We’ve all seen an office space like the one designers Lindsey Jamison and Valerie Stafford encountered in an old downtown Steamboat Springs home that a local restaurant group recently chose for its new headquarters. With tired wood paneling, dingy ceiling tiles surrounding fluorescent light panels, and industrial-grade carpeting, it was like many a workspace that hasn’t been updated since the late 1970s: “really dark and heavy feeling,” Jamison says.

The office space before Rumor Designs’ transformation. Photo courtesy of Rumor Designs

But while most of us would have been hard-pressed to spot the potential amid so much dreariness, Jamison and Stafford, partners and lead designers at Rumor Designs, saw it right away. “When you walked in, you immediately wanted to brighten the space; to make it fun and happy,” Stafford says. “Our client’s restaurants are inspired by fresh, lively global flavors, and we wanted to capture that feeling.”

The designers began lightening the mood by removing the dropped ceilings and embedding can lights in new plaster ceilings, which they painted white to bounce light throughout the space. Then, after divvying up the 1,500-square-foot floorplan into a reception room, HR office, kitchenette, bathroom, and two shared offices (one of which adjoins a conference room via new sliding barn doors), they mixed striking colors and patterns—along with some of the client’s existing office furnishings—to give each space a vibrant personality.

Walls painted Sherwin-Williams’ Blue Peacock hue and Classic Home armchairs in mustard-colored quilted leather give guests a lively greeting in the reception area. A mid-mod tweed sofa, mudcloth-upholstered ottoman by Dovetail, and live-edge French-oak Nexa tables by Nuevo complete the inviting arrangement. Photo by David Patterson.

“At the time, I had been watching the TV show Mad Men and was struck by the characters’ modern new [Sterling Cooper & Partners] office space, which was really bold and funky and eclectic,” Jamison says. “That inspired some of our furniture choices, which lean midcentury-modern”—like the reception room’s tufted-back sofa upholstered in a sky-blue tweed. “And then we put our Rumor touch on things with the addition of funky wallpapers and bright colors.”

Cole & Son’s Woods wallpaper pattern of winter birches frames views of the Steamboat landscape. The conference table and chairs were the client’s existing pieces; the book stands display a collection of oft-referenced cookbooks. The glamorous Orion 5 pendant is by Nuevo. Photo by David Patterson.

For example, the business owners’ shared office, which is wrapped in a bold, black-and-ivory wallcovering, adjoins the conference room via sliding barn doors painted an incandescent yellow hue that Stafford describes as “pure sunshine.” Inside that meeting room, a wallcovering with a birch-tree motif provides a quieter backdrop for bold lighting and eye-catching art. The long wood conference table is surrounded by modern chairs upholstered in peacock blue—a hue the designers repeated on the walls of the reception room. And in that welcoming space, chairs dressed in a mustard-colored quilted leather pull up to a bench topped with a multicolor mudcloth fabric. “The palette is those primary colors—blues and yellows and reds—that reference the pop art of the ’60s,” Stafford says.

In the HR office, a white faux antler mount, floor lamp, and modern armchair from Four Hands pop against the art deco–inspired Lines wallpaper in Dark Blue, by Ferm Living. Photo by David Patterson.

The designers peppered the spaces with nods to their high-country surroundings—live-edge wood nesting tables in the reception room; a faux antler mount in an office—as well as more practical finishes, like luxury vinyl tile that looks like wood, “but offers more flexibility, which we needed because the old floors aren’t super level,” Jamison says. Other touches, like floor lamps that reminded the designers of the hooded dryer chairs so common in hair salons of yore, are all about fun. “It’s a tiny little place with a lot of personality,” Jamison says. “One of the owners commented that this is nothing like what she would do in her own home—and that’s what she likes about it,” Stafford adds. “It’s totally different for her, yet captures the restaurants’ unique flair.”