Renovating Our Offices #1

Studio G Offices (pre-renovation)

We renovate many types of buildings for our clients, frequently while they occupy them. I’ve always been sympathetic to how unsettling it is to our clients to have their space torn apart and a construction crew move in, but I try to focus them on the beautiful space we’ve designed, which I know they will appreciate when it’s done.  

Now, Studio G is renovating our own offices, and I admit it is challenging to be on this side of the table.  I thought sharing our process might be educational, or simply humorous at our expense: not reality TV but a slice of our reality.

First the back story:  Our offices are on the third floor of a 19th century doll factory originally owned by the Dahl sisters, which was taken over by the expanding Haffenreffer Brewery.  The heavily reinforced timber structure with steel tension rods supported many kegs of beer. When Haffenreffer shuttered its doors in the early 1970’s, a yawning complex of 13 buildings was left vacant.  JP Neighborhood Development Corporation took over, Boston Beer began brewing Sam Adams here and, in 1995, Building P was being renovated.

It was love at first sight for me:  the long space full of daylight streaming through large windows in massive masonry walls, and heavy timber posts and beams.  Kenyon Woodworking, still downstairs, had built a ‘race track’ in our space for annual belt sander races. [Yes, to the carpenters who still miss it — blame me for the demolition of the belt sander track.  I leased the entire floor despite being a staff of three including me.  Then I scrambled to find design colleagues to share the space. 

The Brewery Studios, a micro-business enterprise of sorts, was born. We renovated the raw space on a shoestring, creating a shared conference room, reception area, kitchen and workroom.  Tenants rent one or more ‘work bays’ —offices without any privacy, because doors and hardware were out of our budget.  Small businesses related to design and construction, and non-profits with great missions moved in.  We developed a supportive community: sharing in the kitchen, offering business leads and ideas, and creating synergy between our businesses.

My older daughter was 4 months old when we moved in, sleeping in a snugli while I stretched my arms around her to draw. 17 years later, she’s a high school senior and our space needs a face lift. We’ve outgrown the conference room, expanded our staff, and we need multiple gathering and presentation spaces. We’ll share stories from our process over the next few months…Stay tuned!


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