The Design Office’s Vintage Modern Workspace

published Feb 29, 2012
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(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Name: The Design Office
Location: Downtown Providence, Rhode Island
Size: 750 square feet
Years occupied: 4.5 — rented

While working from home offers many benefits like a short commute and being able to spend all day in pajamas, it can also get a bit lonely. John Caserta founded The Design Office with the mission of offering an affordable space for independent designers to work side-by-side and feel like they are part of a community without having to give up the casual atmosphere of their home offices.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)
(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Part busy client-focused studio, part think-tank, the space allows designers to pool resources and share equipment and supplies that they wouldn’t be able to afford on their own, including a projector, color laser printer, large format photo printer, an extensive library of books, and a killer view of Downtown Providence. Designers all provide their own computers — usually laptops that they plug into larger monitors and easily transport between the office and home. The current office members include myself, founder John Caserta, Ben Shaykin and Lucy Hitchcock, the book designer behind Apartment Therapy Presents: Real Homes, Real People, Hundreds of Design Solutions.

Located on the top floor of a historic building that once housed garment shops, John chose to call the space The Design Office because “Our name describes what we do, and where we do it. It fits with Providence’s pre-World War II heyday, before the transition to a brand-oriented society.” The design of the space takes its cue from the buildings history, mixing vintage and mid-century touches with modern technology and design. The office was originally converted to be an apartment, and while much of the décor is now centered around work, there’s a warmth the space that lets it easily feel like a home away from home.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Mid-century modern and contemporary

Inspiration: The building is the main inspiration. Early mid-century offices — like Frank Lloyd Wright’s Johnson Wax Building — are the inspiration for furnishings. Bulky simple forms, straight lines.

Favorite Element: The view of the Biltmore sign just beyond the original Providence Journal Building.

Biggest Challenge: Lighting is tricky because we have various needs (desk, ambient, gallery pin-up). The natural light takes care of most everything until late in the day, then we essentially choose between fluorescent task lighting or ambient lamps. Would love a recommend on good track lighting kit.

What Friends Say: It’s always great to see someone’s facial expression when entering the space. The main room is intimate and spacious all at the same time. The proportions are pretty much perfect.

Biggest Embarrassment: We have a kitchen space that has been ignored since moving in. There is such potential there. Although we enjoy leaving the space and buying coffee on Westminster Street, we don’t have a way of making coffee for guests.

Proudest DIY: We’re really proud of our hand-painted gold leaf door. The lettering was drawn by Jeremy Mickel — inspired by similar signs in Pawtucket and Worcester that we had photographed.

Biggest Indulgence: The Eames Rectangular Table felt like an indulgence, but it’s a perfect fit and matches the two dozen stackable steelcase chairs that we had on hand. It’s strange to think of it as an indulgence, but cost-wise, it was a bit of a stretch.

Best Advice: Don’t think of your office space any differently than a regular space. Other than a comfortable desk chair — which doesn’t have to look ugly — the home office should fit into your home aesthetic. Additionally, I’d suggest having as few cables as possible.

Dream Sources: Design Within Reach used to be next door. They had a nice mix of the classics with contemporary designs. They make a real effort at incorporating new designs into their collection. Not having the physical showroom here is a big loss.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Resources of Note:


    • Apple computers
    • Epson 24″ printer
    • Ricoh Laser printers
    • Epson projector


    • Old Frigidaire fridge
    • Bodum hot water heater


    • 2 Blu Dot Strut X-Large Green tables
    • George Nelson bench
    • IKEA wood and glass shelving
    • Inter Metro shelving
    • IKEA Helmer storage bins
    • 1970s Steelcase stacking chairs


    • Eames Hang-it-All
    • Karlsson wall clocks


    • Flos Lampadina by Achille Castiglioni
    • Eclipse Lamp BY Mauricio Klabin
    • X-Ray Light table
    • Flos Glo Ball lamp by Jasper Morrison


    • Old clunky filing cabinets
    • Clip tower by Barbara Flanagan
    • Rolodex
    •Print files for negatives
(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

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