Opening Up

AOS expands its downtown offices, transforming the space into a sleek and functional showroom.

Prior to a recent renovation and expansion, visitors to the 7,000-square-foot AOS offices at 400 Poydras St. would likely have described the space as polished and modern with design elements emphasizing creativity and collaboration.

Post six-week renovation and now topping out at 10,280 square feet, however, it’s all of that and more.

AOS works with architectural and design companies to create office systems, storage solutions and serve as a resource for products and furniture. For its own renovation and expansion, the company teamed up with Eskew + Dumez + Ripple and Verges Rome Architects.

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“The average employee spends approximately half of their waking life in the work environment, and I don’t think most spaces are designed with that concept in mind,” says Shelby Russ Jr., president and CEO of AOS. “As employers and owners, we owe them the right tools and technology to get the job done, but we also owe them an environment worthy of that type of time investment.”

It’s with this philosophy in mind that the team set out to not only expand the space to accommodate the current size of the company and allow room to grow, but build into it a functional showroom to showcase the company’s myriad office systems and furniture and storage solutions.

The most notable change is the color palate. While red and black dominated the former design scheme, white and lighter colors are the order of the day in the new space, which is further enhanced by the flood of natural light filtering through expansive windows lining the outer wall which offer stunning views of New Orleans.

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One of the design solutions AOS offers clients is DIRTT (Doing It Right This Time) custom, pre-fabricated interior construction. AOS showcases the DIRTT system to great effect throughout its space via multiple meeting rooms, private offices and seating areas. The majority of the DIRTT walls are glass and wood, while various metal finishes alternately add warmth and visual variety. Modern, clean-lined Knoll furniture is used throughout the space.

The DIRTT system allows for easy-to-reconfigure space and the flexibility of open, semi-private and private offices.

“It was time,” says Suzanne Dumez, vice president of business development for AOS. “The space was 16 years old. We kept it fresh by rotating out different furniture pieces and adapting where we could with DIRTT changes, but we needed more meeting space, dedicated space for the prefab construction team and to bring the accounting department back.”

Dumez says it was challenging to work through the renovation but doing so gave everyone a better sense of what the company’s clients experience during similar projects.

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They were, however, able to cut down on the renovation timeline by several months.

“Doing the prefab interior construction ultimately gave us less down time than most, so we were only displaced for six weeks, as opposed to what would normally be a four month process,” says Dumez.

Despite considerable openness throughout the space, the “java center” and “living room” area is so open and well lit, it makes every other spot around the office seem slightly less open. This pièce de résistance of design incorporates a residential look with a long coffee station, sink, counter and cabinet unit facing a high top bar. The great-room-style living or lounge area includes a sofa, benches and chairs grouped around a coffee table.

The other side of the “java station” houses the more functional kitchen appliances, including the refrigerator and a wine cooler. A lower portion of the plate glass windows in the living room was removed to continue the view, despite being seated in the low-slung furniture. This area is designed for breaks, casual meetings and networking events, as well as more festive gatherings.

“That great room is probably my favorite spot,” says Russ. “We had an internal meeting there about two weeks ago and we discussed some of the space and how we’d use it. I encouraged everyone to use that space and sit there with their shoes off.”

A variety of seating areas are placed throughout the offices so employees can get a much-needed change of scenery.

The staff conducts meetings with nonprofit groups with which they work or volunteer and the space is also used for other company perks, such as yoga classes.

Visually opening up the space went hand-in-hand with physically opening it up.

“It’s almost as if we are suspended above the city and that openness reflects our very open and collaborative culture here,” says Russ. “Our team is made up mostly of creatives, and this type of environment is a must for them.”

AOS Interior Environments

Address: 400 Poydras St., Suite 1700
Office completed: August 2017
Architect: Eskew + Dumez + Ripple and Verges Rome Architects (The two firms teamed together)
Interior Designer: Eskew + Dumez + Ripple and Verges Rome Architects
Furnishings: Knoll Studio, Nucraft, Alias, Coalesse and misc. other pieces
Square footage: 10,280
Primary goal: To expand the space and freshen up the interior of the office, as well as create a functional DIRTT showroom
Biggest challenges: Conducting business during the renovation and expansion
Standout feature: The “great room” with expansive views of the city, “java center” and chic, comfortable seating area


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