National Retail Federation

A unique combination of sleek branding and big box utility, a new D.C. HQ suggests a change in culture.

The newly unveiled headquarters for the National Retail Federation sits on the top floor of 1101 New York Ave (you can see it from VOA’s D.C. office). The design and layout of the new space takes full advantage of stunning views of downtown Washington, D.C. through the building’s uninterrupted full height glazed perimeter. The views are sweet, but there’s more to this office which houses the world’s largest retail trade organization.

Two worlds in one – Through a clever blend of high end and raw materials, the design reflects the many faces of the retail industry that exist between the sleek style of Madison Ave to the utilitarian big box store. From the walnut floors at the entry and reception areas to the stained concrete floors that mark the promenade around the office the juxtaposition and collision of those two worlds is the theme explored throughout the space.


White box/grey box – I call the combination of diverging materials “the white box/grey box” concept. The black stained concrete floors are accentuated with pure white drywall ceilings above. Similarly, the graphite and black patterned carpet at the workstation areas is countered with an open, dark grey concrete ceiling and exposed systems. This point/counterpoint approach helps define work zones from traffic zones and areas of collaboration from quiet areas.


New look, new culture –  The NRF leadership took advantage of the opportunity for that the move provided to execute a 180-degree-turn in the way it conducts business, how its staff collaborates, and how it presents itself to members and the public at large. The space is, in a word, transparent. Most of the staff gave up their private offices for a spot in open workstations. All offices and conference room fronts are 100% glass. In addition, glass clerestories between offices help expand views and allow maximum daylight to penetrate into the space.


How low can we go – The success of open space design in any project is intrinsically tied to the physical barriers placed between coworkers. At NRF, the barriers have come down. The workstations are low, making people visible to one another. And as we promised, it’s so quiet most of the time you can hear a pin drop.


Meet me at the café – Without a doubt, the most talked about space in the new office is the café. It’s large and it’s comfortable. Visible from the elevator lobby, the expansive café area has multiple seating options including a long banquette along the window, a huge bar-height island with stools, and low lounge seating. The space has already proved an instant hit with staff—it’s always crowded.


Manhattan penthouse – During a tour of the new space Matt Shea, President of NRF, paused at the reception area looking towards the cafe and said, “When I walk off the elevators it feels like I am in a Manhattan penthouse. It’s elegant and quiet and I can see the views in both directions. The marble walls and dark wood floors make me feel like I am not at the office but at home.”

SF: 30,000
Team: Pablo Quintana, Alyssa Smiroldo, Matt Stone, Rachel Villnow and John Jessen

Photos by Pablo Quintana

Leave a Comment

Write your comment