• Frank Oles

Office Design Part 2: "The Blue Ox Lodge"


While our first office effort was short-lived, it was only the beginning. After a year or so, Michael Porritt and I once again moved floors. New floor, new opportunity to build! After kicking around a variety of themes for our new space, we settled on a North Woods Lodge theme, which played into our Midwest sensibilities and also our love of camping and drinking!


Our ambitions and our budget increased. But that did not mean we would have the extravagance of real wood paneling. Oh no. Instead, we once again tapped into our inner pack-rats and stockpiled as many leftover foam core boards from meetings as we could get. We taped the foam core together into carefully measured panels, and then applied shelf paper to create a wood panel effect. The first panel took approximately 3 hours. Mike remarked, "What the fuck are we doing?" We persevered, and kicked it into high gear. After the wood paneling was "fabricated" and then affixed to the walls, we started on the center dividing wall between the windows. We added faux stone wallpaper to the divider and our desk cabinets, slapped down a sheet of plywood for a desk/hearth, and then added an animatronic singing keroke deer head. We created a faux window on one of the side panels using a scenic image from an Arizona Jeans photo shoot in Montana. We also hung some donated animal skulls, taxidermy fish, and even some vintage paint-by-numbers art that my grandmother painted in the 60s.


But wait, there's more... Remember the desk/hearth? Under that, we installed a fake fireplace with genuine crackling sound. Mike, being the wiz woodworker he is, built a wooden bar with space for our filing cabinets (it was an office after all), bar glasses, a mini fridge and a lockable cabinet to keep the office mooches out of our liquor stash after hours. The top of the bar was a clear sheet of acrylic, under which we put personal photos and our favorite clippings from The Onion newspaper.


It was quite a space when it was done. One smarmy co-worker (Jim Larmon) commented "Why are you going through all this effort to build a bar. Nobody is going to hang out after work." That person was wrong! We christened the space "The Blue Ox Bar" and the rest is history. We threw party after party for Octoberfest, Cinco de Mayo, Christmas, and St. Patrick's Day. We had kegs of beer (we didn't get official approval for that either). We had swamp water. Sonja threw a water balloon into a vat of salsa and splashed it into Johnny's eyes! It was a blast. It was also a very sad day when we had to take it all down when we moved floors a couple years later. It was the end of an era. But it was also the beginning of newer and bigger office builds. And the bar would live on. The Blue Ox Bar was officially featured on Metromix. It was also the subject of an episode of "Office Cribs" by the Redeye newspaper, a client of ours at the time.


Sonja models our faux-wood covered workspace and her traditional German dirndle as we prepare for the “Oxtoberfest” celebration. You can also get a glimpse of the faux fireplace between our desks.


Here you can see some drunk and happy coworkers, bean-bag chairs, and our home-made wood paneling. It looks more real the more intoxicated you get.


A Jagermeister toast with my sister in the background. Also visible - A CHOCOLATE FOUNTAIN! We knew how to please the ladies.


We would always try and organize some fun activities as well, like this mini bike race. Creativity has no bounds, especially when drinking is involved!


Pretty soon, the Blue Ox became a stop on the agency tour. That's when you know you've arrived. It was sad to move on, but it was just another opportunity to go even bigger...

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