Hughes: u201cWork should be a home away from home.u201d

IRVINE, CA—Adapting space design to a user’s particular culture is enabling hybrids of traditional office and creative space that meet the needs of each company, Shay Hughes, COO of real estate firm Hughes Marino Inc., tells While creative space is all the rage in the office arena, totally open floor plans don’t work for every company in every industry.

As reported last week, Hughes Marino has completed its own creative-office space at 2 Park Plaza, Suite 750, here. The space is the firm’s unique version of the creative-office concept, which strives for the right balance between traditional private offices and public space. has learned that Gensler was the architect and Howard Building Corp. the general contractor for the project.

Interestingly, the new office echoes the design concept of its Downtown San Diego office, which was built in 2011. “The Irvine office is both different form and similar to the San Diego office,” says Hughes. “The Orange County office is in a class-A high-rise building, one of the nicest—if not the nicest—office developments in Orange County in Jamboree Center. In San Diego, we purchased our own building, a freestanding historic building downtown. One is leased and the other purchased. They’re different, but we used a lot of the same design elements in both offices.”

Hughes says it’s a “cool transformation how you can take one look in a historic building and transfer it to a contemporary, beautiful high-rise. It’s fun for me to see the difference from this to that. We have the same farm table, marble, chandeliers and conference-room chairs. There’s a lot of exactly the same furnishings, but there’s a different look because of the type of building it’s in. We’re enjoying the space so much. We’ve gotten incredible feedback from guests and employees.”

Before moving to its current Irvine space, Hughes Marino was located in another office in the same center. When the new space became available, they took a look. “It was occupied before, and it was terrible: closed in, and where we have glass was drywall. It’s the opposite of what we have now.”

Total construction costs for build-out of the new 4,500-square-foot space was more than $1 million, including $500,000 for tenant improvements, $200,000 in art and $300,000 in FF&E, Hughes adds. “We spend more than most businesses would spend, but we firmly believe in providing an amazing environment for your team is critical to your path to success for any business. It’s important to have inspiring space, whatever inspiring means to your team. This represents us well.”

Having common office space that includes guitars, a pool table and a living room is “such the fabric of who we are,” says Hughes. We’re very family oriented and a family-owned business. Work should be a home away from home. It’s very much a familial setting, where we have the kitchen and family-style farm table, and lots of room to hang out and be together.”

Earlier this month, Hughes’ son Tucker Hughes, director of the firm’s Orange County office, wrote an article for Entrepreneur magazine in which he talks about the importance of having both private and public space in an office environment. He says that productivity suffers when employees are struggling to concentrate in a noisy workspace with little to no privacy. In fact, some employees are so desperate to escape the distracting noise of an open office that they listen to music via headphones while at work to tune it out—which is counter to the purpose of collaborative space.

“In our firm, there’s a great need for collaborative space, but we also need room for private conversations, so to have private offices is very important to us,” says Shay Hughes. To allow for privacy while still maintaining a connection to the whole office, Hughes Marino’s new space features private offices along the exterior of the space, which are separated from the rest of the office via a glass wall instead of drywall.

“I like that kind of compromise,” says Hughes. “I also wanted to provide a lot of collaborative space with the conference room and a breakfast bar. I enjoy just being on the computer in the office kitchen. We have high-end espresso machines, so we invite people to have coffee at our office instead of going to Starbucks—sit at the farm table or in the living room on the couches and leather chairs.”

Hughes says the unassigned seating that has become popular in the new wave of collaborative office spaces wouldn’t work for her firm or many others. “I know firms where the CEOs have rolling desks so they can move around the office. But we have a lot of law and accountancy clients that need private offices. They want to have cool space to attract the best talent out there. So what we’ve done is crate a happy medium that works very well for a lot of traditional businesses.”

For another look at Hughes Marino’s new space, click here. In addition, on its website, the firm offers insight into other commercial real estate topics. Jason Hughes explores  why companies are racing to set up shop in downtown San Diego, leaving class-A office space in short supply; Star Hughes shares her inspiring experience with the Lawyers Club of San Diego and living icon, Sandra Day O’Connor, who recently spoke at a Lawyers Club event; and in his latest Downtown Dirt, Jason Hughes weighs in on the new global standard for measuring office space, which he believes will likely favor landlords over tenants.