Dyer Brown’s design for Murtha Cullina preserves the existing brand and aesthetic, while nudging it toward a modern, industrial feel.
For law firm Murtha Cullina, Dyer Brown crafted a welcoming, modern workplace combining a cutting-edge aesthetic with a playful, industrial flair. The 13,000-square-foot single-floor suite at 33 Arch Street, a noted contemporary high-rise in Downtown Boston, includes a dramatically exposed steel truss in its elegant board room.
Members of the design team visited Murtha Cullina’s Hartford, Connecticut office, one of five across the northeast, to learn more about the firm’s culture and workflow. Visioning sessions revealed an overall goal to preserve the existing brand and aesthetic, while nudging it toward a modern, industrial feel.
After conducting test fits, Dyer Brown tailored a program for roughly 30 employees, incorporating 26 offices, six workstations, a reception area, conference rooms, huddle space for informal meetings, and a “Zoom room,” with a mothers’ room, wellness room and pantry rounding out the offerings.
Vertical steel columns make appearances in other perimeter meeting rooms and office zones in addition to the boardroom truss. The material and finish palette lean on neutral hues with dark accents and pops of color underscoring the impact and excitement of exposed structural steel.
These elements allude subtly to Murtha Cullina’s specialties while also firmly rooting an industrial aesthetic into the brand identity, all communicated to visiting clients. The design reinforces the concept elsewhere with memorable lighting fixtures in matte black finishes and concrete-look porcelain tile flooring in reception zones.
Curved exposed ceiling cutouts celebrate the kitchen island — strategically located amid the main entry and meeting zones, offering visitors glimpses of Murtha’s people-first culture. Defined by a fully retractable glass wall, the arresting centerpiece presents natural wood finishes and contrasting millwork (white upper cabinets against black lower ones). A stylish cubby-style seating nook features integrated power for charging electronic devices.
Murtha Cullina views Dyer Brown’s design as a likely template for future office updates and relocations.
Murtha Cullina partner Sara P. Bryant reached out personally to Rachel Woodhouse, principal and director of operations for Dyer Brown — the two are friends as well as colleagues who served together on the board of directors for Professional Women in Construction, known as PWC — to brainstorm on the opportunity.
Later Dyer Brown team members, including Woodhouse and project manager Schuyler Pratt, visited Murtha’s Hartford, Connecticut office to study the firm’s culture, workflow and other key attributes, learning among other things that Murtha’s employees generally work in-person at least three days a week — and that they share a future-looking culture with a focus on work-life balance.
Dyer Brown’s following visioning sessions with Bryant and other partners revealed an overall goal to preserve the law firm’s existing brand essence and aesthetic, while nudging it toward a more modern, industrial feel.
“Our collaboration with Murtha Cullina is exemplary of our approach to workplace strategy and design,” says Woodhouse. “Their clarity on goals and openness to experimenting with cutting-edge ideas allowed our workplace team to deliver an engaging, inspiring and healthy environment along with an exciting brand refresh.”
Within a program designed for roughly 30 employees, Dyer Brown comfortably located 26 offices and six workstations, with conference rooms, huddle spaces for informal meetings, and a virtual meeting “Zoom room,” as well as a mothers’ room, wellness room, and pantry for snacks and drinks. Visiting clients arriving in the stylish reception area are treated to an aesthetic defined by a material and finish palette leaning on neutral hues with dark accents, pops of color and, of course, exposed structural steel.
Visible from reception, the boardroom’s steel truss spans diagonally across a sprawling window looking out at Downtown Boston, creating immediate visual impact. Along with appearances of vertical steel in several other perimeter locations, the truss alludes to Murtha Cullina’s specialism in construction law while blending an industrial aesthetic into the familiar brand identity. Lighting fixtures in matte black finish and concrete-look tile reinforce the concept.
Not far from reception and meeting rooms and defined by a fully retractable glass wall, the workplace kitchen amenity presents an arresting centerpiece offering glimpses into the brand and firm culture. The exposed ceiling cutout above the island countertop element reinforces the new industrial side of the brand identity, while this gathering spot — surrounded by tables, chairs, and an inset seating nook with integrated power – emphasize Murtha Cullina’s people-first culture.
While Murtha Cullina declined to pursue WELL or other sustainable design certifications, they still desired to pursue a high-performing workplace focused on employee productivity, wellness, and comfort, as well as reductions in social and environmental harm. The firm has adopted three lenses as guiding principles for all of its practice activities and project work — design, DEI, and sustainability. Exemplifying their commitment, the firm recently completely an overhaul of its materials library to ensure all product selections would meet and exceed the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Materials Pledge, redounding to the benefit and credit of client organizations like Murtha.
- Ceilings: Armstrong
- Lighting: Axis, Coronet, Fusion Lighting, Kuzco Lighting, GVA Lighting, Intense Lighting, Intra Lighting, AFX
- Carpet: Bentley, FLOR
- Floor Tile: Nemo Tile
- Resilient Flooring: Wineo Purline
- Vinyl Flooring: Armstrong
- Wall Tile: Nemo, Stone Source
- Paint: Benjamin Moore
- Rubber Base: Roppe
- Wallcovering: Carnegie
- Plastic Laminate: Wilsonart
- Quartz: Corian
- Fabric: Momentum, Stinson
- Transition Strips: Schluter, Fry Reglet
Overall Project Results
For partners of Murtha Cullina, a firm working in over 125 countries, Dyer Brown’s design is seen as a template for future office updates and relocations. Sara Bryant, a partner in the firm, had this to say about the results:
“Dyer Brown designed a modern, bright and efficient work space that has made coming to the office and collaborating with colleagues a real pleasure. While this would have always been important to Murtha, it was even more appreciated as we came out of the pandemic and returned to being in the office more. Dyer Brown’s design struck just the right balance for our firm’s culture and priorities, in both our client-facing and interior work spaces, of being fresh and timeless and neither too stuffy nor too trendy.” – Sara Bryant
Design matters — and so do relationships. The successful collaboration with client firm Murtha Cullina is the latest example of a process that starts with understanding goals and aspirations, and translating them into solutions where culture, space, brand and experience meet.
- Rachel Woodhouse, NCIDQ, Principal
- Schuyler Pratt, Project Manager
- Molly California, NCIDQ, Project Manager
- Photos by Darrin Hunter, courtesy Dyer Brown