Tag Archives: space

Office Furniture

February 24, 2017 by

A Survival Guide

Office furniture dealerships work with companies large and small to reshape their work environments. Here are some observations to keep in mind once the walls have come down.

Variety is key

Don’t just scrap the panels: Effective open-plan work areas need to offer a range of spaces. A “layered” approach may work best. Provide spaces for those people who really need quiet to focus, whether they just find it easier to work in quiet or they are more introverted. Successful spaces work when everyone in the company, regardless of personality or role, feels comfortable and confident in accomplishing their work.

Plan for the entire space, not just the corners

Create “enclaves” for collaborative working while making sure those spaces do not disrupt people sitting nearby. While it is important to provide areas for private/personal time, do not place them so far away that the trek to reach them is not worth it. Create “adjacencies,” spaces offering a phone booth or enclave where you are not walking more than 20 feet to reach them.

Design to meet your company goals

Your company needs to ask: What are our goals? “More collaboration” is a start, but “more collaboration between the product team and the sales team” is a goal that you can design your office around. Companies today often say they want to be more like Google. What is it about the workspaces at Google that you find appealing, and is that something your office’s culture can embrace? It may be more important to uncover how the company identity is expressed through physical space.

Establish Rules

It’s not enough to create spaces; you have to enforce boundaries. Open spaces create noise.  There’s just no getting around it.  Rules may be needed about how areas can be used. Certain spots for working in require a “no phone call” rule.  No exceptions!  It sounds very corporate and Big Brother to some people, but when you are working in an open space, protocols can be very important.

Get bosses out of offices

Sometimes managers may still need to function behind closed doors, but letting higher-ups spend their days inside old-fashioned private offices while employees work in the open sends a bad message. It also isolates them from the very benefits open plans promise. Once exposed to this new approach to the workplace, many executives say, “Wow, I’ve learned more about my own company in two weeks than I did in the past two years.”

While open-plan offices do not fit every company’s culture, they have come a long way from the “cubicle farms” of the past. More importantly, they are delivering an increasingly comfortable way to work.

Doug Schuring is the director of sales administration at All Makes Office Equipment Co.

This article was printed in the Spring 2017 edition of B2B.

How to Make a Coffee Filter Lamp

February 21, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Light is to what punctuation is at the end of a sentence.

If I had my way, there would never be any traditional lighting—especially fluorescent lights, as they are often too cool and tend to distort (in my opinion, making everything look worse).

So, when deciding upon lighting options for the room that I am remodeling, I opted for a softer look to establish a welcoming mood.

This soft accent light will not be the primary light source in the room; rather, it will be more of a glowing art installation hanging in the room.

There will be plenty of natural light coming through the large window as well as several other lamps in the room.

I truly feel that without choosing the correct lighting in the beginning, the whole room won’t have that wow factor in the end.

My inspiration was something I saw on the internet several years ago. At the time, I didn’t have the space to make it work. But I do now!

The final renovation of the room will be unveiled in the grand reveal to be published in the January/February issue of Omaha Home.

Remember, you do not have to compromise beauty and function for cost. Do some research and find what fits your space and style. Try out your own DIY project. That’s what this year-long project is all about.

ITEMS NEEDED:

  • Paper lantern (I used a lantern 16 inches in diameter.)
  • Hot glue gun
  • Large package of glue sticks
  • Basket-type coffee filters (I used 800.)
  • Patience (The project can take approximately 6-7 hours.)
  • LED light with remote or single-socket pendant light. Both are extremely inexpensive. There are many options. To be safe, please do your research. You don’t want to create a fireball!

DIRECTIONS:

Step-1: Fold or crinkle each coffee filter at the bottom.

Step-2: Glue each filter directly to your paper lantern.

Step-3: Place as many filters as close together as possible.

Step-4: Cover the entire surface of the paper lantern.

Word to the wise: If you want to take this project on, I suggest watching online tutorial videos for added guidance. Simply searching for “coffee filter lamp”  tutorials online proved to be extremely helpful for me. The project is simple, but it can be very time-consuming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Omaha Home.

 

Mike and Lynne Purdy’s Electrochromic Dream Home

February 20, 2017 by
Photography by Colin Conces

It’s immediately clear that Lynne and Mike Purdy’s beautiful northwest Omaha home is something special. However, the longer you stay, the more you zero in on the many small-yet-mighty details that make it so.

“It’s those little details that make it just right,” Lynne says. “There’s a reason for everything we did design-wise, and there isn’t one thing we’d change.”

That includes everything from smart windows and touch faucets to 18-foot ceilings, a shades-of-grey palette, pocket doors, waterfall counters, hidden kitchen outlets, a programmable doorbell, a fireplace in the wall that serves two rooms, and bathroom drawers customized to the sizes of Lynne’s hair products, among other distinct aesthetic and utilitarian touches.

The Purdys, who met on a fortuitous blind date in 1977, are self-described “empty nesters” and transitioned to their home in Deer Creek Highlands in March 2016, after breaking ground one year prior. Mike, an architect and president of Purdy & Slack Architects, designed the home based upon he and Lynne’s extensive, collaborative exploration of what they wanted in their next home.

First, the couple knew they wanted to live on a golf course, so when they found a Deer Creek Highlands lot they were smitten with, they persevered in attaining it. The community is home to the third nine of the Arnold Palmer-designed Players Club at Deer Creek golf course.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better neighborhood or better neighbors,” says Lynne.

Mike’s design was informed by the logistics of the site.

“Lynne wanted an open plan with our master suite adjacent, so we had the floor plan in mind,” he says. “I wanted to keep the views of the golf course, plus the sun in the wintertime comes up on the axis of the large window and the great room.”

Mike refined his design until it was everything the Purdys wanted and he received approval from the neighborhood’s architectural review committee.

“The challenge was creating something unique and contemporary, but not so radical it wouldn’t blend with the neighborhood, and also something that facilitated the way we want to live,” Mike says.

Mike also designed the Purdys’ previous home, where they raised sons Bryan and Keith and lived for 28 years, but the couple says it was a family house, not an empty-nester house.

“It was a beautiful home, but our family grew, then left. Our current home is an adult house, but still with room for the kids to come visit,” Lynne says.

Indeed, the downstairs bedrooms, family room, and walk-out patio are designed to welcome Bryan, Keith, and their own expanding families, including Keith’s 4-year-old identical twin daughters, whom Lynne says “love coming to Gaga and Papa’s house.”

Mike embraced his creative side while designing the home.

“With architecture, you try to get a reaction from people,” he says. “It’s like a piece of art—meant to draw out emotion and create conversation. That’s what I tried to do with the house.”

“One of the design elements I wanted to do was to hide the front door so there’s a little bit of mystery as you approach the house the first time,” Mike says of the slightly obscured front door that bucks street-facing tradition. “It creates a different experience, and then you make the turn into this big space, so it’s kind of a surprise.”

The first thing visitors will notice upon entering—after the Purdys’ adorably petite white pup Holly—is the 16-foot-wide, 18-foot-high, attention-commanding window that overlooks the golf course from the rear of the house. What you wouldn’t immediately notice or know is that the window panes are SageGlass, an electrochromic glass that can be set to various levels of tint via an app. The window can be dimmed by row or pane, or even programmed to react to the level of sun or clouds.

“It’s a commercial-grade glass we’re putting in some of our office buildings. They don’t require blinds and save energy from heat gain,” Mike says. “In wintertime we keep ours mostly clear to maximize the heat gain. In summertime we keep it pretty dim so it doesn’t heat up the home as much.”

Mike estimates that within 20 years most new windows in homes will be this type of dynamic glass.

“It’s newer technology, but I expect it’ll become standard and you’ll find it in the houses of the future,” he says.

Whether through the giant window or from the glass-railed cantilever deck outside, the Purdy home’s crown jewel is the incredible, ever-changing view that’s shown Lynne and Mike sublime sunrises; pop-up “lakes” born of hard rains and golf course curves; wildlife like ducks, hawks, and frogs; and confused golfers seeking errant balls.

“We’ve enjoyed every season here,” says Lynne. “In the morning I have my coffee and look out the windows … it’s just beautiful all the time, whether it’s a layer of snow or a sunny summer day. And relaxing on the deck after a stressful day is the best. In the summer we’re out there every night.”

Speaking of nighttime, Lynne says the home is prettiest after sunset when the flameless candles and decorative lit-glass spheres she’s placed throughout the house turn on. Just like everything else, that’s by design.

“You come home at night, and you want a relaxing space space. The soft light gives you that,” she says. “That’s also typically when you entertain, and I want everyone to feel relaxed and at home when they visit.”

Visit purdyandslack.com for more information about the homeowner’s architectural firm.

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Omaha Home.

Making the most out of the least workspace

January 5, 2015 by

Whether you are working for a Fortune 500 company or out of your home, most Americans would prefer to have a larger workspace. According to IFMA (International Facility Management Association), the average American’s workspace has shrunk 15 square feet over the last 20 years. In 1994 the average worker had 90 square feet of workspace; now that has been reduced to 75 square feet. Here are some tips to get the most from your workspace, no matter how small it is.

Declutter
Purge, purge, and purge some more. If you’re going to have a functional and effective small office, you have to continually declutter. With a small space, just a few items on your desk may cause it to look cluttered. Learn how to purge all the “stuff” you don’t need. Ask yourself, “When was the last time I used this?” Recycle it or pass it along to a co-worker. Set computers, printers, and phones close to outlets so the cords can easily be hidden. Desks that come equipped with wire management grommets also ensure a clutter free workspace.

Buy Furniture that Maximizes Office Space
A well-planned office creates a good initial impression on your clients and draws in potential candidates; it also improves the productivity and attitudes of your current employees. How large or small your office space is will determine the kind of furniture you buy. Over one-third of an average employee’s day is spent in the office; quality office furniture ensures a healthy and efficient work atmosphere.

Monitor Matters
Flat-panel monitors provide almost effortless adjustments and create significant space savings. By elevating the monitor up off the work surface, a monitor arm frees up the valuable space directly in front of the user, leaving notes, documents and other work materials within easy reach. Plus, the monitor can be easily pushed out of the way to create extra workspace if needed.

Seeing the Light
Good lighting is essential in any work environment. Ideally you want as much natural daylight as possible. Natural light not only saves electrical energy, but it gives you more personal energy too. Tone down harsh overhead lights. Add an energy-efficient task light to your workstation to provide light where you need it.

With a little bit of planning, you can make the best out of any small workspace.

On the Chopping Block

May 16, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When Scott and Sara Blake first bought their house, they had visions of idyllic, sun-lit morning meals in their oh-so quaint breakfast nook.

“We imagined we’d be there every day enjoying the heck out of that space,” Scott says.

Days passed. Weeks passed. Months passed. Kitchen pots accumulated on the small table in the nook. In time, the table began to collect any bit of chaos the house had to offer. The final indignity: The recycling began to collect willy-nilly on the table.

“It was starting to get disgusting,” Scott says. “We ate there once. It was a complete waste of space.”

So Scott, an artist whose work has been in exhibits around the globe, and Sara, a hardcore culinary “hobbyist” who is working toward her teaching degree at UNO, got to work transforming the space. When she’s not studying, Sara loves to cook. But, the traditional galley-style kitchen in their Country Club-area Tudor was cramped with limited counter space. It was clear what was needed: A space to prepare food.

Scott got to work. What was the ideal? First, a deeper countertop; a space that could hold kitchenwares while still offering space for food preparation. The prep table would be 36-inches deep. Shelf space would be great, so, on his computer, Scott designed two deep lower shelves that—because of the spaced pine slats—look something like storage pallets.

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Scott had some carpentry and construction on his resume thanks to a youth spent building skateboard ramps. “I started building those with my brother at age 10,” he says. He made numerous trips back and forth to home-improvement stores for the right cuts and types of woods. He needed only basic power tools; primarily depending on a miter saw, jigsaw, and hand drill.
What Scott had little experience in was finish work. In his impromptu workshop in the garage, Scott spent a total of 60 hours getting the needed three coats of polyurethane on correctly.

“Drips—they can drive you crazy,” he says. “Watch for the drips.”

Finally, the stainless steel top. Scott sought a custom-built top from Hempel Sheet Metal Works in Omaha. The people at Hempel had a table top back to him in less than a week. “They were super cool about everything,” he says. “They were really into the idea.” The stainless-steel top has an added feature—a lightly distressed surface that hides dings or cut marks.

Now the Blakes have 86 percent more counter space (Scott meticulously measures such things). Now they have a deep, spacious surface for cutting meats and vegetables, laying out pastas, or preparing baking goods.

The stainless steel surface is particularly well suited for preparing cookie and other types of dough, Sara says.

“You want a cool surface like marble or stainless steel,” she says.

The final tally was about $1,300 with the biggest chunk being the $800 steel top. That was less than half the price of most custom-built tables on the market, Scott says.

The price was well worth it, the couple says. Basically, the new table has transformed a cramped, fairly dysfunctional space into the keystone of a fully functioning kitchen.

“It feels pretty good when you can take a dead space and turn it into something that transforms a room,” Sara says. “We never used this nook before. Now I use this table every day.”

Karen Schnepf

December 28, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Karen Schnepf’s artist profile, published in Her magazine in 2009 (now HerFamily magazine), carried the subtitle “Coloring Outside the Lines.” Much has changed in Schnepf’s life and artwork since then, but her credo is still the same. Whether beginning a fresh painting, designing her home, or playing with a grandchild, she believes in following an idea wherever it may lead rather than let conventional boundaries define the shape of her explorations. Color and curiosity are the joint impetus for her paintings; they are the verve and rhythm that bring her work to life.

Schnepf’s painting signature is an immediately recognizable style, with abstract compositions whose bright colors are emphasized by the artist’s unique, high-gloss finish. Colors assume shape by either consolidating into an area on the canvas or by lines suggesting a perimeter. These contours—whether a thick brush stroke or a quick, gestural dash—are somehow incomplete, interrupted. They have the same energy as Navajo spirit lines—the break prevents the work’s creative spirit from being trapped and thus stifled. Schnepf’s lines exclaim, meander, circle, and drip; they both allude and elude.

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Her new paintings literally and figuratively bump up the arrangement. In her latest series, Whispers, Secrets, Reality, paper collaged onto the canvas adds a layer of mystery to one or more areas of a painting. Finished with her three-step glossing process, the dimensionality is subtle and ambiguous, especially in view of Schnepf’s tendency to overlap paint. Before you can wonder what’s been covered up you have to decide if something has actually been covered up.

“The series is inspired by the complexity of relationships that come into our lives and how those relationships can change our road map,” says Schnepf.

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Further exploring the enticement of playing with space in another current series, Colors Layered, she arranges strata of heavy watercolor paper, cut, painted on one or both sides, and layered like shingles. Many of these soak up her vivid hues like sundrenched tiles, but Schnepf is so attuned to color that she celebrates its range even in a neutral palette. This sensitivity allows color to remain strong, even with the added focuses of texture 
and dimension.

“I particularly love the smooth, sophisticated, shiny surfaces of Karen’s pieces. It brings a vibrancy to the work.”
— Judy Boelts, collector

Whether painting or constructing, Schnepf follows her instincts; she adds, subtracts, shifts, leaves, comes back, questions, listens.

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“There is a passion in me that requires me to go to the next level,” she says, “to never settle for the ordinary, to experiment until I find the right combination of elements.” When she senses that her ideas have coalesced into an articulate and aesthetic expression, “Then I feel the satisfaction of completion, and the only thing that I add is my signature.” Change can be dramatic, as in Whispers, Secrets, Reality 5. (Works in a series are typically identified by number.) A patchwork ground has been quieted by a scrim of lavender; the most intense of those colors integrated into a central column. Black circles take on physicality; one can imagine they buzz in conversation, while black and white riffs ripple the surrounding space.

Coloring outside the lines, it seems, is an invitation to improvisation.

Karen Schnepf is represented by the Dundee Gallery. A solo exhibition of her work is planned there in April.

From Frenzied to Functional

December 23, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

January is Get Organized Month, so we asked local author and clutter coach, Cyndy Salzmann, to transform from frenzied to functional the tiny laundry room of a busy Elkhorn family.

Cyndy Salzmann and her bag of tricks.

Cyndy Salzmann and her bag of tricks.

Salzmann is the author of seven books, including her recently released Organized by Design: Using Your Personality to Get and Stay Organized, and she takes a unique approach to organizing a space. “A lot of clients want to start a project by digging into a closet,” says the pro who has also appeared on A&E’s Hoarders. “I insist on first digging into their personalities to make sure we design systems that produce long-term results.”

Dave and Debbie Raymond have a blended family of nine and need every inch of their 2,900 square-foot home. They use the laundry room for much more than just soap and suds—it’s command central for winter wear, cleaning supplies, gift wrapping, and is an overflow area for wayward kitchen items. Unfortunately, the multi-functional room ended up being more of a “multi-mess.”

before

 ASSESSMENT

“I ask each new client to take a personality inventory,” says Salzmann. “Test results as well as discussions with family members indicated that Debbie’s creative bent led to ever-changing systems of organizing things—a source of frustration for Dave, who is orderly and perhaps a bit more right-brained. A collection of sentimental items belonging to Debbie’s recently deceased mother added to the chaos. Finally, poor room design with high shelves and an open area under the counter wasted valuable space.”20131121_bs_3325

DESIGN

“Once I determined the family’s organizing style and needs,” Salzmann continues, “I pulled together a team to transform the room. We used flexible pullouts and open shelving along with other design elements to motivate family members to maintain the space. Debbie is a strong woman of faith with a vibrant personality, so I wanted this room to also feed her spirit.”

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TRANSFORMATION

“A soothing paint color grounds the space while design elements provide splashes of color,” Salzmann explains. “Meaningful objects, such as colorful canisters from Debbie’s mother, provide function and serve to personalize the room.

“I was able to take advantage of unused space by installing pullout shelves under the counter. The contents of two plastic drawer units with a jumble of mittens, hats, and gift-wrapping supplies are neatly organized in a deep pullout with dividers. Dishes formerly stored openly on top of the refrigerator slip neatly into drawers. Shelves for laundry baskets keep the counter clear for folding.

“A clear, plastic bin corrals items Debbie is collecting for her oldest daughter’s upcoming wedding, while the creative label builds excitement for the special day. Cleaning supplies, formerly stored on too-high shelves, are now easily within reach in a pullout shelf under the sink. Infrequently used items, stored in bins on high shelves, have dry erase labels to identify contents.”

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AFTERMATH

So how do the Raymonds feel about their “new” laundry room? “We love it!” says Debbie. “But more importantly, it’s not so overwhelming for us to now think about tackling another space in our home.”

Salzmann will be blogging about her experience throughout January. For more project details and inspiration, visit cyndysalzmann.com.

Salzmann’s Team • Interior design and painting by Renee Quandt, Clean Slate Interiors; Custom pullout shelving by Nick Starkey, ShelfGenie of Omaha

Peggy Pawloski

December 6, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

“This is all I own,” Peggy Pawloski says, encompassing her 1,000-square-foot condo in the 1101 Jackson building with a sweep of her hand. The owner of LeWonderment, a gift store in the Old Market for children and dogs, shares the studio with her 8-year-old black standard Schnauzer, Isabella Rose. “She’s lovely in the store,” Pawloski brags affectionately. “She’s great with kids.”

The studio doesn’t have many options for lounging, but Pawloski loves to cuddle with Izzy on an enormous sectional facing the eastern windows. Even with the windows open, the quiet is remarkable and the view of the Loess Hills is stunning. “When I’m sitting here reading,” she says, “I can see all the airplanes taking off.” Living on the top floor means she can hear the rain sing on the building’s tin roof. She loves it, especially because her bedroom is a loft up a short flight of stairs, bringing her even closer to the sound.

The loft space is just large enough for her bed (that and the buttery leather sectional are the only two pieces of furniture she moved into the studio with) and a walk-in closet, complete with a compact washer/dryer. She keeps dishes and plates in a sideboard because she doesn’t have cupboards. She purchased the sideboard and the wall unit in the living area from IKEA. “I really have stripped down what I own and what I value,” Pawloski says. “It’s almost minimalist.” She laughs, knowing she’ll never quite reach that because of her love of books. During her previous career with Scholastic in New York, she had a collection of 3,000 children’s books.

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The fairytale quality of children’s art and literature might be evident in the look of her shop, but her condo is all bold colors and simple silhouettes. A large abstract piece from internationally renowned local artist Steve Joy hangs above the sectional, and a Mid-Century womb chair and bar stools keep the studio’s feel sparse but colorful. The dining table and chairs are identical to ones found on the set of Mad Men.

Pawloski’s international travels with Scholastic enabled her to collect posters and art from around the world, which now hang in the dining and kitchen areas. “It’s the right change,” she says of her much more stationary life. “It’s the next metamorphosis.”

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She calls her current routine living the dream: She gets up, walks the dog, and then she and Izzy go to work. They open LeWonderment just one block away at 11 a.m., and the two of them are there till 9 p.m., selling children’s books, dog treats, and helping clients design the perfect playroom through Pawloski’s latest venture, Play+Room by LeWonderment.

Pawloski’s daughter, Amy, and her son, Jason, are on the board of directors for the French-inspired gift shop, and her two granddaughters come work in the shop on weekends. She says she feels like the fairy godmother: “I have a charming life because of all the people involved in it.”

Phenomblue

September 20, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Before the introduction of the Dilbertesque cubicle, American commerce was most commonly conducted in wide-open bullpen settings. The typical professional office layout featured what seemed an acre of neatly arrayed desks surrounded on the periphery by private offices for management-level “suits.”

The floor plan of a new space at Aksarben Village may evoke echoes of that rotary dial, clickety-clack-typewriter business era, but Phenomblue isn’t your granddaddy’s Mad Men agency.

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What was once considered the most impersonal of setups is turned upside down at the Omaha-based brand experience agency whose marketing and technology services have attracted such clients as Gogo, Newegg, and Bellevue University.

The old-timey bullpen philosophy has come full circle, says Phenomblue co-founder Joe Olsen, in that it is now taking on new life as an incubator for collaboration.

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“When you start a small business and have only a few employees,” Olsen explains, “everybody just naturally seems to know everything about what is going on. As you get bigger, people begin to become acutely aware that they no longer know everything, and the danger is that a silo mentality can set in. That ‘pockets of activity’ thinking is the very opposite of what made you good in the first place. This design is all about condensing the amount of personal workspace and emphasizing the amount of collaborative workspace. It’s impossible to sit out there in that big room and not overhear and be drawn into most of what’s going on around you.”

Phenomblue co-founder Joe Olsen.

Phenomblue co-founder Joe Olsen.

Innovative thinking begins at the door for the company that also has a satellite office in Los Angeles. The obtuse angles of a raw plywood wall form an anchor for what architect Jeff Dolezal calls the space’s spine-like “armature.” “It’s a vehicle to visually carry you through the space,” clarifies Dolezal, co-founder of TACKarchitects, which designed the space for Phenomblue. The armature meanders through the office—don’t look for many 90-degree angles here—rising gently to a group of huddle rooms before reaching its curvy, sloping terminus, one that to this writer conjures images of a skateboard half pipe.

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Whiteboards sprinkled throughout are some of the few floor-to-ceiling walls to be found in this open, airy office that incorporates huge garage doors for access to both the main conference room and an outdoor area that is steps away from Aksarben Village’s many live-work-play amenities. Skateboards, guitars, and other oddities hang throughout the funky Phenomblue offices. There’s even an edgy bicycle sculpture in a sprawling area dubbed the Community Space, a drop-in site for many of the firm’s clients, associates, and friends.

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Nix that. Not a bicycle sculpture after all. Just a cleverly placed, if utilitarian, bike rack that’s just one of the creative design elements that make this experiential marketing space an experience unto itself.

“Every day, I feel as though I’m walking into a work of art,” says Olsen. “It’s like a living organism that has its own personality. It reinforces with our clients why they come to us in the first place. It’s all about the experience.”

Be Our Guest

August 27, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

“They tell me, it’s up to you to change things out. We trust you.” Alex Ostblom, a landscape designer for Lanoha Nurseries, strolls across a newly transformed Westside lawn, naming flowers off the top of his head. Impatiens, begonias, mandevilla, and sweet alyssum are planted in great swaths of color, sweeping along sidewalk, driveway, and around to a brand-new back yard. Guests to the remodeled home might never suspect what the place looked like just a few months earlier.

Ostblom explains that the homeowners wanted a lawn that matched their refinished house’s new capabilities: to blend in with the rest of the stately neighborhood and to provide a perfect space to entertain family members and close friends. “Other than that,” he says, “they didn’t have too many particulars.” So Ostblom let his creativity loose, beginning the design process in March and construction in May. The entire project was completed by June 15.

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The first order of business was to redesign an unsightly retaining wall that led around the north of the house to the back yard. Originally made of concrete block, the five-foot wall created a tight alley between the house and a small mountain of unusable back yard. Its considerable height so close to the back of the house blocked off half of the dining and living room windows. A cramped patio made a stab at bringing hospitality to the space.

To simultaneously create a much less imposing wall while also making the yard itself usable, Ostblom removed tons of dirt to create tiers of lawn that allowed him to install a limestone wall less than two feet tall. The limestone complements colors in the house and can actually be found in the landscaping of nearby homes, bringing the property more into the neighborhood’s fold. Large blocks of the limestone accent the front and back yard, “giving the grandkids something to climb around on,” Ostblom points out.

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Thanks to the greatly shortened wall, guests in the dining and living rooms can enjoy a panorama of seasonal annuals (“One of the owners just loves lots of color,” Ostblom says), a rose cutting garden, and mature evergreens. “They wanted everything to look like it’d been there for years,” Ostblom says, so Lanoha Nurseries set field-grown spruce and conifers in place with machinery. “That’s a one-time deal,” he explains. “If the trees don’t take to this well, we can’t get the equipment back in here to put in more of that size.” So he’s monitoring their progress closely, already eyeing some barely noticeable brown needles on a spruce. “That one might be under stress from over watering.”

Frequent entertainment of friends and family meant the homeowners needed a large, welcoming space. In particular, they wanted a gas fire pit large enough where several people could comfortably gather. The idea of an L-shaped outdoor kitchen was tossed around, but the couple decided instead to place a simple grill out of sight around the home’s south corner to ensure that the fire pit remained their outdoor gathering place. A gas line leads from the house to the grill; no empty propane cans here.

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Ostblom notes that establishing such a mature landscape within six weeks calls for careful attention to how light will change over the seasons. Most of the yard is in at least partial shade, particularly in the front yard and to the north. To the northeast and east, the yard transitions into full sun. To cope with the variety of landscape elements (varying light, drainage, and plants with differing needs), Ostblom says he redesigned the home’s irrigation entirely. “They have turf, trees, annuals…it all requires different watering.” To facilitate easy maintenance by Lanoha Nurseries without disturbing the homeowners, Ostblom had the irrigation clock moved from inside the garage to just inside the gate in the backyard.

“I visit about once a month,” he says, though he admits he makes the rounds in the neighborhood frequently, checking in on this and other landscaping projects for any signs of trouble. “Communication. That’s the biggest part in making sure it all looks amazing.”