Crew “Break Out” Pod

When VM Architecture and Design (VMAD) was approached by J. Crew to design their new Headquarters a site had yet to be selected.  Firm Principals Mark Murashige and Kay Vorderwuelbecke, along with their team, spent months running test fits for many downtown New York locations but nothing seemed quite right for the dynamic needs of J. Crew.  Finally, however, a seemingly perfect fit was offered in the marketplace.

Project Name: J CREW Headquarters
Architect Name: VM Architecture & Design

J CREW Headquarters by VM Architecture & Design - Sheet1
©VM Architecture & Design

Crew’s New Reception Lobby

“We were excited to learn that a large commercial bank was vacating their six floors of offices at Brookfield Center- The square feet being vacated was almost exactly what our program required”, said Murashige.   The basic size and floorplates of the space would work perfectly for J. Crew.  Not only that-the buildout was only two years old.  Everything was there already, furniture, board rooms, AV systems, conference centers.   After some initial planning and test fits J. Crew decided to take the space, although, while it had appeared perfect at first glance, the reality was that it would need a full-face lift and a lot of reworking to be a good fit for J. Crew.

J CREW Headquarters by VM Architecture & Design - Sheet2
©VM Architecture & Design

Crew Cafe

“The J. Crew CEO instructed VMAD to “De-Bank” the space” said, Kay Vorderwuelbecke.

This referred primarily to the finish and feel of the space.  As a bank headquarters the feeling was sleek, shiny, the spaces were somewhat cold and dark, the finishes were……. durable.

J CREW Headquarters by VM Architecture & Design - Sheet3
©VM Architecture & Design

Murashige added, “Paradoxically, in addition to “De Banking” the space, VMAD was also told to “keep as much as possible, but make this place feel like J. Crew, make it warmer, make it a place our creative

teams will thrive……but don’t spend a lot of money””

A very tall order — made taller by J. Crew’s functional programming requirements.  J.Crew required a host of spaces radically different from the Bank’s.

So, the VMAD team went to work.

Crew Employee “Huddle” Zone

Much time was spent with the J. Crew leadership, crafting a schematic design that included offices and workstations for 1000 employees, 5 photo studios, mock stores, wholesale showrooms, a CEO suite and

Board room, a huge onsite 30, 000 sq. ft.  master sample closet, employee lounges, and huddle rooms and a state of the art All-Hands room.

J CREW Headquarters by VM Architecture & Design - Sheet4
©VM Architecture & Design

An entirely new finish palette was designed, some floors were left nearly intact from a layout and planning point of view, but VMAD changed every surface finish and texture, layering in wood slats, softer wall coverings, more dynamic carpeting and new decorative lighting.  Intimate “community centers and huddle spaces” were designed and installed where only simple open space had existed before.

Vorderwuelbecke notes, “We challenged ourselves to make the programming work with minimal interventions.  We were very successful for the most part, but in the end, we did fully demolish several floors in order to make way for the uniquely J. Crew programming, such as photo studios, wholesale showrooms, and the master sample closet.”

J CREW Headquarters by VM Architecture & Design - Sheet5
©VM Architecture & Design

As they say, “A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words.  Before and After images of VMAD’s work show the original bank space, and the newly designed VMAD alterations of the same spaces.   The comparison photos effectively show the impact of VMAD’s design and the way in which the spaces have been transformed into more design focused relaxing environments.

Crew’s new Executive Board Room



Mark Murashige and Kay Vorderwuelbecke met while working in New York City at famed Interior Designer David Easton’s office.  Their collaborations on several St Regis hotels including the St. Regis Princeville on Kauai, HI and Bahia Beach in Puerto Rico, led them to start their own firm in 2008.  VM

Architecture and Design has since grown to a multi-disciplinary studio, focusing on unique one-off projects in both Architecture and Interior Design.  Their creative teams have also merged into the world of brand development and concepting.  VMAD has help to vision and create such brands as West Elm Workspace and West Elm Hotels.


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