What office style and environment motivates and inspires you?
Before we worked in modular work stations, we functioned within offices. Rooms with visible walls, soundproof ceilings and windows with views. Spaces that accommodated real wood desks and bookcases, and allowed them to be rearranged when we wanted or needed a change. Environments with a sense of atmosphere, individuality, privacy, and permanence.
The private office settings described here existed prior to 1993. Three of them set in office complexes, that included modular work stations. Each of the spaces had been personalized with photos, drawings, cartoon drawings, travel souvenirs, vases of flowers, candy containers, etc.
1. Whimsical and Productive
The director of production, Kiver Communications, sat in a custom-designed pink and white office. Hard-core corporate clients melted when they entered. Every year, the employee helped her technical publishing company exceed its sales record of the previous year.
Two features stood out in her office. One was the thick, cotton-candy pink carpeting. The other was a huge white rocker in which sat a life-sized Miss Piggy.™ A custom-made gift from Anita’s boyfriend. He had gotten special permission from Muppets’™ creator, Jim Henson, to have Piggy re-created.
Painting it: Regularly, a staff painter cleaned, then touched up the office. Every two years, he gave the two-room suite a fresh paint job. The 12-foot high ceiling was sponge-washed, then re-textured in bright white interior enamel. The walls got a fresh coat of light pink interior latex. The baseboards, doors, and door and window frames were sanded lightly, and repainted with interior bright white enamel.
2. Subdued and Professional
The founder and ceo of SHS, Inc., a health industry recruiting firm, watched from his blue-gray office, as boats cruised by on the Chicago River. Sports memorabilia and framed photos of his young family added personality and warmth to the large modern suite on West Wacker Drive.
Few of his pharmaceutical and health communications clients visited him in the office. The persons that he was recognized for recruiting – marketing, advertising, communications, and public relations job candidates – visited his office only when necessary, and convenient. The atmosphere was always welcoming and friendly, yet very professional.
Painting it: Painters, employed by the property management company, maintained the high-rise office building. As needed, they touched up the walls, woodwork, and trim. Especially in the front lobby and offices. Every three years, they repainted the high white ceilings, and soft blue-gray molding and trim. The commercial wall vinyl required only a periodic washing down with warm, sudsy water and a sea sponge.
My sister visited the office once during a school vacation. She seemed more excited about the recruiting professionals and “creatives” that she met there. Less impressed by the expansive size of the suite, and its contemporary décor.
3. Corporate and “Welcoming”
The director of sales, Marriott of North Michigan Avenue, seemed relaxed in his office appointed with classic soft gold, burnt orange and brown paint, and matching commercial wall vinyl. Photos of family, favorite vacations and hobbies set in his area of the sales suite.
Among them were framed newspaper and magazine clippings of his sister at Academy Award and TV Emmy events. (Already, she was a rising star.) At times, he shared his two-door, “Grand Central Station”- atmospheric office with sales associates. All seemed comfortable working amidst their director’s photo gallery. They had their own desktop personal photo and memorabilia displays.
Painting it: One of the hotel’s full-time staff painters kept the office suite in pristine condition. The commercial wallcovering, that had replaced the semi-gloss paint, always looked fresh, clean and uplifting. Quite a feat for one of the busiest offices on the hotel property.
4. Opulent and Ostentatious
In complete contrast, Mr. Kutner sat behind his imported, hand-carved antique desk on the top floor of the original Continental Bank Building. The colorful, and most-published, international attorney was the author of “The Living Will,” and “granddaddy” of the World Habeas Corpus Law.
He surrounded himself with black walnut paneled walls, plush crimson red carpeting, matching red velvet draperies, and marble fireplaces. His open lobby was appointed with polished black and white marble floors and carved walnut “courtroom” banisters and railings. Ornate bust sculptures of Aristotle, Plato, Strauss, and Beethoven set on marble-topped, hand-carved pedestal tables. The door to his nearby private vault set open when he was in the office.
Painting it: Once a year, two commercial painters and decorators, contracted by Continental Bank, revived the entire 4-office suite, lobby and private baths. They repainted the 12-foot white ceilings. Above the wall paneling, they painted the crown area in a softened crimson. They cleaned the stained glass windows in each office. They gently cleaned and linseed-oil treated the paneling, doors, window frames, woodwork, and trim. Also, the desks, lawyer’s bookcases, tall hand-carved Romanesque chairs, and carved frame of the cut-velvet settees were revived.
A retired painter that worked on the picturesque property called it “classic luxury.” He said the office suite maintained its original beauty and style. “The same as when Mr. Kutner still served as chief counsel for Continental Bank… He had many famous clients…”
5. Extravagant and Colossal
Real estate magnet Arthur Rubloff set a gold standard in extravagant office design. His “taste for the best” in everything carried over into the concept of first-class designs in executive offices.
Often, these offices took over one-half to an entire penthouse-level floor. Their private lobbies and elevators were decorated in paneling crafted from rare, imported woods, or wallcoverings. The wallcoverings were custom-designed papers, flocks, foils, textures, woods, or expansive, scenic murals. The brick, stone, steel, and glass/granite structures often housed a major real estate corporation and its staff. Fortune and Inc 500 companies took up most of the space.
Painting it: A specially-trained team of painters kept the Rubloff office suites, at each location, looking like prime real estate. The decorators re-coated the accoustical textured ceilings. They cleaned, repaired and replaced the wallcoverings. They cleaned and treated the wood paneling with a special-formulated oil from Europe. They redecorated the lobbies, executive secretaries’ offices, and also private bath suites. They restored the interiors of each elevator.
The painters and decorators paid special attention to the unique cabinetry in each suite. It had been built to house a part of Mr. Rubloff’s world-famous collections of miniatures and crystal paperweights. (See Chicago History Museum and School of the Art Institute exhibits.)
The environments of closed-wall office spaces always differ from the open-walled ones. Aesthetically, they tend to be much more personalized, private and cordial. Physically, they lend themselves better to open communications. Even with their private entry doors left wide open.
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Enjoy your space! Enjoy your life! Thanks for visiting “Painting with Bob.”