Johnston, Allison & Hord, a long-established, highly respected law firm in Charlotte, North Carolina, faced conflicting views of the image they wanted their new offices to convey. The older partners wanted to make a conservative statement. The younger ones felt a need for a more contemporary image. Both sides agreed, however, that their new interior space must communicate to their clients professionalism, restraint and a certain gravitas.
GS&P project manager Scott Wilson, AIA, and the interior design team listened carefully as the competing sides articulated their visions for the space. For their solution, the design team reached back to the 1940s and borrowed art deco influences, the perfect compromise according to Wilson. "Unlike so many iterations of modernism, art deco remains timeless and its elements sit comfortably with traditional or avant garde design. It speaks of elegance, tradition and modernism in the same breath, and does so quietly. The interior design will not look dated in a few years; it doesn't look stodgy today."
In addition to the image divide, space constraints in both public and private areas presented some design challenges. In the firm's previous quarters, every attorney and paralegal had his or her own office. There simply wasn't room in the new building, so the team designed a solution that moved paralegals into a cubicle environment. Initial reluctance disappeared when they found that their new spaces had superior, more efficient layouts while privacy was not entirely compromised. Work flow improved, efficiency and morale rose as a new era of community and conversation was established. In fact, the paralegals have expressed a desire never to go back to the old environment.
Spatial restrictions also influenced the interior design team to create offices that encouraged professional equality between attorneys of all levels of the firm's hierarchy. With the exception of a few corner offices, both junior and senior partners at Johnston, Allison & Hord enjoy offices of a standard size. As proof of their successful design, these comfortable, well-furnished offices often serve as meeting places between attorneys and clients-rather than richly furnished corporate conference rooms-due to their unintimidating, intimate atmosphere.
The space Johnston, Allison & Hord now occupies conveys the impression of a law firm with significant history that is also progressive, forward-looking and contemporary. Best of all, it is what both sides wanted. Managing partner John Morris says of the new space, "The building has timeless appeal and is a joy to work in."