; Kevin Szell, principal, solutionist, design director; Joey Naymst: solutionist, junior designer. Contractor:  Best Value Construction Corp. Lighting, graphics, plantings: The Moderns. Kitchen: Ikea. Furniture dealer: WB Wood. Photographer:  Elizabeth Felicella.

WHAT 
Textiles: Knoll. Paint: Benjamine Moore. Laminate:  Abet Laminati. Flooring, doors:  Reclaimed Hemlock. Lighting:  Nemo Italianaluce, Arco, David Weeks, Foscarini. Glass: Polycarbonate Walls. Window treatments: Knoll Luxe. Workstations: Milder Furniture Systems. Workstation seating: Herman Miller. Lounge seating: Fritz Hansen, Harter Forum benches, Timothy deFiebre. Kitchen bar stools: Emeco.
Other seating: Artek, Alvar Aalto. Upholstery: Martin Albert Interiors. Conference table: Florence Knoll Table, Desk, and Credenza and Saarinen Side Chairs. Quiet Room: Milder Table and Shelves, Jacobsen Chairs. Cafeteria, dining, training tables: Milder.  Other tables:  The Moderns Design. Shelving: Metro. Architectural woodworking: Best Value Construction Corp. Signage:  The Moderns.

WHERE
Location: New York, NY. Total floor area:  2,500. No. of floors:  2. Average floor size:  2,800 sq ft.. Total staff size:  12 + 2 cohabiters from moreart.org. Cost/sq. ft.:  $60 sq ft.

 




Hive Life: The Moderns, New York, Designed by The Moderns

31 May, 2011


Photography by Elizabeth Felicella

What does a design and branding firm do when a flood destroys its office? Creative minds seize the disaster-turned-opportunity and redesign it into a workspace that facilitates ingenuity, environmental and social equity, and multidisciplinary branding. In October 2009 when 8,000 gallons of water rushed into The Moderns’ New York office in 10 minutes, Janine James, the firm’s president, solutionist, and chief creative director, dubbed the incident “tsunami for change” and reevaluated what her 20-year-old company would be in future decades before designing a new office.

“We brainstormed: What is our brand? What makes us relevant?” James recalls. “Everyone wrote down where they work best. The funny thing is no one said the office.” Instead, they cited at home or a hotel, in an airport or an airplane, on a front porch or at the beach, at a Starbucks or a café. The designers questioned whether or not they actually needed physical space, and decided: “Yes, we want space, but we want it to bridge us to the outside world, as opposed to isolating us from it. And that informed the design,” James explains. “We thought: Why—through paint, materials, and aesthetic—can’t we make it feel like one of those places other than an office?”

This brainstorming incited the concept for the new workspace, which The Moderns found in the same building their previous office occupied. The double-height gem of a space perfectly lent itself to the creation of a workplace that shatters the typical office mold. The 2,500-sq.-ft. floor plan was split in half. On one side, bleachers rise up like an “amphitheater,” culminating in a “front porch” area just outside the executive office shared by James and her partner, Kevin Szell. On this porch, two Artek chairs by Alvar Aalto create a beachy vibe and form a perfect spot for morning coffee, overlooking the conference area below and out through oversized arched windows to the bustling street. The Moderns uses the bleachers area to conduct its “corporate alchemy process,” the brainstorming and innovation methods for the firm’s strategy work, which is very private. A massive door, milled from 50-year-old hemlock beams, slides out from within a wall to close off this half of the office to offer privacy.

This side of the space also accommodates a program called “Imagine the Next Friday,” a concept that James and Szell devised to keep their team inspired. The idea is The Moderns work four days a week inspiring clients, and they take the fifth day (Friday) to inspire themselves. Each staff member owns one Friday and can do anything to inspire coworkers—show films or work; engage in a project, social-media endeavor, or self-promotion piece; or bring in speakers or guests. “This space has really been used to activate,” James explains. It’s also great for fundraisers.

On the other side of the hemlock door is the “wizard room,” where the workstations are—though employees are encouraged to work anywhere in the office. “It’s designed to be very nomadic,” James notes. “There are little moments throughout the space,” including a nook in the entry hallway, a window seat in the wizard room, and a café table in the open kitchen.

The space also feels refreshing and soothing, in part due to its palette, which is “based on prismatic opalescence,” according to James. “I always thought I would love to work inside one of those tall quartz crystals, and that informed the palette of white, blues, greens, which change in the light.” The polycarbonate sheet walls of the executive office further foster this crystalline, ethereal, clean aesthetic.

Designed to be as clean energetically as in the materials selections, the space boasts low-VOC paints, reclaimed wood floors, and salvaged furniture and fixtures from the previous office. “We didn’t want things to feel über designed,” James says, but she confesses that she always longed for the Florence Knoll table and credenza because as a twentysomething she associated them with a woman “really making it” in the design profession. These pieces and the Saarinen side chairs are the only new furniture.

James and her team feel strongly that their offices should be an absolute representation of all that they are—not only as design professionals, but as environmentalists, social activists, and urban farmers, who promote health, wellness, and energy. After studying bees and deciding to become beekeepers to make their own honey, The Moderns came to this conclusion: “We see ourselves at a hive of thought leadership and creativity—we’re solutionists, using design methodologies to solve problems,” James explains. “If we inside the hive can’t be fortified and inspired, then the honey that comes out of the hive (all the creative good that we share with our clients) won’t be enriched. That’s why we work four days being the honey for our clients, and one day enriching our hive so that we can continue to inspire people.”  

Sources:

WHO
Owner: Janine James, The Moderns. Architect, interior designer: Janine James, The Moderns; Janine James, president, solutionist, chief creative director; Kevin Szell, principal, solutionist, design director; Joey Naymst: solutionist, junior designer. Contractor:  Best Value Construction Corp. Lighting, graphics, plantings: The Moderns. Kitchen: Ikea. Furniture dealer: WB Wood. Photographer:  Elizabeth Felicella.

WHAT 
Textiles: Knoll. Paint: Benjamine Moore. Laminate:  Abet Laminati. Flooring, doors:  Reclaimed Hemlock. Lighting:  Nemo Italianaluce, Arco, David Weeks, Foscarini. Glass: Polycarbonate Walls. Window treatments: Knoll Luxe. Workstations: Milder Furniture Systems. Workstation seating: Herman Miller. Lounge seating: Fritz Hansen, Harter Forum benches, Timothy deFiebre. Kitchen bar stools: Emeco.
Other seating: Artek, Alvar Aalto. Upholstery: Martin Albert Interiors. Conference table: Florence Knoll Table, Desk, and Credenza and Saarinen Side Chairs. Quiet Room: Milder Table and Shelves, Jacobsen Chairs. Cafeteria, dining, training tables: Milder.  Other tables:  The Moderns Design. Shelving: Metro. Architectural woodworking: Best Value Construction Corp. Signage:  The Moderns.

WHERE
Location: New York, NY. Total floor area:  2,500. No. of floors:  2. Average floor size:  2,800 sq ft.. Total staff size:  12 + 2 cohabiters from moreart.org. Cost/sq. ft.:  $60 sq ft.

 

 


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