October 1, 2011

Made For TV: David Howell Design Defines Media Storm’s New York Office

Weathered barn siding. A heap of vintage television sets. A conference room that might be mistaken for a Viennese café. With a few unlikely, memorable gestures, David Howell Design has defined the New York office of Media Storm, an advertising agency best known for interactive campaigns on behalf of TV’s Glee, Bridezillas, and American Idol.

First to appear is the barn siding-as a feature wall in the elevator lobby, with Media Storm’s name routed and seared into the wood as literal “branding.” Visible just beyond the receptionists are the TVs, several with the cathode ray tubes removed in favor of LCD screens looping Media Storm reels that crackle with quaint fake static. And directly across from this amiable homage is the cozy faux café.

Bead-board lines the walls, blackand-white mosaic tile covers the floor, opaline glass globes descend from the ceiling, and lace curtains hang at the windows. In addition to the marble-topped tables for two, this improbable conference room offers a selection of wooden and metal chairs and a long banquette covered in tufted green vinyl. Mix and match to suit your meeting.

Smaller meeting rooms boast the occasional flourish. For example, there’s nautical rope crisscrossing overhead in one and trompe l’oeil bookshelf wallpaper in another, cast as a library. Most of the 8,900-square-foot interior, however, is decidedly simple and budget-conscious. The unadorned aesthetic unifies Media Storm proper and its two in-house satellite agencies: HIP Genius, for entertainmentand digital marketing, and Maude, the endearingly named strategic creative group.

Salvage and reuse are leitmotifs. David Howell left the cheerful existing kitchen in place. The former printing house’s concrete columns look perfectly at home, too.

Running across the engineered cement floor of the friendly, flexible studio, bamboo-plywood bench desks sit end to end. Task chairs line both sides of the work surfaces, but central dividers with inserts of warm gray postindustrial recycled felt do triple duty as visual and acoustical barriers and tackboards. Between this busy spine and the modest perimeter offices are a few workstations brought over from Media Storm’s previous location.

Managing partner Craig Woerz, who co-founded the agency, occupies a small but manly corner office. “It’s a throwback to a Mad Men type of feel,” he says, standing on a rug woven from leather belts, next to a classic fireside chair. Yet Howell asserts that the style statement is definitely more than a tribute to TV’s greatest hits: “Craig envisioned a work environment that makes the employees and clients feel at home.” (That’s a natural for Howell, who usually designs residential projects.)

Howell and senior associate Jill Diamant dug around for the originality and authenticity that would best reflect the cultural medley of Media Storm and its one-room satellites. Artisans instantly aged the bead-board wainscoting in the faux café. Photos, framed on the wall above, are contributions from Howell’s own European vacations.

“Media Storm really challenged us to make the conference and meeting rooms dynamic without being too distracting,” he says. “The results were these quite varied experiences.” In a way, it’s like traveling from one studio set to another, a sensation familiar to TV pitchmen.

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