Beyond the Cubicle Walls

An office is an office is an office. Except when it isn’t.

There is probably a sitcom episode about a relatively new employee who is unable to find her desk in the sea of identical office cubicles. It generally isn’t quite that bad for those of us with desk jobs; then again, it‘s often not much better. 

But it doesn’t have to be this way. As it turns out, there is room for inspiration and creativity, even in Cubicle-Land. Two local businesses can show you the way.

The Century House is known for its modern and Scandinavian furnishings and gifts, but the near-west retailer also has a commercial interiors division that outfits offices, restaurants, reception areas and more in sleek styles that look good and wear well.

“Whether a client is looking for ergonomic workstation solutions, energy-efficient lighting or eco-friendly products, we will be able to help,” says The Century House’s Katy Higley. “We can design a space down to the smallest details. We can coordinate lighting, rugs, desk accessories, pillows and more.”

Higley notes that commercial interiors get far more traffic than residential ones. Taking this into consideration, though, does not require business clients to sacrifice style or creativity. “We have a vast product selection that allows us to adapt to almost any project,” she says. “Our goal is to make our clients look good. We bring exceptional products to our commercial projects, along with our unique design perspective.”

Unique design can make all the difference. Summit Credit Union, for example, pushed the envelope with its Fitchburg Inspiration Branch. Using custom theater-style sets, Summit created a lobby space that simulates the dreams for the future that many of its members have.

“The Inspiration Branch lobby is filled with 3-D interactive reminders of what a member might want to save [for] or borrow to accomplish,” says Summit President and CEO Kim Sponem. “Instead of traditional posters or brochures to market vacation loans or mortgages, members experience life-sized scenes of an airplane, a beach and a college campus, not to mention the sailboat. Each scene is constructed by theater set creators and is removable with no damage to the structure. It is a virtual stage built to help our members realize their dreams.”

Sponem says the theater-stage approach came to her while driving, and it turned out to be a cost-effective way to create something inspired and unexpected, without a lot of expense.

“As a financial cooperative, we are very conscious of how we use our members’ money. That is why we came up with the cost-effective, removable theater-built format to create this inspiration to action,” Sponem says. “We have definitely heard awe from some members and community leaders who have entered and said things like, ‘Wow, it’s like Disney World.’ And some have questioned the cost based on how unique and large-scale it appears. It helps to let people know it is a removable theater set and not part of the building’s physical structure.”

Higley says any commercial client can develop a unique interior space that showcases his or her sensibilities, priorities and style. The key is asking the right questions of designers and really exploring possibilities instead of assuming that the traditional options are the only options.

“While we strive to make every space beautiful, efficiency and functionality are equally important,” Higley says. “To gain a full understanding of our clients’ needs, we visit and research the company in addition to spending time listening and gathering information from the client. It is important for us to understand our clients’ goals, which may include communicating a brand, increasing the productivity of employees or setting a specific tone to encourage specific behaviors.”

Sponem agrees that interior spaces can reinforce brand and identity. “The Inspiration Branch makes it clear we are not just another financial institution and that we are here to help our members make their dreams come true,” she says. “We built in the flexibility to change the scenes over time … [and] we’ve brought inspiration to the very place where we assist them in reaching their financial goals.”

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