Could you imagine starting a business with your significant other, and then, during the same calendar year, building a 5,000 SF custom office space AND planning your own wedding? Oh wait, I forgot to add - during a worldwide pandemic? Well, that is what my clients Jason and Kristen Cecco of Lending Heights Mortgage Company did.
I met Jason at a YPN Event, a networking group for young real estate agents, which Lending Heights Mortgage Company was sponsoring. I mentioned I was an interior designer, and he said, "Do you do commercial? We're building an office."
Yes, actually, I do.
He scheduled a Design Consultation. During the consultation, I met with Jason and his fiancé Kristen. We thoroughly discussed their needs and wishes for the space, and I started to formulate a plan. We were meeting in their prior office space, which was only about 600 SF, (it was teeny-tiny!)
BEFORE - New Office Space
Our first site visit to the new office space.
After listening to all of their criteria, I based the design around the following things:
Jason really loves bright, vibrant colors
They wanted the space to be friendly and inviting... it's all part of their company culture!
They wanted it to feel open, light and airy, preferably with glass walls
The budget wasn't huge, so we had to choose were to "splurge" and invest selectively
As a company, they are about 98% paperless. They are efficient, lean and tech savvy. The space needed to reflect their forward thinking business mentality.
I started to envision a space with mid-century modern styling and textural accent features. This company is thoroughly modern and cool, and their space definitely needed to reflect that. I spent several weeks collecting images, editing design ideas, and putting together a 20 page Conceptual Design Presentation. This presentation allow Jason and Kristen to visualize and picture exactly what their new office space would look like, including 3-d renderings.
During this time, DTSH Interiors sent an architectural draftsperson to the site to start creating a drawing set. I then laid out the space and exactly how the office would be designed. There would be 4 managers offices, a large conference room with lots of natural light, a reception lounge by the entrance, an open office area with desks and a shuffle board table, a lounge area in the back with a kitchenette, two bathrooms, and a smaller conference room as well.
We scheduled their Conceptual Design Presentation meeting, and I was both nervous and so excited to show Jason and Kristen the design plan I had come up with. What would they think? Would they like it? Would they request 1,000,000 changes?
Well, I'm happy to say, they LOVED it. There were almost no changes to the original plan. We were all on the same page, envisioning the same space. Now we just had to bring this design concept into reality! (no big deal, right? )
The space we would be renovating was in a large storefront commercial office building in Oakmont. Previously, it had been a clothing boutique. Jason & Kristen signed their lease, and it was officially happening!
I had shown them 3 possible floor plan layouts for their space. They chose one of the three layouts, (and... they picked MY FAVORITE option!)
Next, we moved on to the furniture plans and all of the details involved with selecting their brand new office furniture. For their furniture, I envisioned clean lines, white and light wood accent, and pops of brightly colored fabrics on the acoustic tack boards and mobile drawer pedestals.
Together we enlisted the services of Tischendorf Contracting to build out the space. Jason and Kristen did receive a couple of bids, but we went with Tischendorf because his proposal was highly thorough and detailed, and we felt we knew exactly what we would be getting if we hired him. In short, we felt confident that he was going to provide good service on the build.
DTSH Interiors loved working with Tischendorf Contracting company because of their attention to detail, thorough bid and very organized project scheduling. Also, each day, at the end of the work day, as part of their process, Tischendorf Contracting would send a photo of the work completed that day.
Part of what I loved about working with Tischendorf, was that I was always kept very much in the loop of what was happening and what had been completed on this job, which was so appreciated.
We were just about to get started with construction on the office in March 2020, when suddenly... the whole world was shutting down due to the Pandemic. The construction was put on hold for about 3 months. It was actually a pretty stressful experience for all involved, because there was a lot on the line financially with getting this project completed.
However, during this time, we focused on finalizing the furniture order, and I put together a final presentation, which we did over Zoom with Jason and Kristen. We finalized all of the detailed selections for the furniture, and hit "order" on their furniture, which would take 6 - 8 weeks to custom make.
Construction finally started on this project in May. It was exciting to start building out the space, and once it started, boy did it move fast! Each day as the project moved forward, it was always an exciting time of day around 5 pm, because a new photo of the space would come in, and I could see that days progress! At the last minute, Jason and Kristen decided to update and upgrade their logo colors. Their new logo was a huge improvement upon their last one, which they actually designed themselves in Microsoft paint.
Their new logo features an abstract city scape in bright vibrant colors, perfectly on brand with their company culture - friendly and thoroughly modern. Because of this, I also had to - at the last minute - revise their paint color palate. I picked paint colors for the space that would more directly tie in and coordinate with their new brand colors.
As the summer went on, so did the construction project! Everything stayed on schedule once we finally started, which was such a relief!
A local artisan, Bert Cherry of Antiques on Main in Bridgeville, fabricated a custom conference table. The table was made of locally sourced solid spalted maple, cut to custom dimensions, with grommet holes cut into the center to make room for power cords to be added to the table. The conference room, and in particular, the table itself, is actually one of my favorite features of the design.
The conference room also features a glass wall, capitalizing on the natural light coming from the only windows at the storefront. This design layout allows the light to filter through the entire space, creating an open and air feel, despite there only being windows on one side of the building.
Additionally, another favorite aspect of this whole design is the brick accent wall. We added a faux brick accent wall to the space, and painted it a dark moody black color. Decorative sconce lighting and a logo application was added to make this the stand out logo wall of the space. DTSH Interiors also selected white leather conference chairs, so that they would really "pop" with contrast against the dark black brick wall. The end result is a conference room that functions, and makes a statement from the street!
In the entry lounge, another textured accent wall was added. This wall was made with Stikwood. Another logo was applied here, but this one was done in just stainless, not the full color application, to give a more sophisticated vibe to the lounge, and also as to not compete with the full color logo application adjacent in the conference space. The lounge furniture is mid century modern with 2 green lounge chairs and a blue bench.
The flooring was applied in a herringbone pattern. Jason and Kristen (and friends) actually decided to install the flooring themselves to save on project costs. I believe this represented about a 10k savings for them. However, I think if you asked them now, they might not choose to do it this way again!
Installing the herringbone pattern proved to be more difficult than expected, (and may or may not have caused some inter-relational conflicts between the couple in the moment!) They were brave for trying, in my opinion! As a startup company, I definitely don't blame them for trying to find somewhere to cut cost since a build out of this size will easily cost upwards of 200k. And that is if everything goes as expected!
But they did it... they installed the flooring themselves, and also the faux brick accent wall in the conference room. And hey, their doggo even helped!
Another favorite aspect of this design was the shuffle board table to the open office area. I suggested adding a game table, as a way to make the office environment more fun. The shuffle board table was actually fully planned into the floor plan when I started the original space planning. They now use it for in-house company shuffleboard tournaments!
Some people might ask, "but why do you need a shuffleboard in a mortgage office?"
When others ask why, I like to ask, "why not?" I believe it is a fun way to build report among employees and a way to infuse a little - much needed - fun into the work space.
The carpet tile was very cool. It has bright colors, and we ordered 4 different styles and mixed and matched to create a flooring pattern going down the room. The managers offices also received a slightly different pattern and color with their carpet tile arrangements.
The back office common area we wanted to also be a really nice place to hang out as well. We included a very nice and open kitchenette. I loved the countertop material, which was actually a Formica HD Laminate with a very realistic marble look. Because the space needed to be ADA compliant, a modified toe-kick was also included to allow for wheel chair access in the cabinets.
The kitchenette also featured open floating decorative shelves, as well as an open space with a high top table and counter stools. During construction, Kristen decided the back area might feel too dark, and so we decided to add glass doors to the entry of this space.
This made a huge difference, and allowed the natural light from the front of the office to filter all the way to the back employee lounge. It ended up being an excellent component to enrich the final design outcome, and the overall flow of the space.
DTSH Interiors also made all selections for the bathrooms, including a black penny tile floor, bright yellow accent wall, round mirror and pedestal sinks.
All in all, DTSH Interiors had an incredible experience partnering with Tischendorf Contracting, High Point Office Interiors, Antiques on Main for the Conference table, and we absolutely loved working with Lending Heights owners, Jason and Kristen.
Jason and Kristen throughout the process were positive, kind, patient and made working with them an absolute breeze. Lending Heights mortgage company is going places!
I am so excited to watch the growth of their business, knowing that I had a part this giant milestone of their business - helping them build the office space of their dreams.
A few months after completing the office design, Jason and Kristen tied the knot! Congratulations to this incredible couple!
Update: Just about 9 months later, Jason and Kristen welcomed baby Giada! I went to stop by to see the space and Jason gushed and shared photos of his new baby girl.
All in all, this was such a cool project - DTSH Interiors is so proud of how the space turned out, and two year later, the space is still working great for them. Although the company is growing and they might need to move sooner than the time their 5 year lease is up!