“Innovative is an apt word for the interior of these corporate offices. Nothing is standard or uniform in this open, warm and well-lit interior. Natural materials are all artfully designed to create one of the most creative and engaging offices in Michigan.”
-- CAM Magazine
Neumann/Smith expanded and redesigned a dilapidated two-story farmhouse, registered with the Michigan Historic Commission. The client initially wanted to spend as little as possible on the exterior, even leaving the asbestos shingles on the house, but early demolition revealed beautiful antique clapboard siding, detailed cornices and Victorian surface patterns.
No attempt was made to recreate the building as originally designed, but rather to capture its genuine character. The transformation of the exterior included creating a tower for the new elevator, which was kept to the lowest possible height to address both the Zoning Board of Appeals and Historic District commission guidelines. A one-story previous addition to the house was demolished and rebuilt into a two-story space with a gabled roof compatible with the rest of the house. The exterior was reclad in new cedar siding and much of the elaborate gingerbread trim was replicated. Where the woodwork had rotted outside, elements were recreated by the carpenters, using remnants of the originals. An engaging multi-colored palette appropriate for the period brings the detailed facade to life.
After 25 years of change and neglect there was no longer any clarity to the room layout and structural system, so gutting the interior was an appropriate approach. In response to the tight vertical floor to floor dimensions of the original house, ceilings were eliminated and exposed lighting was used wherever possible. Elimination of the circa 1950s acoustical ceilings revealed a substructure of wood. The old wood joist system was not only strong, but beautiful, so it was decided to reinforce and expose as much of the existing frame as possible, providing a dramatic view in the two-story lobby. Concrete blocks were incorporated into the design as a statement, responding to the structural and fire rating requirements on the stair and elevator shaft.
The 6,000 sf interior is a sophisticated contemporary office. Every floor features large windows and glass-paned office walls providing an open environment with lots of natural lighting. Furniture was selected individually with the partners. Common area furniture was specifically selected to be quirky yet comfortable.