Office makeovers

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:40 pm

The ergonomic chair is no longer just for the executive in the corner office. New technologies with work stations allow an easy change in partition-height, power outlets at desk-height or the ability to create a private office in the middle of a room.

Such modifications for the masses signify an office design renaissance at many Milwaukee-area businesses.

The renaissance can be attributed mainly to a changing workforce environment, where employers aim to recruit and retain the best people, and employees seek comfort and convenience.

“Clients used to sit down and say, ‘I have this many people and this much space,’” said Gary Zimmerman, president of Creative Business Interiors Inc. in West Allis. “Now they say, ‘Here is our culture, and here is how we want people to see us.’ Space and culture go hand in hand.”

Defining the culture of an organization through office design includes addressing aesthetics and ergonomics. Workspaces may be larger or more open than in the past, lighting is softer or indirect and colors are brighter.

“The younger workforce is going into the market understanding that they will be working on a computer and keyboard for the rest of their lives,” Zimmerman said.

Companies accommodate longer workdays and computer-based employees with adjustable keyboards to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome, ergonomic chairs to avoid back strain and high quality carpet for noise absorption and comfort.

“Clients want to keep people productive and happy,” said Scott Gierhahn, president and chief executive officer of Schroeder Solutions in New Berlin. “The concept of board rooms has gone away. People are bringing the walls down and creating more open, collaborative spaces.”

With more collaborative spaces and shorter cubicle partitions, employers are taking steps to control sound by adding white noise machines that are installed above ceiling tiles, installing cushioned carpet tiles that absorb noise and adding acoustical panels to workstations, Gierhahn said.

With these aspects in place, employees can hear noise, but it is not enough to distract their work or loud enough that they understand what other people in the office are saying, Gierhahn said.

Schroeder Solutions provides moveable offices as well. Employers can create a private office by installing wall panels that hang from the ceiling and a sliding door panel.

Gierhahn’s personal office was created with a demountable movable wall of glass panels that are installed into tracks on the ceiling.

“Clients are moving past the idea that all private offices are on the perimeters of the space, and we are seeing more private offices in the middle with interior windows so that everyone has the opportunity to see outside,” Zimmerman said.

Employers can add personal shelving units and individual coat storage units to the workstations as well.

“Improved lighting, an invigorating color program and new signage means a better community for employees,” Gierhahn said.

Trends also are changing for break rooms, where more businesses are offering a full kitchen with a stove, soda machine and dishwasher, instead of just a microwave, sink and coffee maker, Gierhahn said.

“Our clients want a place where their staff will want to stay in the office for lunch and can feel comfortable making something healthy,” Zimmerman said.

Milwaukee-based Cieslik Celek Interior Design LLC offers interior design services for restaurants, retail and office spaces. The firm mainly works with smaller offices when doing office interior design work.

Clients of Cieslik Celek are looking for a young, energetic look to attract people and retain employees, said Sharon Celek, co-owner of Cieslik Celek.

“Gone are the days of the mauve and gray office,” said Maria Cieslik, co-owner of Cieslik Celek. “Now, people want a more dynamic environment. People want to enforce their brand and image in their office, not just in their marketing materials.”

Cieslik Celek has enforced brands into interior design through graphical painting techniques, using stripes, circles and logos to decorate a room. The splash of color and creativity can stimulate the employees in the office while impressing those who enter the office for the first time.

“In general, people are realizing how much an interior can affect you in productivity, well-being and state of mind,” Cieslik said. “Using bright colors sparingly and more saturated color makes people more relaxed in the environment.”

An office facelift can be expensive, depending on the size of the office and the amount of changes that are desired.

Many office design firms create an entire design, and clients make the changes in stages, Cieslik said.

If a business owner is looking to refresh the look of the office, workstations can be salvaged by adding new fabric to the partitions or a new color of paint to the office walls, Celek said.

“Right now, it is such a competitive market that landlords are chipping in more tenant improvement dollars,” Zimmerman said. “Our clients are getting more build-out costs per square-foot because of the competitiveness.”

Businesses looking to nip some areas and tuck others instead of doing it all at once should start with the reception area, conference rooms and bathrooms, Celek said.

Many office systems on the market are moveable, long-lasting and environmentally-friendly, Zimmerman said. In some cases, the makeover extends beyond first impressions and committed employees.

“More of our clients are asking us to go into green space design,” Zimmerman said. “They want to know what products are recyclable and energy efficient. They want to be good corporate citizens.”

Eaton Corp.

The Milwaukee office of Cleveland, Ohio-based Eaton Corp. had the same interior design as it created in the 1970s until the company decided to upgrade its space recently. As a high-profile engineering firm, Eaton needs to attract the best and brightest new talent. Eaton wanted a space that was easy to work within, upbeat and fresh. Walter Zoller, manager of operations for Eaton’s Milwaukee office, worked with Schroeder Solutions in New Berlin to redesign and update its space.


Maria Cieslik and Sharon Celek, owners of Cieslik Celek Interior Design LLC in Milwaukee worked with Colin Hutt, president of Primum, LLC, a Milwaukee marketing communications firm, on the design of his first office when he launched Primum one year ago. Normally, Cieslik and Celek use design elements from a company’s marketing materials or logo to address an interior. This time, it was the other way around. After using two walls within Primum’s office space to place graphical designs, Hutt’s office space became the inspiration for his brand and marketing materials.

Layer One Media

Brody Buss, president of Milwaukee-based Layer One Media, had the unique opportunity to design his office space from scratch when moving from a downtown office building into the Renaissance Building at 309 N. Water St. Layer One Media, a Web design and development firm, wanted a cutting edge look.

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