Journal partners with Divine Consign to create 'The Big Room'

New space designed to foster collaboration internally, with community

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By Lacey Sikora

Contributing Reporter

It happens in every home with the passage of time. As people come and go, requirements for spaces change.  A home office turns into a nursery, turns into a teen room and turns back into an office. Rooms tend to morph over time, and a work place is no different than a home in that regard. Staff is hired and people move on. Needs change, and all of a sudden, a room is calling out for another purpose. At Wednesday Journal, where many employees spend more waking hours than they do at home, it was time for a new approach as space opened up and the publishing business kept evolving.

"The future of publishing is all about putting smart and passionate people together and letting them innovate and collaborate," said Dan Haley, publisher of Wednesday Journal, Inc.  "Our pretty traditional office space is mostly about segmenting people by job duty. A person sells advertising, or reports, or keeps track of the money. They each had their assigned spaces. So we needed a new sort of open, shared, comfortable gathering space. And, man, now do we have it. The Big Room."

The Journal teamed with Kellie Scott, owner of Oak Park's Divine Consign. Scott and her colleagues listened to Journal staff members about what they wanted and then went to work designing the large 30-foot by 30-foot space.

The Big Room will also be available on occasion for community groups to use. West Side Bridge, the Chamber of Commerce and the Oak Park Regional Housing Center have already booked times. "It is all part of being connected to the community to bring people into our building," said Haley.

Karen Skinner, a long-time salesperson for the Journal's Chicago Parent Media, agreed the space was ready for a change. "I've been with the company about 25 years, so I've seen the room in all its incarnations. We all got excited thinking about what it could be. At first we had ideas like putting in a ping pong table or billiards, but it is right next to the editorial offices, so that might have been too loud. We came up with the idea of partnering with Divine Consign, and Kellie completely transformed the space."

Scott, who has operated her consignment furniture store in the village for over five years, notes the project was a perfect fit for both her inventory and design services.  "We have four designers on staff and offer design and upholstery services, so we are often called in to revamp a client's space. This was a bit of a challenge because it's a community room and will serve so many purposes.  I think the coolest part was putting the whole space together because it's a large space at approximately 30 by 30 feet."

In giving the room what Haley describes as a "Mad Men vibe," Scott repurposed many consigned finds from her store. Couches and chairs were reupholstered by Divine Consign's master upholsterer, Fernando, in commercial grade fabrics to stand the test of time.  A bright, floral print that appears on several chairs, sofa and a chaise, is an indoor-outdoor fabric designed to stand up to a lot of wear and tear.  A large built-in credenza came from a penthouse on Lake Shore Drive and was repurposed as a focal point in the room – and one that turned out to be a perfect place to display the editorial trophies earned by the publications.  A conference table surrounded by chairs provides a spot for formal meetings and working lunches, while more casual seating areas throughout the room provide space for upwards of 25 people to sit comfortably.

Wednesday Journal staffer Graham Johnston painted the room in vibrant colors and repaired the walls.  He also came up with an art installation as wall treatment in which printing plates from Wednesday Journal publications appear as wall paper around a corner of the room.

Skinner notes that the room is already serving as intended, with several meetings having occurred within its walls.  "We can move the tables and have our monthly yoga classes here, and we can use the room for photo shoots, but mostly it's a place to meet with clients and colleagues. Divine Consign has been so wonderful to work with and created a room to help us reach out to the community."

According to Scott, recreating the room was a cinch with the materials at her disposal at Divine Consign.  "We get a lot of items from model homes and a lot of items from furniture retailers that have never even been used. It was great because we have a lot of duplicate items and were able to create symmetry throughout the room."

Haley considers the end result a perfect example of collaboration. "I'm no designer but I think this room is casual, cool, warm and certainly unexpeccted. We couldn't be more appreciative of all that Kellie and colleague Martha Hill have done. We were looking for a way to bring people inside our office together and bring people from the outside in. We are a community publisher, so the more we can bring in people from the community and surrounding communities, the better. Kellie and Divine Consign knew better than we did what we needed to do that."

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