Before and after of a commercial office renovation.
19 August 2020

Seeing is Believing for This Office Renovation Before-and-After

Careful material choices and a unique approach to fenestration transforms a tired pseudo-southern-plantation style building into a modern architectural statement piece.


This 1980s office structure in Roswell, GA was dimly lit, dated, and disconnected from local architecture. That is, before architect David Grace of A Classical Studio was tasked with transforming the original structure to reflect the modern personality of the new building owners. The catch? The historic district’s zoning meant the size of the footprint and location on the lot couldn’t be changed. The building was stripped to its frame, and that was the starting point for this nearly unrecognizable transformation.


Sam Harris is co-founder of Staff Zone, a company that specializes in supplying temporary labor to construction projects. As the new building owner, he joined forces with David to design a new office and training center that embraced Roswell’s textile mill heritage and Staff Zone’s blue-collar business.


“When we met with the historical society,” David said, “we all agreed that anything we were going to do would be an improvement.”


The old textile mill architecture in Roswell consisted of stout old brick buildings with tall, narrow windows and large dock doors also fitted with windows. “The plan was to create a brick structure with similarly proportioned windows punched into it. And to commemorate those large utilitarian openings, the first and second floor windows on the corners are mulled together with thick gauge sheets of steel assembled with large industrial bolts,” said David. “I really have to credit the builder Jeff Thomas. He did a phenomenal job and deserves a ton of credit for dealing with all the crazy custom details we came up with on this project.”


The existing building was dimly lit and segmented into a labyrinth of corridors and small offices. To better fit the needs of the client, many interior walls were removed to promote open spaces and team interaction, and the company’s branding was worked into architectural elements to emphasize the unique identity of this renovation.


Research shows that increased exposure to light makes people more productive and leads to an increased feeling of well-being while they’re indoors, so a considerable amount of attention was paid to the interior access to light. One of the design objectives was to make sure that every workstation in the building received direct sunlight, or at the very least, filtered sunlight. To accomplish this, a large custom skylight was built at the center of the building that floods the interior spaces with light, and at least one window is installed in every office on the perimeter of the building.


The interior was designed to appear as if an old space had been rehabbed and modernized. They brought in steel, left much if it exposed and celebrated it. They sourced brick with a weathered look, and the windows are designed to feel modern yet still traditional in their proportions and detailing.


Local artist Chris Rothermel was commissioned to add industrial elements and steel details that play off the Roswell mill architecture in unique and thought-provoking ways.


In addition to forming the defining feature of the building’s facade, large groupings of Marvin windows stacked on top of one another and mulled together with steel panels create a wall of glass with ribbons of windows that delivers a panoramic view of the surrounding area.


“We chose Marvin Signature Ultimate products because of the thin divided light bars and metal exterior, very sleek, very modern, perfect for the industrial look we were after. I’ve been working with Marvin windows and doors since the 90s when I started my first firm. I’m a big fan.”


Images by Gray Mitchell, courtesy of A Classical Studio.