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Take a Peek Inside the New Office of Design Shop Studio K

Atmosphere and interior design is one of the most important keys to success in the bar and restaurant industry today. And the person behind the design of some of Chicago's most popular spots is Karen Herold of Studio K Creative. Before starting her own creative shop late last year, Karen was a partner at Chicago's 555 International Inc. where she led the design of restaurants such as Girl & the Goat, Embeya, Balena, GT Fish & Oyster, among others. Karen and her team invited Curbed to come check out their new West Loop office space and learn more about the quickly growing company.

When did you move into the space?

December 1 we found the building. We demo'ed the interior right before Christmas and then moved in the first week of January. We wanted to move in January 2, but there was that big snow storm that delayed our move a little bit. Literally everything you see in here is brand new.

What was the thought process behind designing the new office space?

My most important thing when I started the office was that I wanted to create a space that people want to be in. I didn't want to create an office environment, I wanted to create a really light, bright, positive environment that happens to be an office. We have fresh flowers every week, we put new windows in. For me, when we started this office, instead of trying to spend the least amount of money to get the best result, we thought, "What do we really want?" and let's just trust that somehow it'll be worth it. Let's set it up exactly how we want it. We want a swing? Let's get a swing. We want an espresso maker? Let's get an espresso maker. We want to make ourselves very comfortable because everyone here works really hard.

Your company is growing. Do you foresee yourself outgrowing the space anytime soon?

This office is set up for 26 people. And if we have to figure it out, the necessity turns into creativity. Maybe the lounge becomes a workspace for example. Every person in the office has a laptop, because I like the idea that people can move around. I don't think it's healthy to sit in the same spot. It's this whole idea of the mobile workspace. I don't think it's healthy when people work from their home, because energy is so important in our job, and we need that energy in the same room. But we don't have cubicles, the desk isn't your space. And if tomorrow, if you want to sit elsewhere and face the window, you just pick up your laptop and pencil box and move.

But on another note, one thing I do want to say is, many of the people that I've done almost every job with has donated to this office. For example, Antonio who does all of my plaster did every wall in a different finish. So it's kind of his show room. For me, over the 15 years that I've been doing this, the most important thing is collaboration. Some people may say, "Oh, it's just work" or "Oh, it's just a job", but it's not just a job. It is personal. It's not business. It's us doing business. And you build partnerships with people, and to me it's the most fun thing to create things together. At the end of the day, it's who you do it with. So yes, I put a lot of effort into it, and a lot of money into it, but I'm also very lucky to build relationships with people who wanted to be a part of it.

So, it's kind of interesting that there's swing right in the middle of the office.

I bought a swing for a restaurant I did in Vegas, and I put it in the bar. When people sit on a swing, or a bouncy ball, instantly they get happier. Even if it's 1%, your quality of life just went up. It's really simple. I designed a furniture collection in school called "Let's skip dinner", and it was based on this skippy ball we had in Holland. And as soon as you sit on a skippy ball, you just start giggling. It's kind of like how they say when you smile at yourself in the mirror, your day is going to be better. So the whole idea of the swing was, how can you not be happy sitting on a swing? We all need a swing in our life. It's a whole can-do thing. If we want a swing, let's get a swing.