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Office Buildout for Company Expansion

When a company has “design” in the name, every detail matters. So when the Aptitude team was tasked with creating a functional yet personality-filled workspace befitting the name DE Design Works, it was clear from the start that this was an opportunity to go above and beyond. But first, the team had to transform the bare-bones foundational space—all 40,000 square feet of it—into something inhabitable.  “This building was an empty shell—meaning there was no plumbing, no electrical, no [interior] walls. It was basically four concrete walls,” explains Aptitude Design and Build President Matt Mierek. The task ahead was two-fold: first, finish out the building to create an environment where staff and clients alike could congregate. And second, to put a distinctive spin on the resulting workplace, making it stand apart from the standard office.

“We designed the entire space,” Mierek recalls. “All of the electrical plumbing, walls, flooring, drywall, painting, everything that you see.” Just getting the empty shell up to a baseline of usability was a tall order. “Obviously, trying to design 40,000 square feet is difficult in itself,” he says. From there, the team had to make decisions about how to divide the space to make the most of it and create separate “zones” with their own unique functions that would support DE Design Works’ style of operating. “In terms of office space, we had lots of meetings on what their needs were,” Mierek remembers. “It's an engineering company, so they need lab space. They needed a big space for cubicles. They also needed office spaces, conference rooms, and break rooms.” Starting from a blank slate in this case was both a challenge and an opportunity for creativity.

“Our first step was laying out where the walls are going. Once we did that, we looked into colors and [decided on] the wood wall in the conference room.” The unexpected details, like the wood accent wall, put the company’s personality on display and imbued the formerly generic space into something with a clear point-of-view. “The wood wall and light fixtures in the conference room were ideas we came up with—and then we landed on adding the black ceiling, to give it the rustic-meets-modern look they wanted,” Mierek explains.

Small touches throughout the space help define that aesthetic, but the crown jewel of the office is the entry—a space that welcomes clients and evokes company pride. A branded accent wall with circuit board-style graphics establishes a high-tech feel from the moment guests step inside the building. Just below the logo, plexiglass frames provide space to show the evolution of the company over time. “Those frames are a way to show the different types of projects they work on, and how they’ve grown from the inception of the company in 2002 until now,” Mierek says.

But the entryway isn’t the only part of the building that’s forward-looking. With more growth on the horizon, Mierek and his team were careful to design the space in such a way that DE Design Works can grow alongside it. The mezzanine area is a perfect example. “I wanted to make sure that, as they grow, they have more room available without needing to go out and purchase more space,” Mierek notes. “The ceilings were so high that I wanted to use that space. We came up with the idea of creating a mezzanine in the front quarter of the space, adding a staircase where the offices are located.” The idea of scalability factored into the team’s approach from the start. “[From] the initial meeting, we were asking about their potential growth in the next five to ten years, because we have to take that into consideration.”

After a month of design meetings, the team was able to transform the space from a blank canvas to a thoughtfully designed office DE can be proud of—in just five months. The resulting space is an incredible departure from where the building started, and it’s filled with enough unique touches to make it distinctly Design Works. “Just doing something a little bit different, has turned out pretty cool,” Mierek says.


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