Before I became a lawyer, I worked in theater and film as set and costume designer.  In the late 1970s I did a few shows at the Hayloft Dinner Theater in Manassas. Most of our shows ran nine weeks.  After that, a “change over”, lasting 72 hours, provided the time for us to entirely change everything--the walls, furniture, for the next set for the new show.

The changeover that is occurring at our office this spring is hard work, but not so frantic as the 72-hour change over.  Our old “set” (the perfect place to produce papers to file with the courts, conduct depositions, generate piles of mail for clients and opposing counsel, and to meet with clients to prepare our strategies) is giving way to an entirely new space.  I began to think concretely about how to create the best spaces for conflict resolution when working on a short film with Paulette MoorePillars of Justice.  I had the pleasure of showing the film at the Florida State University symposium on Justice and Design in 2010.  Since then, I’ve worked with Deanna Van Buren in a workshop with the Virginia Mediation Network.

Brenda Waugh's office before the floor was painted black.

FOUNDATIONS.  Which brings us to the spring of 2014 and 202 North Charles Street. Our aging office needs a makeover!  Where do we begin this daunting project on a limited budget?  As with most things—it’s best to build on a good foundation.  Starting with the floor, we pulled up the dated, dirty and aging carpet, anticipating that we’d find a plywood subfloor.  Instead, we found a pine plank floor painted a few different colors.   We covered the newly painted reception area with a texture-rich retro shag rug.  We had a foundation to start from.

Brenda Waugh put a mural to bring nature into the mediation space.

PANELING.  Since we rent the office, we needed to find a temporary way to update the paneling.  

Decisions are often best made in an environment when the decision maker is not stressed.    Recent studies indicate that nature often reduces our stress when we are making these important decisions.  Rather than a wall of diplomas demonstrating credentials that are easily reviewed online, we installed a floor to ceiling mural using pre-pasted, removable wallpaper.  

Brenda Waugh installed sound panels in the mediation space in the Charles Town office

To update the paneling and provide further sound-proofing in our conference room, we installed large sections of foam insulation board covered with modern fabric.   

LIGHTING.  Initially, we also looked at problems in lighting and switched our florescent light covers for sky scene inserts. We are installing a few new lamps, including one that I made from inexpensive rope, glue and a plastic bouncy ball

The project continues, but with the problems of the flooring, the light and the paneling being addressed, we are ready to move onto furniture, the tiny bathroom, textiles and accessories.  We need more than 72 hours for this change over!