For Boutique Fitness Studios, Design Is Critical To Success

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Boutique fitness studios are in hot demand. These specialized workout spaces are still a relatively new trend but one that has quickly taken the wellness industry by storm. New companies are entering the market while already established ones are multiplying their presence.


For these new generation fitness companies, the design of their locations is critical to fulfilling user expectations.

Unlike the rather anonymous and one-size-fits-all gyms of the past, boutique studios must offer a unique environment reflective of a specific brand (and lifestyle) philosophy. After all, that’s what their customers are seeking and willing to pay a premium for: a different kind of experience, accompanied by the feeling of belonging to a very cool and well-defined community of like-minded individuals.

To facilitate the desired connection with the customer, the design must integrate the brand fully into the space and execute it in every detail.

Using Design To Create Brand Super-fans

At d+k, we call this “brand elevation.” We work with both existing and developing fitness brands – from rowing and climbing gyms to revolutionary yoga studios – and use design to magnify their differentiation points and expand the experience they deliver, all while staying true to their identity.

Our approach is rooted not just in design but in our expertise in brand development and execution, from A to Z. That’s why we believe in the importance of really understanding the four core aspects of every project:

  • The soul of the brand
  • The psychology of its customers
  • The specifics of the lifestyle it fits into
  • How the user should feel in the space


We also believe that the brand’s business goals and what it wants to communicate should be the North Star that guides every single design decision.

Developing an in-depth knowledge of how our clients want to position their business in the boutique fitness movement enables us to knit ourselves into their brand and bring it to life in the space, in all its nuances. No detail is overlooked, as every aspect of the design must work in unison with all the other elements of the brand identity in order to maximize differentiation.

We plan the flow, look, and feel of our clients’ studios – from the moment the user walks in to the moment they walk out – to help them turn their customers into super-fans.

Row House –

First Ascent –

Y7 Studio – Coming to Chicago VERY SOON! –

Ready for it? Give us a call to discuss the vision for your boutique fitness studios.

Re-energizing Retail

By | Architecture, Dining, Interior Design | No Comments

So much has been said about the death of brick-and-mortar retail and shopping malls but the gloom-and-doom talks, in our opinion, miss the point: The evolution of shopping habits presents a great opportunity to re-imagine these large retail centers into places more in line with today’s lifestyle.

Shopping malls can still be what they were originally conceived for: destination community spaces. In order to play that role, though, they need to adapt to the new ways we like to gather, shop, and spend time. The truth is, consumers of all ages – even digital natives – still enjoy in-store shopping…providing it offers them an experience they cannot have on their device. Re-engaging them means making alternative and creative uses of the existing spaces.

Key Components

Step 1: Giving Consumers New Reasons to Come into the Mall

EXPERIENTIAL COMPONENT: Anchor tenants like Sears and JCPenney used to be a shopping mall’s main draw and all the other retailers wanted to be close to them. Now, those empty units must be reborn into dynamic hubs of community activities.


“Places that were once unwelcomed in malls – event venues, gyms, skating rinks, rock climbing spaces, dirt bike tracks and other recreational facilities – are now the very thing that can turn the fortunes of a mall around because they bring people in.”


“On the other hand, places that have long been a staple of shopping malls – like food and beverage establishments – must evolve from being purely a commodity to deliver a more comprehensive experience rich in entertainment and engagement value.”

Creating an alluring experience also implies dismantling the impenetrable “big box store” architecture in favor of a more open and welcoming exterior aesthetic that invites people to explore all that the site has to offer.


SERVICE LOCATIONS: In the context of bringing people in, even outpatient medical facilities, co-working spaces, and some type of corporate offices can now find a place in malls.

LOCAL FOCUS: Consumers are showing a growing interest in supporting local businesses, so upping their presence can make malls a more attractive destination. Plus, local businesses are less likely to offer online shopping options, which further increases their role in drawing foot traffic.

Lifestyle ConceptLOCAL FOCUS: Consumers are showing a growing interest in supporting local businesses, so upping their presence can make malls a more attractive destination. Plus, local businesses are less likely to offer online shopping options, which further increases their role in drawing foot traffic.

BRINGING THE ONLINE IN: Online sellers are now starting to expand their visibility with pop-up stores. Whether these are short-term or long-term retail strategies, malls can greatly benefit from presenting themselves as ideal locations for these physical extensions. Creating opportunities for visitors to engineer “Instagram-able moments” is another way to integrate the online world into the new mall experience.

2016-03-31 AE - Lab Rendering


*Mojo’s Kiosk located in the common area of the AMA Plaza. 

Step 2: Designing for Engagement

The choice of which type of amenities and stores to bring in is only one part of the equation. Ultimately, it’s the design of the entire mall space that will determine how much time consumers will spend there and what they will do while there.

Key Qualities

At d+k, we believe the goal of design is to maximize the value of the property, for both the user and the owner. That is why we have long focused our expertise on revitalizing commercial buildings that have lost their appeal and using immersive design to create experiential spaces for greater engagement. We are constantly studying trends – how people live, shop, interact with each other and their surroundings – and create designs that not only address those trends aesthetically but first and foremost, turn the trends into business opportunities for our clients.

When it comes to reviving malls, we pay attention to how each asset interconnects with the rest of the space. We look at how the design can facilitate the seamless integration of the retail moments with the social and lifestyle moments people crave, so that the amenities enhance the shopping experience instead of distracting consumers away from it. We make sure that every detail is cohesive and every square foot that is re-purposed into a community space raises the value of the entire mall and goes to the benefit of every tenant.

Do you want to explore the opportunities that revitalizing your mall can create? Let’s talk!

The Art and Science of Brewery Design

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The architecture and design of a brewery is a layered undertaking.

It requires an in-depth, industry-specific knowledge of the mechanical and technical aspects of operating a brewing facility. It calls for aesthetic and functional considerations on how to bring the customer into the craft beer culture in novel ways. It demands creative thinking to help the brand cut through a very competitive field.

Brewery design is one of d+k’s areas of expertise and we are able to bring a unique vantage point to it. With one of our Owners as the co-owner of a popular Wisconsin-based brewery The Lone Girl Brewery Company, we have an insider’s view of the complexity of the craft beer business, the passion of its fans, and the role that breweries play in their community. Plus, having designed well over 100 restaurants, we also have quite a bit of knowledge of the dining part of the operations!

Most importantly, we understand what it takes to design the right space to make the business thrive and use this expertise to leave no stone unturned when designing your brewhouse – from concept to completion.


Brand Integration

Every corner of your brewery is an opportunity to deepen the connection between your brand and its customers.

d+k makes sure the core character of your beer brand is reflected in the design of the space, from the signage to the choice of materials. Details like merchandise displays and Instagram backdrops are curated to be integral to the customer experience, without disrupting it.13 Ale

Retail vs. Distribution Model

Running retail operations is very different from a distribution-only model so, depending on your business plan, the architecture of the brewery must account for that from the very beginning.

d+k always studies the best placement and design options to maximize the revenue generating power of your retail or distribution space.


Brewhouse Operational Flow

First and foremost, the brewery must meet the proper functional requirements to operate safely and efficiently on a daily basis.

d+k helps you plan the entire operational space, including:

  • Key elements like brew house, fermenters, boilers, grain storage, brite tanks, glycol chillers, W.I.C, canning/bottling area, and kegs/cans storage for distribution;
  • Design of the brewing facility as separate from the customer use areas, while making sure the on-site production equipment remains visible as an important part of the aesthetics and the experience of the space.


Food Service Area

The design of the food service experience will have a big impact on your profit margins and the feel of your brewery. Will you be offering a full-service, brewpub type of environment or a quick-bite taproom setting? Each comes with its own set of requirements.

d+k uses your business goals and customers’ profiles to guide the design decisions so you can make the most of your dining area. Through our meticulous attention to detail, we can even help you carve out multiple dining spaces – each with its own feel and purpose – yet all consistent with your brand.


The Brewery As Event Venue

As social hotspots rooted in the community, local breweries have become very in-demand as event venues. Designing your establishment with this objective in mind can significantly increase your revenue opportunities.

d+k helps you:

  • Plan the space to be both operationally successful and flexible enough to accommodate events of different sizes;
  • Incorporate echos of the local culture into the design to give the space a very distinct character (a major selling point).


What kind of vision do you have for your brewery? Let’s talk about how to bring it to life!



Elevating Brands Through Experiential and Immersive Design

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Imagine a space where every detail and every interaction is carefully curated to evoke specific emotions. Your customers are fully present and engaged in the moment. They are transported to what feels like a different time and place. They are genuinely connecting with each other. They are writing a piece of their story. Everything else is forgotten. The feeling and the memories will stay with them long after they’ve stepped out of the space…and they’ll have your brand to thank for it.

*The Backdoor Saloon – the client was looking for a velvety, sexy, historically accurate western saloon feel. No detail was overlooked in creating a design that transports partons to a completely different time and place. (experiential design)

In an age where experiences matter – and are craved – more than things, where attention is fleeting and distractions are the norm, the businesses that can deliver these kinds of engrossing and all-authentic moments rise to the top.

That’s why experiential design has become so important. It’s about honoring the uniqueness of your brand, the desires of your customers, and the values that bring the two together.

To really do it right, though, you have to go all in, thinking even beyond the creation of unique and custom environments.

That’s what d+k does for brands with its immersive design services.

d+k’s Experiential and Immersive Design Process

In d+k’s immersive design approach, the focus is not solely on the structure and finishes of the space but also on how each user or customer will interact with your brand in its environment. Every detail is carefully thought-out to tell a particular story and amplify the experience, so the customer stays fully engaged with no moments of disconnect. Nothing is left to chance.

When you do that, the space becomes a destination that is not just physical but also lives in the mind and heart of the customer.

Here’s how d+k helps you bring that to life.


The d+k team spends time with you to truly understand the brand, its backstory and what it stands for, your business goals, and your ideal customers/patrons. There is a certain language associated with every client or business, and by learning how you speak about your brand, we are able to translate that vocabulary into a framework for the immersive design plan.

Darling1 Darling2

*The Darling – Every client or business has a language around their project, and by learning how the client speaks about themselves, we translate that vocabulary into a framework for building the design concept. 


We discuss the different levels of engagement that your customers should experience to allow the interaction with the brand to get deeper, more meaningful, and more memorable as they move through the space.



The d+k team creates a comprehensive design concept with curated elements to exemplify the brand and elevate the customer’s experience of it, while fulfilling the business goals.

Elements can include: branded graphics, signage, art installations, the customer’s journey within the environment, how service will flow, food or merchandise presentation, music, employees’ presentation and clothing, and more.

The elements included are unique to your project and whatever is needed to deliver the vision and the feelings you want the space to evoke.


*Another example of immersive design, in which our process works with the client to identify their ideal customer, the experience they will have, and the feelings they want the space to evoke. 


*After the goals for the immersive design process are outlined, elements above and beyond the physical space are outlined and curated to elevate the entire experience. For this client, food service items, server clothing, merchandise, and presentation were all part of the package d+k brought to the project. 


The d+k team helps you execute the entire concept, taking care of all the details.

By unifying the brand activities with the architectural and interior design, d+k delivers a cohesive concept that creates a memorable and well-executed space and a completely realized business installation.

The Darling, Chicago Illinois*The Darling – Intimate, Instagram-worthy, theatrical speakeasy. 

What memorable experience is your brand waiting to create for its customers?

Let’s have a conversation.

How To Increase Occupancy Rate in Old Office Buildings

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For owners and managers of old office buildings, it’s becoming increasingly hard to keep occupancy rates and property values high. In the age of creative Google-style offices and cool co-working spaces like WeWork, outdated buildings retain little appeal, dredging up images of an office life from bygone eras.

Luckily, there’s a solution to this problem and is one that doesn’t just help the commercial property but also its tenants; a win-win situation.

The idea is simple: Revitalize the building’s common areas by turning them into modern, amenities-driven spaces that improve the work experience and answer a variety of functional needs. Places that even the most demanding Millennial will approve.

It’s the kind of “space activation through design” that d+k love doing.

Interior Design, Architecture Design


Revamping an Old Commercial Property Through Its Common Areas

Jason Simon from Colliers International and Adam Firsel from Core Acquisitions came to d+k facing such a challenge with the Chatham Centre (1901 N Roselle Road in Schaumburg, IL). Their goal was to create value by increasing the building’s occupancy rate from 70% to 90% or more. The Centre, however, was far from the true Class A office building they were envisioning.

The common areas hadn’t been changed since their construction nearly 30 years ago. The lobby, in particular, felt cold and lacked energy. Jason and Adam wanted something appealing and functional that would bring people together to create a sense of community in the building.

Melissa Lockwood, d+k Director and manager of this project, immediately saw there was a lot of potential to create a more experiential space.



From a Static Lobby To a Dynamic, Multi-Functional Space

Taking a cue from their hospitality design experience, the firm developed a concept that included a variety of different seating options and multi-purpose gathering hubs. “Think of inspiring places that function as fun break rooms, meeting pods, and alternative work stations…all within one lively space that you can truly enjoy.” Melissa explains. “You can go to the common area to read a book, have lunch, and even work or meet with clients and coworkers.” It gives people a chance to rejuvenate and re-focus, breaking the monotony of working at their desks.


For employers, this brings many benefits. It makes for happier employees, which translates into increased productivity and higher talent retention rate. An amenities-driven workplace also makes a company more attractive, giving employers a leg up when it comes to hiring top professionals.

d+k were able to create a design that included pre-existing elements, like the finishes for flooring and walls. The old lobby plants, which were too overwhelming, were eliminated and replaced with others that would feel more organic to the space. Melissa’s favorite part of the project was actually figuring out how to preserve the large planter boxes while having them contribute to the flow of the environment, instead of disrupting it. This was done by adding built-in reading nooks and meeting places within the planters.



The design accomplished its goal. It increased the value of the old office building and helped increase its occupancy rate to the targeted 90%.

Adam says he now understands how common areas with amenities can shift the entire dynamic of an office building…and the economic impact that comes with it. “I learned how to take an existing cold space and activate it through design.”