5 Creative Workspaces in the Eastern U.S.

Inspiration works best when it’s right where you need it — at work. So, we went out in search of the workspaces with the most creative interiors for their employees, in hopes that some ideas from these unique design studios might help spark you and your team to get creative within the walls of your workspaces.

Each of these featured unique design studios (all gathered from firms located in the eastern United States) takes a different approach to instilling inspiration into their workspaces: Some are sleek and modern, while others are raw and rustic. There are those swathed in bright colors, while others take on more subdued color palettes. There are dramatic structures and impressive lobbies, vast chalkboards for doodling and all sorts of other outlets erected to spark employees’ creativity in these workspaces.

That variety goes to show that cool workspaces can take on many different faces, but, most importantly, they help designers get back to what matters most: creating.

Here are some of our favorite workspaces of design firms located throughout the Eastern United States. HOWdesign.com’s Creative Workspaces section is your place to see more roundups and posts about clever interiors in the future, giving you a sneak peek inside some of the most inspirational setups. Check out our roundup of 5 Creative Workspaces in the Western U.S., too.

Firm: CBX, New York City

Look and feel of the office: Chief creative officer Rick Barrack paid tribute to his Kentucky roots through such details as a 1900s wood tractor wheel integrated into his desk, seating fashioned from school-auditorium chairs, old carnival lights, and a working garage door (along with shingles, partial roof and antique paint) in one of the conference rooms.

Goal of the workspace’s design: “First and foremost, we were going for transparency,” Barrack says. “We want to put on a show, yet give visitors to our office a behind-the-scenes look at how we operate on a daily basis. We also love the idea of an open floor plan that is conducive to open, collaborative experiences and a collective environment. Low walls, plexiglass and wall cut-outs all provide a lens into our everyday magic (and madness).”

Favorite element of the office: A red velvet curtain that references The Wizard of Oz, as a nod to the magic that happens when “wonder is at work,” Barrack explains. Plus, the curtain’s crimson hue is also CBX’s trademark color.

Workspace’s influence on creativity: Each room was thoughtfully crafted as a way to reinforce the firm’s culture and help keep designers inspired. For instance, every conference room has been “CBX-ified,” whether that means featuring the color red or simply having a ready supply of the office’s official candy, M&Ms, on hand. There are also designated brand rooms where folks can immerse themselves in the brands they’re working on.


Interested in Making Your Workspace More Creative? Get Inspired!

Read this collection of past Workspace columns, which detail unique design studios in HOW magazine.

Firm: Kim Ronemus Design, Westport, CT

Look and feel of the office: The office was originally the first gas station in town and remained in service until the ’70s. Vestiges of that previous life have been maintained and can be seen in everything from the building’s cement floors to the aluminum paint. “It has a great industrial vibe to it,” says Kim Ronemus, principal.

Goal of the workspace’s design: To maintain the original integrity of the workspace and repurpose it to function as a working design space.

Favorite element of the office: “The old heating system,” Ronemus says. “A network of black piping wraps around the office. It’s not functional but adds to the charm of the space.”

Workspace’s influence on creativity: The space has an open floor plan, which allows for spontaneous interactions and brainstorming sessions. “And we look out to a field that is a continual parade of deer, turkeys, ground hogs and rabbits,” Ronemus adds.


Interested in Making Your Workspace More Creative? Get Inspired!

Read this collection of past Workspace columns, which detail unique design studios in HOW magazine.

Firm: The General Design Co., Washington, DC

Look and feel of the office: The office sits in a historic row house, above Hank’s Oyster Bar. To get to the shop, you have to actually walk through part of the restaurant, which only adds to the charm of the place. “If it’s the first time you’ve been here, you feel like you’re sneaking into someone’s apartment,” says Soung Wiser, co-founder. “But once you finally make it in, it’s pretty warm and welcoming.”

Goal of the workspace’s design: To encourage collaboration and coziness.

Favorite element of the office: The chalkboard walls and thought bubbles. “The whole idea is to keep the ideas churning and the work top of mind,” Wiser says. “You never know what might strike while you’re making a sandwich.”

Workspace’s influence on creativity: “The designers are in one big room, and there’s no hiding from each other,” Wiser says. “It’s common to have a one-on-one review of sketches or comps, and then have everyone else roll over to check out what’s being discussed. We have wood floors that make loud noises when you roll—which surely elicits some kind of Pavlovian, creative-juice response.”


Interested in Making Your Workspace More Creative? Get Inspired!

Read this collection of past Workspace columns, which detail unique design studios in HOW magazine.

Firm: Smith & Jones, Troy, NY

Look and feel of the office: Historical mixed with modern. The office was created inside the ruins of what originally was a bank, built in 1904. The team wanted to highlight the building’s historical aspects (such as its mahogany woodwork, pillars and antique safes in the basement) while updating it with modern contrast, which included materials like chain link fence, corrugated metal barn roofing and blackboard surfaces scattered throughout the office.

Goal of the workspace’s design: “The space is designed to create a natural flow from the outside in,” says Sara Tack, creative director. That means that when folks enter the building, they’ll find themselves at the Black Box, a front reception area where they can get a sense of the studio without compromising client privacy and informational security. From there, the rest of the space spills out to include account services, production management, then creative, with the main conference room and kitchen at the back.

Favorite element of the office: Tack says her favorite element in the office is a magazine rack they designed and had built. Behind each magazine is a door that flips up to reveal the back issues for each title, stored inside.

Workspace’s influence on creativity: “We are surrounded everyday by elements that conventionally would not be assumed to go together,” Tack says. “When you mix modern design amongst architecturally historic detail, I think your influences broaden.”


Interested in Making Your Workspace More Creative? Get Inspired!

Read this collection of past Workspace columns, which detail unique design studios in HOW magazine.

Firm: Ai (Alexander Interactive), New York City

Look and feel of the office: Co-founder Josh Levine describes the exposed, open space as: raw, seamless, inviting, down-to-earth, and “quirky with happy little surprises trickled throughout.”

Goal of the workspace’s design: “The space needed to cultivate a happy, productive and collaborative environment where people are excited to come to work on Monday,” Levine says, as well as one that embodies the firm’s culture and staff. “We want clients to walk through our space and get an immediate sense of who we are and why we’re unique. Transparency is important to us—both internally and with our clients. We have nothing hiding behind the curtains. What you see is what you get.”

Favorite element of the office: The central lounge area, which Levine points out is great for informal meetings and is conveniently located right next to the pool table.

Workspace’s influence on creativity: “People love working here because they are surrounded by smart, down-to-earth people who they sincerely enjoy working with,” Levine says. They took advantage of the staff’s talent by using the space to foster more collaboration through an open environment with walls painted with whiteboard paint, breakout areas and common tables scattered throughout the workstations. “We find that the best ideas aren’t born in the conference room. They generally manifest during informal gatherings or side sessions. There needs to be different types of settings for different methods of collaboration.”