As in many mid-size Midwestern cities, downtown
Carthage, MO, has become a mixture of mostly retail and some office
spaces. To blend with the retail establishments that surround his
office, Stephen L. Morrill, AIA, principal of SLM & Associates,
designed a space that is as attractive to passersby as it is functional
and enjoyable for his employees.
SLM & Associates is located on the ground floor of a two-story
Italianate brick structure built in 1906. At other times, the building
was a fire station and an appliance store. Now, other than Morrill's
office, two restaurants and a dance company are situated on the
first floor; the second floor will eventually be converted to apartments.
The basement is a gym for SLM employees.
From the street, SLM's office presents a visual invitation that
says "walk-ins welcome." In fact, the firm has won a few
commissions from clients who were just passing by.
"I don't think everyone understands what
architects do," says Morrill. "Our office invites them
to come in and find out. And as architects, it's important for us
to create an appealing office space. Otherwise, why should clients
trust us with their space!"
From the street, the public sees an open and
friendly office space. Morrill chose a predominantly white color
palette for neutrality and uniformity. Black accents appear as conference
and drafting chairs, decorative accessories and a restored bank
safe from the early 1900s. The safe alludes to the firm's specialization
in retail banking.
Once inside, clients and visitors are treated
to a collection of architectural motifs. Four columns anchor the
center of the space. On each column, a small square of marble recalls
Carthage's mining history.
According to Morrill, the marble is so highly
polished, people seem almost unconsciously drawn to its touch.
Flanking the entrance are two conference tables
with tops made of local marble to reinforce SLM's ties to the community.
Leaning against a side wall are two eight-foot
doors that Morrill discovered in an old freezer building. Once the
doors to the building's freight elevator, Morrill had them restored
for display in his office. The height and thickness of the doors
lend a sense of scale to the high ceilings in the office.
To the rear of the space, a pediment recalls
the popular Grecian style of architectural ornamentation. On either
side of the pediment, decorative buttresses made of metal add another
motif. Playfully perched in front of the buttresses are two gargoyles
that peer down on the activity below. The ornamentation and keystone
over the doorway to the office's storage area has zigzag lines and
neon highlighting, which hint at Art Deco design.