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Juggernaut Interactive

May 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The office space for Juggernaut Interactive mimics characteristics of the company itself. You couldn’t find it if you weren’t looking very, very hard. Even when you reach the business park it hides in just west of Westroads Mall in Miracle Hills, you’d never guess what’s really behind the corporate-looking oak door.

If Brian Daniel, owner of the two-year-old interactive web-experience company, is in the office, Zeke might be, too. The six-year-old toy poodle will happily chase a laser pointer around the small office’s common room, which is lime green. The one white wall displays a projection of comic sketches instead of typical office artwork. A visitor could almost mistake the place for a trendy frozen yogurt shop, except that Sharpies fill the glass apothecary jars instead of coconut flakes and candy.20130419_bs_1310_Web

“When we moved in, this space was really dark,” Daniel says of the 1,850-square-foot office. “The wainscoting, the trim pieces were all black.” Within the last two years of Juggernaut Interactive inhabiting the small suite, black has been relegated to tasteful accents only, giving bright colors the stage.

Cindy Ostronic, an interior designer with The Designing Edge, helped Daniel pull colors from the company’s own brand to fill the area with lime green, maraschino red, and what really should be called Orangesicle. From the multicolored couch pillows to the red iPad cover on a black sideboard, pops of the signature hues are everywhere. Ostronic was also the one who realized that a traditional reception desk/receiving area shouldn’t be a part of Juggernaut Interactive’s space. “That’s not really how they work,” she points out. “They needed more of a collaboration area out in the open where people can do their thing.”20130419_bs_1353_Web

Each room is named: The Grotto, the Hotbox, the Dojo, the Darkroom (oddly enough, as a corner office, it’s the brightest room), the Rabbithole (“You go in there, and things get lost”), and the Boiler Room (“It gets so darn hot in there”). The break room is called Red Mango after, yes, the yogurt shop, which is a Juggernaut Interactive client. The fridge is stocked with a variety of beers, the cabinets contain salty snacks, and lunches are up for grabs in the freezer. The office as a whole is nicknamed Gotham.

“We voted on all the names,” Daniel says, referring to his 10 or so employees. “What’s the personality of the room, why are we meeting in there, you know.” In the interactive branding business, he states, the more comfortable and relaxed you can be, the better.20130419_bs_1357_Web

What’s more relaxing than a little personalized mood music? “We have three Sonos systems running through here,” Daniel says, each of which enables employees to play different music zones on one of Juggernaut Interactive’s three networks. When guests come in, Daniel tends to ask what their three favorite songs are. “Everybody can control their own music, which is kind of nice,” he says. George Strait gets carried away in the Dojo, for example, while Adele sets fire to the rain in the Darkroom. The Sonos systems and two independent Apple TVs run off the office’s main network. The other two networks are for guests and voice over IP. Two Epson projectors work with the Apple TVs to showcase everything from a client’s desktop to late-night YouTube videos.

A huge part of the office’s aesthetic is obviously its tech. Juggernaut Interactive employees are drowning in it. Everyone has either a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro, an iPad 2 (some also have an iPad mini), as well as a 27-inch Thunderbolt Display monitor, “which is complete overkill,” Daniel admits, “but they all have them.” Except, that is, for Daniel, who doesn’t use a monitor or really even a particular office. His workspace is his iPad mini, a projector, and whatever dry-erase surface happens to be nearby. A phone call to the office rings three times before it goes to Daniel’s cell, making sure that the state-hopping owner doesn’t miss a call.20130419_bs_1327_Web

“I’m creating a business for the lifestyle I want,” he says, which does not include an office full of people he has to babysit. “I want this to be a creative space where people come in, get their work done, get out.” The office attitude is indeed come and go. Daniel says his employees have been around the block enough with their careers that they work very efficiently. The office space reflects that attitude: informal but professional. Sharp and tidy, but colorful and creative.

Five Trends in Office Design

Office environments are ever-changing. From height-adjustable desks to mobile work surfaces to LED lighting options—the possibilities are endless. Today’s best offices are designed to reflect the shifting expectations and needs of their employees. Here are five current trends in office design:

  • Technology is key. Technology is now integrated into office environments. Interactive white boards, electrified surfaces, and “touch down” areas that allow for mobile devices to be used are just a couple examples of how technology is breaking down barriers of the traditional workplace.
  • Open workspaces. The lowering of panels or even the removal of all dividers between people can enhance the teaming of groups and sharing of information without even moving away from their work areas. Open spaces can make people feel more comfortable and not so boxed in, which can create greater productivity and efficiency.
  • Collaboration. Collaborative areas are designed to get people more involved and connected with one another. Meeting spaces are being created to encourage collaboration between staff members. This might include lounge areas, benches and tables, or even café areas. Collaborative areas can take the place of formal reserved conference rooms or even private offices.
  • Decline in available space. The economic recession has led to companies purchasing smaller offices or downsizing current offices, which means individual workspaces are shrinking.
  • Fewer private offices. Having fewer private offices provides useful space for more collaborative areas. Today, furniture that is mobile, adjustable, multifunctional, and adaptable is just as important as private offices.

When companies incorporate modern design into their workplace, they will retain and attract the best talent and increase their overall productivity.

Visit the All Makes showroom at 25th and Farnam streets in Omaha to see the latest office furniture and design trends on display. The All Makes team is trained to help you make design and furniture purchases that fit your office atmosphere, your work style, and your budget.

A Rockbrook Renovation

April 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Imagine having a home you love, then finding a home you love even more. The new home has additional space and is in a great neighborhood that’s ideal for your growing family. In fact, you happen to find your new home even before it’s on the market. A kind neighbor nearby tips you off that a beautiful, spacious home will soon be for sale. Excited and eager, you walk across the street and head inside. Fingers crossed, you walk up the porch steps and through the front door. And then it hits you.

You cross the threshold. While the home looks lovely on the outside, the inside has a style that’s not quite your own. The layout, design, and furnishings aren’t exactly what you and your spouse had in mind. But the house has potential. And so you make the purchase and begin renovating and redecorating. This is precisely what happened to Davin and Allison Bickford of Omaha.

Allison and Davin Bickford in the kitchen with their daughters.

Allison and Davin in the kitchen with their daughters.

The young couple and their 3-year-old daughter moved from their cozy Aksarben home to their current home just a stone’s throw from 108th Street and West Center Road. The move to their new home, its renovation, and the birth of their second daughter spanned just a few hectic months that also overlapped Christmas last year. By all accounts, the Bickfords were ambitious to create their dream home in short order.

They knew several of the families in and around their current home. It was an ideal neighborhood, one where homes were routinely sold with little to no advertising necessary.

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“The former owner was packing up the house when I realized it would soon be for sale,” Allison explains of the District 66 neighborhood. “This is a close-knit, welcoming neighborhood with lots of small children and impromptu driveway parties.”

When the Bickfords, both 29, closed on the home last year, they began planning for major renovations to the main floor. Initially, the kitchen was closed off from the rest of the home. Carpet was everywhere except the bathroom. And the color scheme was generally dark.20130313_bs_9339_Web

This being a home where they planned to spend the next several years, Davin and Allison opted to rethink the main level. Working alongside Omaha interior designer Julie Hockney, the Bickfords removed the kitchen’s outward-facing wall to create a more open and spacious floor plan.

The Bickfords enjoy entertaining with family and friends and designed a kitchen where conversations could still take place during meal preparation. Today, the kitchen boasts white cabinetry, granite countertops, stainless-steel appliances, a farmhouse sink (which Allison called her “must-have” piece) and, perhaps best of all, an open countertop connecting the living space.20130313_bs_9418_Web

“Davin and I knew the style that we wanted, but we weren’t sure how to mix everything together,” Allison says. “We like to entertain and wanted our home to feel warm and entertaining, but also with that elegant feel. Lived-in and classic but comfortable, too.”

Hockney worked alongside the Bickfords throughout the renovation and redecoration. The walls were painted a dark gray. White crown molding and new floors were installed to give the home a sleek, modern, and spacious feel, yet still warm enough for their two young daughters.20130313_bs_9499_Web

A large, gray couch and patterned chair fill the living room, along with a refurbished bench below the main window. (The Bickfords joke that their new living room pieces fit their style and design aesthetic; however, all of the fabric has been treated to avoid stains from spills and other in-home mishaps. They are the parents of two small children, after all.) The living room’s fireplace also received a major facelift to match the updated décor and design throughout the main level.

Hockney says she worked hard to ensure the home portrayed a modern, classic design that was combined with new and vintage pieces. The living room bench, for example, is a repurposed coffee table that’s been topped with a seating cushion.20130313_bs_9436_Web

Davin and Allison sold most of their furniture when they moved into their new home; now, they’re slowly filling it with pieces, light fixtures, and other accessories that they truly love.

“We wanted to start with a clean slate and fill it as we go,” Davin says.20130313_bs_9470_Web

The clean lines and sleek design of the kitchen and living room continue down the hall into the bathroom and the guest bedroom: white furniture and accessories, gray walls, and modest pops of color here and there. New light fixtures abound throughout the main level (several of which are small pendants) offering a cozy glow both day and night.

Color abounds in both daughters’ bedrooms, facets of which are holdovers from the Bickfords’ Aksarben home. One bedroom is awash with pink bedding and pink accents. The wall is a gray-and-white chevron pattern, continuing with the gray and white hues throughout the home. The other daughter’s bedroom is largely a soothing, pale green with white accents, giving it a cozy feel.20130313_bs_9530_Web

The Bickfords’ master bedroom and adjoining bathroom are next to receive facelifts. Just as with their young family, their home’s beauty is growing and maturing every day.

Mid-Century Modern

December 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann, Kristine Gerber

In post-World War II America, a contemporary design style borne of the modernist movement and emphasizing a balance of form and function came to the attention of visionary Omaha developers and architects. The resulting homes and buildings completed in that style made for some distinctive neighborhoods that endure as models of aesthetics and utility and that continue to fascinate owners and onlookers alike.

What became known as Mid-Century Modern is seeing a resurgence in interest today among preservationists and restorers, thanks in part to television shows like Mad Men and their celebration of vintage culture. That interest was never more evident than during a October Mid-Century Modern tour sponsored by Restore Omaha and Omaha 2020 that drew a record 850 participants.

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Sketch drawn by architect Donald Polsky

Restore Omaha President Kristine Gerber says it was the organization’s first tour to focus on an architectural style, and the Indian Hills neighborhood offered “the best collection” of Mid-Century Modern. A 2010 Omaha Historic Building Survey of Mid-Century Modern neighborhoods by Leo A. Daly architects Christina Jansen and Jennifer Honebrink offered a blueprint or map for the tour.

For tour participants, it meant getting inside homes they may have long-admired from afar or been curious to see for themselves the various ways in which these structures bring the outdoors “in.”

Mid-Century Modern homeowners like Mark Manhart and Bonnie Gill love their residences. “We both feel we have lived here forever and plan no move now or later,” says Manhart.

Gerber says there’s growing appreciation for the style’s ahead-of-its-time characteristics of flat roofs, open floor plans, floor-to-ceiling windows, ample natural light, and green design-construction elements.

There’s motivation, too, in obtaining National Register of Historic Places status for select Mid-Century Modern structures and neighborhoods that qualify.

Mid-Century Modern can be found in other metro neighborhoods besides Indian Hills, but some intentional decisions made it the prime site for it to flower here.

Food manufacturer brothers Gilbert and W. Clarke Swanson, along with architect Leo A. Daly, saw potential to develop a modern, upscale suburban neighborhood taking its name from the old Indian Hills Golf Course. Commercial structures, such as Christ the King Church and the Leo A. Daly company headquarters, became shining examples of this modernist-inspired architectural style.

Leo A. Daly company headquarters.

Leo A. Daly company headquarters is a shining model of modernist-inspired architecture.

But it was left up to a pair of edgy young architects, Don Polsky and Stanley J. How, Sr., to design dozens of residential homes in this new development featuring the attributes, values, and principles of Mid-Century Modern. How also designed one of Omaha’s most distinctive luxury apartment buildings, the sleek Swanson Towers, in Indian Hills. The building has since been converted to condominiums.

Together, the Swansons, Daly, How, and Polksy transformed the “built Omaha.”

“They were young tigers and weren’t necessarily rooted in doing the same old thing, and I think they saw an opportunity to do some things that were really unique and new,” says Stan How, president of Stanley J. How Architects, the company his late father founded. He says his father was “a cutting-edge guy.”

Polsky apprenticed with superstar modernist architect Richard Neutra in Los Angeles and borrowed concepts from his mentor and others for the work he did in Omaha. He says Mid-Century Modern’s appeal all these years later makes sense because its forward-thinking approaches and emphasis on clean lines, simplicity, and efficient use of space are what many homebuyers look for today.

“We were green before its time, we put in a lot of insulation, we shaded our windows, we oriented things towards light, and brought light into the home. We used insulating glass, we planted trees to give us shade, we broke the wind from the north, and we worked with the client’s budget on the configuration of the sight,” Polsky says. Passive solar features and energy-efficient systems were rarities then.

Stan How says his father began practicing architecture for Leo A. Daly right as the modernist movement caught on. “He started his career at a perfect time to absorb all these new things going on. When he went out on his own, he had some clients who had the guts, he’d always say, to explore some of these ideas and let him toy around with that.” Mike Ford became a key early client.

Stan How, Sr., turned his business over to his son in 1990 but still came into the office every day until his death in December 2011.

Stan How, Sr., turned his business over to his son in 1990 but still came into the office every day until his death in December 2011.

“Mike was a young guy who wanted to do something really new, so my dad floated out the contemporary style or what we now call Mid-Century Modern, and Mike loved it. But he also didn’t want to be the only one on the street with a house like that, so he bought four lots and said, ‘Let’s do four spec houses,’ and that’s what they did.”

One of those Stanley How-designed homes, built in 1963, was later purchased by Mark Manhart and Bonnie Gill. Homebuyers like Ford were the exception, however, not the rule, as Mid-Century found relatively few takers.

“We’re a pretty conservative [town], Omaha. It’s not Los Angeles. I thought you’d just show a few things and they’d be beating a path to your door, but it didn’t turn out that way,” says Polsky. “There’s still a limited supply of buyers for this type of architecture but you do what you can, you carry the torch.”

Polsky marveled though at the huge turnout to see his homes and those of his old colleague, Stanley How, Sr. “It’s amazing how many people showed up,” he says.

Don Polsky at his drafting desk.

Don Polsky at his drafting desk, circa 1979.

Stan How says designs by his father and Polsky are the antithesis of the overblown, oversized McMansions many homeowners reject today. “I think people are coming back to simplicity.” Indeed, Mark Manhart says, “the clean lines and classic simplicity” of his home are major attraction points for he and his wife and the many inquirers who call on them.

The only regret How has is that his father wasn’t around to see all the love his homes are getting today. “He would have absolutely reveled in it. He would have loved it.”

The March 1-2 Restore Omaha Conference will once again offer a strong lineup of expert preservation and restoration presenters, says Gerber, who promises a dynamic host site that gives attendees an insider’s glimpse at some landmark. For more information, visit restoreomaha.org.

Read more of Leo Adam Biga’s work at leoadambiga.wordpress.com.

A Tale of Two Homeowners

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Jokingly referred to by its owners as a closet with a house around it, Dr. Linda and Travis Sing’s window-walled home is a study in what’s left in the open…and what can be stashed away.

This reveal/conceal dichotomy plays out from the first moment inside the foyer. To the left is the Sing’s bright living room and dining area with its floor-to-ceiling fenestration that allows the room to capture and somehow magnify even the most elusive beam of light.

Windows to the backyard line the galley kitchen wall.

Windows to the backyard line the galley kitchen wall.

Straight ahead is a corridor flanked by closets, tall and long and limitless.

To the right is another airy room, but this one features a desk that can be hidden…in fact, the very same desk that once belonged to the architect and original owner of the home, Don Polsky.

Peekaboo shoji screen pocket doors separate the two rooms. Polsky, who once worked in the design studio of famed “California-style” architect, Richard Neutra, was a man of his time. And his time was all about clever storage solutions and walls that seemed to float.

Simple geometric lines are found around the house, from a bookshelf in the office to the spare bedroom.

Simple geometric lines are found around the house, from a bookshelf in the office to the spare bedroom.

But the Sings’ home is more than the sum of its partitions. It’s an actual home, built for an actual family. First Polsky’s, now the Sings. The couple serve off their buffet made with original marble from Clarkson Hospital. They store their kitchen items in St. Charles cabinets, such a Mid-Century staple that Frank Lloyd Wright used them at Falling Water and Mies van der Rohe installed them at Farnsworth House. Linda does her makeup in a vanity that lifts up from a room-length credenza…just like a scene from Mad Men. Only when she’s finished prepping her look, Linda typically rushes off to her job as a radiologist, not lunch with the girls.

“Of course, we have to be respectful with anything we do to the house,” Linda says of the updates they’ve made, including replacing all the carpet and renovating a bathroom. “But we can’t live in a museum.”

The master suite features floor-to-ceiling sliding panels for closet doors.

The master suite features floor-to-ceiling sliding panels for closet doors.

It’s a sentiment with which Polsky seems to resoundingly agree. When the couple fell in love with the house and decided to buy, Linda and Travis looked him up (there had been one owner in between). The three became fast friends. The architect even attended the home closing and told stories: here was the flower wallpaper his daughter put up in the ‘70s…there, in the back, is Beverly, the tree. The Sings keep an Omaha World-Herald article from that era, featuring a photo of Polsky’s wife and daughter staged in the very familiar-looking living room.

One of Polsky’s enduring legacies is the enormous map of the world in the main corridor, an homage to his days stationed in the Atlas Mountains with the Army Corps of Engineers. It’s remarkably well-preserved thanks to Travis who, as a historian, endeavors to be archivally sound about gluing any fraying bits down.

A wallpaper map of the world, installed by Polsky, lines the main hall.

A wallpaper map of the world, installed by Polsky, lines the main hall.

“When we have get-togethers, the hall gets jammed because everyone’s looking at the map,” Travis laughs. “Everyone comments on how things have changed, where they’ve been, where they want to go.”

On a facing wall is an original pencil drawing of the home that Polsky gave the Sings last summer.  Those few simple lines on paper offer the same comment about the home.