Part III – The New Home for Equity Schools – Our “Cabin”

I always feared this. What if we threw a party and nobody showed up? Or, to be fashionably current, what if we opened our new offices and the world suffered a pandemic? As I sit here alone in our offices, I must tell you the effect is very similar. No staff, no visitors. The biggest benefit is not having to share our supply of cashews with anyone.

Not to complain. I am healthy, as is everyone in the firm and everyone I know. So, cool beans. I’m not really complaining.

That said, in two previous posts (creatively titled “Part I” in Jan 2018 and “Part II” in Feb 2020) I described a little of our struggle to reclaim this tenant space in a still-active 1931 train station for our new offices.

Good news on that struggle: We won!

(If you want to see images of what we initially found in the space after 20 years of vacancy – the black mold, general decay – please see those earlier posts here and here.)

In this post I want to describe two things. First, a little history we learned about the space from its first 89 years of life. Second, I want to show you one of the special spaces we designed and built – The “Cabin.”

A Little History

In 1931, the first tenant of our space was the “Central L Luncheonette” which previously had been in the 1908 train station that this 1931 station replaced. The luncheonette had booths by the interior storefront windows and a long counter with stools, serving ice cream and offering “complete fountain service.” After a few decades serving ice cream, the luncheonette ironically was replaced by a dental laboratory. But we prefer the ice cream karma.

During our own relatively short history at Equity Schools (20 years) we always had offices in downtown Chicago. Impressive addresses on Wacker, LaSalle, and Clark in very tall and shiny office buildings. And, of course, we had impressive and shiny and very serious conference rooms like the one pictured here (the plant is a nice touch, really softens it up):

So as we considered what we wanted in the new space, in the train station, the topic of a conference room came up. Thinking it through, my first reaction was that we didn’t need one. They don’t get used very often, and nothing really productive happens in them.

But then, since our new offices would be mostly open-plan, I realized we ought to have relatively quiet space for discussions, phone calls, and maybe something conducive to creativity or just thinking.

In short, it should be a space where everyone feels comfortable and relaxed. But, ideally, what would that look like?

The answer – and almost everyone agrees – is a cabin. Who doesn’t love a cabin?

The Conference Cabin

This brought a new challenge, which was how to create a “cabin” space inside an office inside a train station that’s made of large steel and concrete columns, terrazzo floors, and thick masonry walls. Our office space is pretty hard, and its color palette uses blacked-out exposed ceilings, a steel-plate wall (for magnetic display), and what I’ll call a post-industrial vibe in furnishings and finish.

Cabins typically involve a lot of wood, cozy furniture, and warm colors. Hmmm.

So we created our cabin as its own environment inside the office, building a patio from reclaimed flagstone, a wooden screen door (yes, it’s on a spring and whaps when you let it go), wood floor and barnwood walls, warm colors, cushy old furniture, images of forests, an antique sewing machine, some friendly books and board games, and an undulating wood ceiling based on a pond ripple (admittedly not typical for cabins, but it’s really nice to look at).

The effect is just right:

I’d love to have you join us in the cabin when you’re allowed to visit. Seriously.

For now, however, I get to sit in there, enjoy the pond ripple ceiling, and eat all the cashews.

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