Catalyst Ranch

Hand painted Indian loveseat and pair of armchairs with orange cushions, set of 60s vinyl orange curved back chairs, ethnic rug, round vintage coffee table, Indian painted side table

CHALLENGE

Create a new type of offsite meeting space in Chicago - a place where companies and organizations could find an environment that was creative and inspiring. 

STARTING POINT

  • 9,000 sq. ft. of raw space in a building from the 1880's that had originally been used for smoking meats and subsequently for processing and packing herring

  • No electricity or lighting

  • No interior walls

  • Damaged concrete floors

  • Exposed wood beam ceilings

  • Lots of windows

  • Exposed brick walls

  • Additional 6,000 sq. ft. of space on another floor was added 3 years after the initial 9,000 sq. ft. was leased

WHAT WE DID

The overarching design was based around the insight that for offsite meetings to be more productive and generate breakthrough ideas and strategies, the meeting participants need to be placed in an environment that disorients, taps into nostalgia and embraces diversity while engaging all the senses. The nostalgic component is especially important as tapping into childhood memories helps rekindle the childlike wonder and imagination that we all had at one point in our lives. It was also important to have lots of natural light and size the rooms in such a way that they provided lots of room to roam and free up thinking.

 

The original 9,000 sq. ft. of space was divided into 3 variously sized meeting rooms ranging from 3,250 sq. ft. for the largest, to 700 sq. ft. for the smallest. We also carved out space for a "kitchen" and storage room. In the hallway, we re-purposed all old sausage smoking room into a space where clients could come during meeting breaks and making some calls. The subsequent 6,000 sq. ft. of space that was added was also divided into 3 rooms ranging in size from 1,400 sq. ft to 300 sq. ft. with a "kitchen" space, prep room, storage room and small break room for clients.

 

We completed the build-out of the original 9,000 sq. ft. of space in 5 weeks! Walls were built, electricity, lighting and internet were installed. Walls and floors were painted. A custom semi-circular bar was built, stained and partially tiled into a checkerboard pattern. Vintage French doors were stripped, stained  and reinforced glass panels installed. We sourced all the furniture, furnishings and decor from antique shops, antique markets, resale stores, estate sales and garage sales. The pieces which weren't in pristine condition were stripped, repainted, reupholstered or re-framed. We made a concerted effort to include artwork and furnishings from as many countries as possible. Drapes, pillows and French door curtains were all hand-sewn. We also thought it was important to include a lot of greenery so that floors are both full to bursting with plants. The rooms were designed to be very flexible allowing for a variety of set-ups depending on client needs and to transform the space for weekend events such as weddings, fundraisers and major life celebrations.

The color palettes were selected so that they were more subtle in the meeting rooms where they would feel warm, but not distracting while in the hallways which did not have very much natural light, we went with Mexican Hacienda colors that would be energetic and stimulating.

For the subsequent build-out of 6,000 sq. ft. which had a different construction that the original 9,000 sq. ft., we installed soundproofing in the ceiling and floor and Brazilian cherry floors. The same aesthetic and design philosophy was maintained as on the original floor. On this floor we commissioned artisans to create original hand-crafted and hand-painted partitions for the bathrooms and an overall motif for each bathroom. Over the years, additional artwork and decor was purchased during my travels and added to the design.

Catalyst Ranch - Entry & Hallway
Catalyst Ranch - Entry & Hallway

Entrance to Catalyst Ranch 4th floor with dark orange and tangerine walls, french doors with Indian sari drapes

Catalyst Ranch - Mambo Room
Catalyst Ranch - Mambo Room

Wood beam ceilings, exposed brick walls, bank of windows, vintage couches, armchairs, coffee tables, Moroccan and oriental rugs, Indian puppets, ethnic wall textile

Catalyst Ranch - Kitchen
Catalyst Ranch - Kitchen

Curved purple bar with orange tile pattern, collection of ethnic masks on a fuschia wall, old display cabinet with coffee mugs and glassware, vintage french door with drapes, painted concrete floor

Catalyst Ranch - Mambo Room
Catalyst Ranch - Mambo Room

Ethnic textile with two lions and flowers hanging on exposed brick wall, vintage green armchair, low Indian painted table, Moroccan rug, Indian puppets

Catalyst Ranch - Tango Room
Catalyst Ranch - Tango Room

Exposed wood beam ceilings, semi-circle of vintage armchairs, couch, coffee tables, ethnic rugs, deep orange/red painted concrete floor, red door

Catalyst Ranch - Harem Area
Catalyst Ranch - Harem Area

Assortment of colored drapes, vintage couch, armchairs, coffee tables, ethnic assorted pillows, oriental rug, vintage lamps, Ethnic artwork

Catalyst Ranch - Mambo Room
Catalyst Ranch - Mambo Room

Green painted wall with floral pattern, theater-style arrangement of vintage colorful chairs, coffee tables,flipchart, screen

Catalyst Ranch - Cha Cha Room
Catalyst Ranch - Cha Cha Room

Selection of vintage kitchen tables and chairs, oriental rug, blue walls, exposed brick walls and brick columns, wood beamed ceiling

Catalyst Ranch - Jitterbug Room
Catalyst Ranch - Jitterbug Room

Wall of windows, Brazilian cherry wood floors, vintage kitchen tables and chairs, ethnic rugs, Turkish rugs, projector, screen, flipchart easels, wood beam ceiling, exposed brick wall