The drama inside J.L. Walker Construction
in Oklahoma City by Interior Options tempts
clients with remodeling options
By Linda Burnett
The same raw materials, like concrete, used on the
exterior of J.L. Walker Construction greet clients at reception with
drama and simplicity.
Since April 19, 1995, Oklahoma City has been stigmatized as the site
of a terrorist bombing—a tragedy that scarred the city and frightened
the country. Five years later, it may seem appropriate to find a
significant amount of remodeling and retrofit work downtown, considering
the repairs needed by buildings damaged in the bombing.
But the truth is the boom in construction
began in 1993, when the citizens of Oklahoma City voted to raise taxes
for five and a half years and put the money toward revitalizing their
downtown. Metropolitan Area Projects (MAPs)
was initiated to address quality of life
issues. Funds went toward nine sizeable projects including a ballpark,
canal, library, and renovations to the civic center. Aside from pleasing
the locals, the improvements have attracted visitors, conventioneers,
and motor coaches, and restaurants and hotels have popped up along the
With construction in Oklahoma City on an upswing, local
contractor J.L. Walker Construction has been doing good business.
Founded in 1985, J.L. Walker is known for commercial renovations and
remodeling, and has branched out into new construction and retrofit on
older buildings over the years. Gross sales are a healthy $15 million,
but the company still sought a way to stand out from the competition.
Interior Options helped it accomplish such distinction with a dramatic,
new 4,200-sq.ft. headquarters office that
demonstrates to clients what they too can have.
Originally housed in the penthouse of a building in downtown Oklahoma
City just two blocks from the bombing, J.L. Walker Construction was
already accustomed to nice spaces. But with a
solid future and a burgeoning client list, owner John L. Walker decided
to build a new building for his own company, then hired Interior Options
to create a contemporary interior space that would last as long as the
company remained a tenant. One glimpse at this space and the striking
atmosphere is apparent through such details as dim lighting, dark walls,
and tucked-away offices. The lighting design also features
high-intensity bulbs suspended from a ceiling track that accent the
interior’s uniqueness in detail. At the entry, the company logo
is etched in the lens of one bulb to project
the name onto the wall within a single spotlight.
“The drama was intentional,” says Pamela Seffel,
vice president of IL. Walker. “The point was to create a space that
showcases the kinds of materials and finishes available to our clients.
What we have, you can have.”
A quick tour reveals the myriad of possibilities. For example, some
ceilings are left exposed to the ductwork
while others are finished. The interior is composed of a variety of
construction materials and styles, including
drivets and concrete blocks, gypsum board and glass, tough
leather and a curved stairway. A striking concrete floor
is scored to appear like tile. “We opted for
raw and honest materials;’ says John Chadwick, ASID, an interior
designer with New York-based Interior Options, and an Oklahoma City
native. “But there’s also a sense of luxury.”
In support of the raw, only the conference room, stairs, and mezzanine
are carpeted for acoustical conditioning.
Luxury, on the other hand, is apparent in such amenities as the
mezzanine level, where employees relax for lunch, or entertain clients
at the wet bar or on the patio off to the side. At any turn there’s
something new—even a gilded Corinthian column for whimsy. “It’s a nice
foil for the contemporary look,” adds Chadwick.
If anything, these classy offices may improve negative images of the
construction industry. “Many people think contractors don’t have the
body of knowledge and the eye for finishes,” says
Seffel. “Although the architect has the final word, every day we
are at the site to make sure it’s right. Even pouring concrete is a
skill. Bad pouring can ruin a building. We take pride in our jobs.” Case
in point—the receptionist here does not wear jeans.
The curved stairway and
projected logo tell clients about J.L. Walker’s
attention to detail.
The geometry of the framed glass
is tied with the patterns created by the
A conference room of windows
and a Corinthian column juxtapose the simple
dry wall and scored concrete.
The interiors accommodate the building’s square
shape. The core of the building is box-like. The conference room and
other common areas such as utility, planning rooms, and a kitchen are
located within the core. Though these facilities are located centrally
to all employees, there is little light here, so Chadwick used interior
glass walls to increase the feeling of openness and unify the building’s
exterior aesthetic with its interior theme. The glass walls
are composed in the same geometric patterns
found on the outside windows—with little box-like structures.
Chadwick designed two color schemes, one using the
bright yellow and the black and white of the company’s brochures, and
the other one using softer tones. The original idea was to mimic the
colors used in J.L. Walker’s advertising, hut when the black and white
palette seemed inappropriate for working conditions, designer and client
made a unanimous decision to use softer grays and a splash of bright
An added bonus for a construction company designing its own interiors:
all materials are up for grabs. In this case, Interior Options used
recycled materials whenever possible. The doors in the building
were taken from a demolition job for
instance. That too can be specified for
J.L. Walker Construction corporate offices.
Client: J.L. Walker
Construction.Architect: Wm Bruce
Faudree Architect.Interior Designer:
Interior Options; John Chadwick, ASID.General contractor: J.L. Walker
Lighting Concepts by Alton McKey. Photographer: Joseph Mills Photography.