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Kent County Office of the Defender Makes an Important Move

Kent County Office of the Defender Makes an Important Move

Kent County Office of the Defender (KCOD) has been working with r.o.i. Design for over five years.  KCOD was funded and mandated by the State of Michigan to increase its capacity to serve more people.  Initially, we were trying to squeeze more people and efficiency into their small office. But the demand for space was growing, and it was clear a new and larger office was needed. The new office had to accommodate an increasing staff, be walkable to the courthouses downtown, and be connected to public transportation.  They also needed to maintain as much of the integrity of the space as possible (historical building, loyal realtors, and use type). 

When KCOD leased the 8th floor at 850 Monroe, it had previously housed a law firm but was vacant for 10 years. 

The entry, lobby, reception, and training room needed minor updates and the office layouts were appropriate but too few. Generous corridors were narrowed so 12 offices and a conference room could be added. At their move-in in 2023, they had every office filled. To expand more, they would look to add space one floor down in the same building. 

The suite’s previous design was quite dated and needed major finish updates to the lighting, paint, and flooring. r.o.i. Design added color-coordinated accents in quadrants: navy, green, and teal. The lunchroom, copy room, and client check-in received new case goods, and all received new laminates.  

It was decided to keep the original cherry paneling and marble floor in the Lobby. 

The base paint color of the suite remained neutral, removing much of the wallcovering, and adding a lighter paint. All carpets were replaced with a mid-toned product which was better at hiding stains. Accent carpet tiles interrupt the pattern to enhance the color of the quadrant. 

The lighting was inspected and converted to LED throughout. Very few decorative lights were added or needed. 

The restrooms had been updated just before the previous tenants left and worked very well for the group with just a few lighting tweaks. 

It is becoming more common for us to work with our clients in searching for new spaces, helping them imagine their operations in a space before they commit to a lease. In the case of KCOD, this search was organized by realtor CWD. We laid out multiple spaces before the group decided. We engaged with many commercial realtors and found CWD to be very accommodating. McGraw Construction took on the challenge of remodeling this old building, where nuances were discovered every day and handled professionally. 

    Built by Women- October 19, 2022 

    Built by Women- October 19, 2022 

    r.o.i. Design joined over 200 other participants attending this landmark event hosted by Fishbeck and sponsored by the Professional Women in Building Council (PWB), West Michigan Women in Architecture, Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) Western Michigan Chapter, National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), Architecture, Engineering, Construction (AEC) Group, and Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) West Michigan. 

    99% of the audience were women from all disciplines:  construction, architecture, engineering, mechanical services, design, and product representatives. We all recognized this was a “first of its kind” gathering and the organizers promised to make this an annual event. 

    The keynote speaker was Katie Johnson, Treasurer of The House She Built and she passionately told us the story of how 4 leaders organized the effort to build a home in Utah with women-only builders, designers, and craftspeople.   

    They researched the nation for female contractors (through social media and referrals) and folks came from across the nation to provide expertise and training in many categories of trades. Katie told stories about how these leaders and trade consultants became “family”.  

    The outcome of the project was a home that was sold at top dollar and the developer that gave them the land bought the floor plan and specifications saying it was better than the project plans they had for the development. 

    All the leaders donated their time, and much of the materials and subcontractors brought in their time at no cost, because everyone saw the goal of highlighting women as leaders in construction as an overdue spotlight.  

    The Grand Rapids event proceeds were donated to West Michigan Construction Institute, which presented its goals and agenda, inviting the audience to continue to support its efforts. 

    In addition to the building of a home, the effort caught the attention of Mollie Elkman and Georgia Castellano, and a children’s reader book, The House that She Built, was written and produced. While Katie was in town for the event, she visited Townline School and handed out these books to all the students.  

    r.o.i. Design connected with so many companies we work with, meeting the women who make it all possible within those companies and we look forward to building on those relationships. 

    Greenville Area Community Foundation Moves to New Remodeled Offices 

    Greenville Area Community Foundation Moves to New Remodeled Offices 

    Our friend Dean Clement at West Michigan Office Interiors introduced us to Alison Barberi, President and CEO of the Greenville Area Community Foundation (GACF). They were in the process of swapping offices with Southwestern Oil Co. They needed more space and Southwestern Oil needed less. Southwestern Oil had been at its location for more than 30 years, and most of the space had not been upgraded for decades. The swap was a generous gesture, offering GACF opportunities to expand and upgrade. We were engaged as interior designers supporting the efforts of their contractor, KASCO, and furniture provider, WMOI.  

    We were able to work with the GACF team to upgrade lighting and finishes. We worked with KASCO to make the entry and restrooms A.D.A. compliant. We recognized the mid-century style of the building and its details and worked to make the new design work with the building’s architecture.  

    Preserving the interior doors and trim, which were dark oak, we kept the new finishes light and added accents to the new carpeting and wall finishes. In the restrooms, the plumbing fixtures and lighting were completely updated. GACF brought with them their quality artwork and furnishings.  

    While the construction process revealed some issues, none of them minimized the outcome.  

    We celebrate the work of the GACF and learned a great deal about their impact and efforts in the Greater Greenville Area.  

    Click on the thumbnails below to view larger images.

    The Gignac Lounge at Dooge Veneers 

    The Gignac Lounge at Dooge Veneers 

    r.o.i. Design has been honored to be the designer for Dooge Veneers for many years. We have seen the office expand three times, and watch them grow in staff, services, and veneer options. 

    Most recently we worked with them to create a couple of offices from a conference room and convert an office to a soft seating meeting area. That office used to be Hank Gignac’s office. Hank passed away from COVID, one of the first 50 in Kent Count in 2020. Hank was a tremendous leader and a gracious person, and Dooge Veneers wanted to create a room in his honor.  

    In that room is a large coffee table made from a walnut slab, something Hank always wanted, and the original veneer on the wall remains. We furnished the room with comfy chairs around the new coffee table. The room has a great view of all the birds outside the window that gather at the feeders that Hank placed there.  

    We acknowledge and thank Wolverine Building Group for their work remodeling the space. 

    Click on the thumbnails below to view larger images.

    Wilkast Moves into Its New Building

    Wilkast Moves into Its New Building

    This world-class die casting company has created parts for the automotive and motorcycle industries since 1979. Tom and Kurt Wilkerson are the second generation of Wilkast owners and they saw the need for facility and tooling expansion to meet the growing demand for their services. 

    First Companies introduced r.o.i. Design to the Wilkersons, and along with Dixon Architecture we were engaged to design a new building that would house the corporate office and expanded plant. 

    Like most manufacturers, their processes create dust and debris, so the offices had to be planned using materials that were durable and cleanable. To aid in the effort, the Wilkersons decided to borrow from a ranch-lodge style using rustic woods and natural stone throughout. The floors are all concrete and the corridors and conference rooms have wood panels. An elkhorn chandelier greets you in the lobby. The overall feel is very welcoming, and the shiny Harley Davidson in the vestibule is a nice touch. 

    Click on the thumbnails below to view larger images.

    © All Photos Courtesy of First Companies, Inc.

    NeoCon Returns in 2021. Some of the Trends We Saw

    NeoCon Returns in 2021. Some of the Trends We Saw

    Scroll down to see photos from our visit. 

    NeoCon was held this year at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago on October 4th – 6th. Normally the event is held during the second week of June but was postponed because of the pandemic. The 2020 NeoCon event was canceled altogether, but a virtual event was held online. This year, attendees needed to show proof of vaccination (or a negative COVID test), and masks needed to be worn in all indoor areas.

    Attendance numbers were low and many of the showrooms were either closed or open only by reservation. This was due both to the pandemic and “off-season” of this year’s event. Hopefully, by next June, the show will return to normal.

    While there were fewer attendees at the Mart, there was still plenty to see of the newest products from the commercial design industry. It’s always exciting to see the newest designs, innovations, and trends on display.

    Some of the Trends We Saw

    The future of the office wants to be “happy”, flexible and accommodating; there was a definite reference to the ’60s and ’70s in colors and textures and a sense of the eclectic was a welcome surprise.


    • Much warmer colors and lots of soft colors. Pinks, corals, teals, yellows, and blues.
    • Sherwin Williams introduced their color of the year projecting we were going to love Evergreen Fog.
    • Benjamin Moore also introduces their Color of the Year 2022, October Mist.

    Textures and Finishes

    • Lighter woods, including the casual use of OSB and plywood.
    • Felt was everywhere!
    • Lots of interesting wall dividers, screens, and room dividers using all kinds of materials.
    • Fabric folks were exploring retro patterns with lots of colors.


    • Many mobile products were there as they try to accommodate changing work styles; carts, desks, even rooms.
    • Many exhibitors have introduced small rooms that you can purchase, like a piece of furniture, to create spaces for employees to take private calls or have ZOOM meetings without bothering co-workers.
    • To deal with the spread of sound in an open office environment, there were acoustical wall panels and dividers, acoustical pendant lights, acoustical décor, and more.
    • Carpet manufacturers have gone all out to be “clean” and “green” with recycled products. They are also exploring patterns and colors giving us the hope of more than 10 shades of gray.
    • The return of woven rattan (vinyl) in commercial seating is making a comeback.
    • Technology and lighting impacted many designs. You can buy your conference table with built-in table lamps and ports for your phone and computer.

    The Merchandise Mart had taken the time during the pandemic to update corridor finishes with new carpet, lighting, and wall accents. Most floors had their own particular look but in general, the lighting was greatly improved. This may have been in part because of the new exhibit space, Fulton Market, that is now competing for exhibitors and visitors. Herman Miller/Knoll has relocated their showroom to Fulton Market, a trendy location with an energetic urban vibe.

    The world of design is alive at NeoCon and we were grateful to be a part of it.

    Click on the thumbnails below to enlarge photos from our visit.