REO Town architecture studio thrives

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Studio [intrigue] Architects opened its doors in REO Town in 2006 and has been growing ever since.

Ken Jones and Dave VanderKlok opened the business in 2003 in Okemos. The two men met while studying architecture at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield.
According to VanderKlok, the two had not always been friends and partners.
“Ken lived across the hall from me in student housing,” he said. “We did not like each other. I think we were too different. We started playing practical jokes on one another: paint in the shower piping, emptying all the spices into the bed sheets, toothpaste under the door handles, changing soup can labels. One day, we called a truce and all the bullshit stopped. From then on, as we went through school, I think we both realized that each of us had ‘it’ and our interests complimented one another.”
Two years after college, Jones called VanderKlok and proposed partnering in a new venture in Lansing. VanderKlok said he was “sick of working in Metro Detroit.”
According to the studio’s website, Jones and VanderKlok started their first office without any clients, project proposals or employees. The two men made calls, networked and got their name out in the community. By the end of 2004, Studio [intrigue] Architects had acquired 75 clients, 300 projects and seven employees.
Some of their previous projects include Dublin Square and Los Tres Amigos in East Lansing, Marketplace in Lansing and Lansing City Market, along with many other restaurants, offices, and private residences in and around Lansing.
“Michigan was in a horrible economy as far back as second quarter 2001. Opportunities were shrinking and Ken and I were concerned about job security,” VanderKlok said.
The two did not want to leave the security they did have but VanderKlok said they wanted their fate in their own hands.
“We met at Buddies in Okemos for nachos and beer for several weeks and discussed what we needed to do. Republic Bank, not excited about the fact that Ken and I were flat broke and had zero assets, took a chance on us and loaned us $120,000,” VanderKlok said.
The two closed on the loan and opened on March 3, 2003.
VanderKlok said the hardest part of growing their business was finding the right employees and training them. The studio has grown from a team of two to a team of 13 architects and designers that work on approximately 200 projects per year.
“I have a team of 13 of the most capable architects and interior designers in Michigan. Although Ken and I lead the design work that we do, all of the team members have some level of involvement in the design of our projects,” VanderKlok said.
VanderKlok said he has had no regrets about moving the business to REO Town.
“I am hoping that, with investment and entrepreneurship ramping up, that the time has come for our area of town to take off,” VanderKlok said. “We have Alan Hooper and Sam Short in our neighborhood now. Obviously, the Board of Water and Light has helped. We also have a lot of plans on the boards for other projects in our area. It’s our time,” VanderKlok said.
VanderKlok said one downside of being in REO Town is that there is not enough retail and dining options close by, but he appreciates that basically everything in Lansing is within 20 minutes.
VanderKlok said two projects the firm are most proud of were their work on the Lansing Board of Water and Light co-generation plant and the Residences/HopCat Tower because they were both “large, complex projects.”
VanderKlok said while they are a general design firm, the type of project and the client must fit their style.
“Project type has a lot to do with it. Although we are a ‘generalist’ practice, we still want to make sure that the project is a fit for us, VanderKlok said. “Making sure that the client is a fit is important as well.”

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