Tenant input makes difference in interior designers’ work

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Published: May 7,2007

Interior designers are an important part of the overall team at JBHM Architects, working to meet client needs with commercial projects that include corporate, retail and educational. The firm’s four on-staff designers provide an array of services and like to be involved in a project as early as possible.

The designers have been on staff at JBHM Architects for 20 years. “That’s because one of the partners, Richard McNeel, has a passion for interior design,” says Michelle Hawkins, ASID, director of interior design. “It really goes hand in hand with architecture and complements it.”

A few notable projects include Colony Crossing in Madison and the Plaza and Electric 308 buildings in downtown Jackson.

Their tenant fit-outs can bring a project to life. “The term ‘tenant fit-out’ refers to incentive packages offered to tenants by the building developer,” Hawkins said. “There are various levels. Some spaces are empty shells that require everything. Others were previously occupied and are useable for the new tenant with minor modifications. For this type, the developer will usually give the new tenant an improvement package that includes a pre-determined amount of money per square foot. This money may be used for new finishes or modifications as the tenant sees fit and agreed upon by the developer.”

Hawkins says tenant input is important. The designers interview tenants early in the process to learn their needs and preferences. “Working with the commercial Realtor or developers, we strive to meet the tenants’ requirements with regard to aesthetics, function and technology while staying within the set budget.” she said. “As each project is different, the level of input will vary.”

The design team loves to be involved at the start of a project because that helps them work with the developer to set budgets and schedules as well as determine the client’s needs. The staff’s biggest challenges, scheduling and timing, are much easier to handle with early involvement.

“Often, if a commercial Realtor has a client who is interested in a space but doesn’t know if the space will work, we will do a ‘test fit’ taking the potential tenant’s program needs and creating a space plan to see if the space will work,” Hawkins said. “We follow a project from the beginning phases to completion.”

Due to the schedule and intensity of a project, timing can be days, months or years. The Electric 308 building, which took two years to complete, was totally gutted with the team doing a space plan.

“We must work with the client to determine existing and new furniture needs,” she said. “In turn, we work with the contractor to ensure that all furnishings and finishes are installed properly. We make sure the furnishing and plan work.”

Hawkins sees a trend toward green architecture as more of the firm’s architects and designers become LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified. The most prevalent style in commercial design in the Jackson area is transitional, which she describes as a mix of traditional and contemporary styles.

“Colors stay in the soft palette and earth tones are popular but nothing that gets dated,” she said. “However, we worked red into Entergy’s office because that’s their corporate color.”

She also says the trend of user-friendly furniture that works well with computer technology is here to stay.

In addition to Hawkins, the design team consists of McNeel, AIA, IIDA, partner in charge of the Jackson office; Patricia Agnew, ASID; and Autumn Skellenger, allied ASID.

The design group’s services include space planning; lighting design; finish selections and specification; color coordination; furniture selection, specifications and purchasing; modular office furniture; artwork; fabrics and window treatments; accessories; ADA compliance; signage and graphic design; and project management.

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.

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