Category: Commercial Remodeling, less than $250,000

Location: Richmond, Va.

Contractor: Forest City Group, N. Bethesda, Md., office

Designer: Thomas Dinneny, CMSS Architects, Virginia Beach, Va.

Lee Brauer

To design a stylish, contemporary office in a 75-year-old tobacco warehouse, architect Thomas Dinneny first had to embrace the building's past. Dinneny, of CMSS Architects, didn't shy away from the raw pragmatism with which the building was originally erected. Heavy timber beams and cast iron columns, thought to be impediments, were left in place as vestiges of early industry. The original concrete floor remains as well. Leaving the ceiling unfinished and the new stud framing exposed helped further the industrial feel.

The aesthetic, however, isn't simply retro-industrial. Frosted glass panels installed in the exposed conference room walls are but one indication that the design, as it reaches back to the early 1900s, has a stylish foot firmly planted in this century.

A striking curved wall arcs through the center of the narrow office, neatly carving out a conference room and reception space. The wall, Dinneny says, maximizes spatial efficiency in the rooms it creates and provides a point of focus for visitors.

Sleek, lightweight furniture helps complete the era-straddling design and fit the project's tight budget.