Woodbyrne Puts the Finishing Touches on St. Louis Law Firm’s Space

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Contractor: Wood Byrne Cabinetry, Inc.
Client: Thompson Coburn, LLP
Project Type: Architectural Millwork

One of the most prestigious law firms in the Midwest, Thompson Coburn, LLP, had a problem.

The firm occupied most of 12 floors in U.S. Bank Plaza, an "A" class building in St. Louis. The firm itself grew from a 1996 merger between partners that had shared contiguous space in the building since the mid-1970s. Because they had been two separate law firms, they had two separate spaces in a total of nearly 220,000 square feet. And now, after 20 years in separate spaces and after six years as a merged entity, the time had come to unify the space with a single design motif – essentially, to create a physical space that reflected the firm's status as a single enterprise.

The job fell to Interior Construction Services (ICS) of St. Louis; ICS, in turn, worked with St. Louis architects Christner, Inc. to design and build Thompson Coburn’s new space. A significant part of this renovation project would be a nearly 13,000-square-foot conference center on the 35th floor of the building … a center that was to become a showpiece. Because it was critically important for the job to be executed properly, ICS called Woodbyrne Cabinetry, Inc., a St. Louis mill/cabinet shop with a well-deserved reputation for outstanding quality.

The Crowning Touch of a Huge Job

Thompson Coburn had nearly 300 people occupying most of 12 floors. Though this entire space would be redesigned and refurbished, the 35th floor, which would house a conference center and meeting rooms, was to be the firm’s most visible showcase. Project architect Richey Madison said, "The space had to contain an enormous amount of high-tech communications equipment, but it had to look uncluttered and clean. And that was a tall order."

Using Wood as a Unifying Design Theme

According to Madison, the objective was to create an aesthetically pleasing space for internal meetings as well as for meetings with clients and opposing counsel. "Since this was essentially a merger of two firms, we needed to reorganize the space so that it reflected a single entity," said Madison.

To do this, designers made the decision to use wood. "We wanted it to look rich, but not gloomy," Madison explained, "so it couldn’t be too dark." And with this in mind, the designers specified plain sliced cherry - the wood's naturally light color could be darkened just a bit with the right stain and varnishes.

Woodbyrne Cabinetry used the cherry wood to create a variety of structures and surfaces, including a reception desk; paneling that wraps around a staircase; paneling in the board room; and a variety of built-in credenzas. In addition, they used the plain sliced cherry for more than 4,000 square feet of both veneer and solid structures … including door frames and barrowlites. All of the custom cherry wood paneling used for credenzas and desks was covered with limestone tops, because like the stained cherry, it’s light in color. Woodbyrne crafted the board room, the main conference room, the reception area and elevator lobbies.

The Right Wood for an Elegant Look

"We used all the same cherry throughout the whole project," said Woodbyrne Cabinetry, Inc., President Tim Byrne. "We gave it a medium-brown color with stains and dyes, then finished it with a catalyzed lacquer. The final finish is a really rich-looking semi-gloss."

Though a large part of the contract covered the conference center, Woodbyrne's also installed a variety of countertops and plastic laminate in the back rooms throughout the 12-floor complex. These included support areas, copy and file rooms and mail rooms.

"We were chosen to do this job because of the depth and breadth of our craftsmen, many of whom come from a long line of local craftsmen," said Byrne. "Because of the complexity of this job, it was important to the general contractor that we knew how to work with other trades, from sprinkler fitters to plumbers, to electricians, to painter and wall paperers, to carpet layers.” And, he added, "because our people are union, they understand the nature of teamwork and what it can mean to the overall success of a project.”

Immediate Recognition For a Job Well Done

Woodbyrne finished its part of the Thompson Coburn project and discovered that it didn’t take long for good news to spread. In October, 2003, just months after they’d put the finishing touches on the project, Woodbyrne won one of the Craftsmanship Awards for St. Louis Chapter of American Institute of Architects for work done in 2003.

In sum, Thompson Coburn’s space is spectacular. Or, as they might say in the legal profession, Res ipse loquitur – "The thing speaks for itself."

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