• Credit: Eric Laignel

  • Credit: Eric Laignel

SkB Architects loved its old offices in downtown Seattle, but the 22-person firm had outgrown the space. So partners Shannon Rankin, Kyle Gaffney, and Brian Collins-Friedrichs went looking for new digs with extreme makeover potential. They found a plum in this 8,000-square-foot former credit union building in the nearby Belltown neighborhood.

The trio gutted the mid-20th-century structure and designed new space that includes a swooping white curve dividing the open studio from the central circulation spine. “The big curved wall keeps the studio focused,” Gaffney says. “It has a real sculptural quality to it.” A silver-wallpapered lunchroom, private lounge area, and mezzanine-level resource library provide alternative spots for brainstorming and meeting in small groups.

Clever, functional ideas mark the project. For instance, a 35-foot-long ruler etched into a steel tabletop adds interest and accuracy. The resource library has metal halide, incandescent, and compact fluorescent fixtures, so the staff can sample materials and products under each light source. And the dark hue of the studio's smoked-wood floors penetrates 1/8 inch below the surface to mask everyday scratches and scuff marks.

  • Credit: Eric Laignel