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Inspirational and powerful interior spaces

A Grand Rapids- based firm infuses workspaces with innovation and energy through interior design.

“At the core of our brand and our story is the idea that great environments are good for organizations,” said Natalia Connelly, director of branding at Custer Inc., as she sat on a lemon-lime and speckled gray couch in the full-service firm’s showroom in downtown Grand Rapids.

“We really believe that a great environment can empower you to do your best work and so it is our hope to do just that: to create great environments and to understand our customers’ needs so that we can meet them,” continued Connelly.

Custer Inc. specializes in designing and developing inspiring interior work spaces that not only improve employee engagement and organizational performance, but also enhance workplace wellbeing. To emphasize the firm’s capabilities for its clients, Custer renovated its entire first floor showroom last year to create an environment that invokes a sense of tranquility, yet still fosters productivity.

Known as Custer’s “living room,” one of the spaces on the first-floor incorporates a trellis and planter, light and gray chevron-like patterned carpet floor, a set of Emu Re-trouvé poufs with a spiraled design reminiscent of the 1950s, and large windows set in brick walls flooding the area with natural lighting.

Connelly said while the first words that come to mind to describe the space are “beautiful and inspiring,” she noted it doesn’t quite capture the essence of it.

“I’d say this specific  environment is craftsman comfort. We call it our living room, because we really want to invoke a feeling of home,” said Connelly. “When you come in here, we want it to feel like we are hosting you and as guests of ours, you feel at home.”

The interior design and layout of Custer’s first floor showroom also embraces a recent trend for work spaces: the melding of the third place into the workplace. With the growth of mobile technology and amount of employees working remotely in places such as at coffee shops and at home, Connelly said the balance of energy and relaxation from community spaces is being incorporated back into the work environment.

SVPmp_Custer300px“At Custer we have our living room. It is like a home environment meets a coffee shop, but the advantage of this third place being incorporated into this workspace is that you are not in a rickety chair, and you are not in an uncomfortable setting,” said Connelly. “You have the advantage of the energy and that buzz of a third place, but with all of the supportive products to keep you productive.”

Custer specializes in providing interior design and renovation solutions to customers in four vertical markets, including large-scale corporate clients, small business entrepreneurs, healthcare, and the educational sectors. The firm not only has experience working with clients to select interior furnishings and finishes, artwork, workplace accessories, and plans spaces to optimize workflow; but also creating custom architectural pieces, flooring, interior build-outs, and integrating communications technology with workplace architecture.

“Depending on our customers’ needs, we really can provide them everything in interior renovation. We are proud to say really no one else in West Michigan can provide everything from concept to close-out, from design all the way to the unveiling,” said Connelly. “Beyond that, we can also provide support services as well. We can provide facility management to make sure that once completed, your space remains beautiful and exceptional.”

Custer originally began as Custer Office Environments when David Custer a fellow Steelcase employee purchased a failing Steelcase dealership in 1981. During the next three decades the firm has expanded its capabilities with additional services, products, and staff from a foundation of selling office furniture with about 17 employees.

“We still offer furniture, but really at the core of what we do and at the core of what we provide is a full-service solution to our customers,” said Connelly.

When working with clients to create an interior design that meets the type of work they do and the specific needs associated with it, Connelly said in many cases asking the right questions goes hand-in-hand with showing what options are available to them.

“Often times our customers don’t know what needs they may have until they see the kinds of products or services that could meet them,” said Connelly. “On the one hand we like to ask what our customers feel they need and on the other hand we like to tour them in our space and the spaces of our partners in the area to show how their needs could be met and to widen that realm of possibilities.”

Connelly said clients may not realize how technology integrated into collaborative spaces could impact employee engagement, or how standing height or adjustable height desks can boost productivity until they experience it.

One of the innovative products Custer offers through Steelcase is the NeoCon award-winning Brody WorkLounge, which not only incorporates patented LiveLumbar technology, but also an adjustable work surface and a privacy shield. The integration of furniture, technology, and architecture is another recent trend in work space design, and one that will only continue, according to Connelly.

“Brody comes from it being good for your body and your brain, because you are in an engaged lounge setting,” said Connelly. “It is the best of all of these worlds where you have the technology you need, you have the support in the furniture, and then you have this pseudo-private mini room too.”

Serving clients and creating innovative and supportive interior design is part of Custer’s mission, and it is a notion guests can resonate with from the first moment they walk into the firm’s living room.     GLBD

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Handcrafted: from grain to glass

The team at a Holland, Michigan distillery has a passion for building fine quality spirits from local ingredients.

At Coppercraft Distillery creating premium small-batch spirits and signature cocktails is truly a work of art, from grains to glass.

Long before a classically-inspired cocktail is poured into a chilled glass over a repurposed wood counter, the team at Coppercraft Distillery has put careful time and consideration into every step of the process.

From the selection of locally-sourced ingredients of wheat, corn, and rye from Zeeland-based Boersen Farms; to allowing the mash to distill and mature over time in a copper still; Coppercraft Distillery’s team has a passion to create spirits with robust flavor and character.

Kim Catton, co-founder and sales director at Coppercraft, said distilling is truly a craft and the cocktails use simple ingredients that don’t hide the true essence of the spirit.

“Some of it is taking the classic recipes and putting a little bit of a twist on it based on what is going on in the agriculture and food scene,” said Catton in reference to the inspiration behind the signature drinks.

GLBD_CoppercraftV_0715Coppercraft Distillery was founded by the husband-and-wife team of Walter and Kim Catton back in 2012 in the former Belden Brick and Supply Company facility at 184 120th Ave. in Holland, Michigan. While the distillery began production in 2013 with a focus on aged products such as corn, high wheat, and rye malt whiskey; Coppercraft now produces traditional spirits as well including the small-batch Genever, rum, gin, vodka, citrus vodka, and an applejack brandy that drinks like a whiskey.

Coppercraft’s gin was created with approximately 13 different herbs such as juniper, orange, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pine; and its citrus flavored vodka brings hints of oranges, lemons, and grapefruit to the palate; while the award-winning rye malt whiskey has notes of dried cocoa and peppercorn.

Once it is ready to be tasted and savored, Coppercraft focuses on adding its own twist to beverages and bring out different flavors that are complementary to the base spirit. Not only does the distillery make its own ginger beer, bitters, and vermouth in-house, but also uses fresh fruit and locally-grown herbs to make the drink unique.

“I would have to say my personal favorite is the Manhattan mainly because the rye malt is excellent, the home-made vermouth, and the Michigan cherries are pitted on-site, cooked down in an applejack-rum concoction, and aged ourselves,” said Catton. “It truly brings in the full flavors and the essence of what we do there.”

One of Coppercraft’s more popular cocktails with guests is known as Dunegrass, which adds Lemongrass simple syrup, half a slice of an orange peel, and lemon juice to citrus-flavored vodka. The cocktail is then garnished with a lemon peel, culminating in a refreshing and sweet citrus-inspired drink.

Another unique recipe combines bourbon, port, and coffee liqueur with simple syrup, a whole egg, and a coffee bean garnish to create the smooth Whiskey In The Morning cocktail.

“We will highlight a lot of our applejack as we come into the fall season, and the fruits and flavors throughout the year that inspire the cocktails we showcase,” said Catton.

For the third consecutive year, Coppercraft showcased one of its products during the Tulip Time Festival in Holland as the official spirit. This year the distillery had selected its rum, which incorporates nearly 30 percent of evaporated cane juice, according to Catton.

“We invited 13 different establishments to come up with the Copper Blossom themselves that fits with their atmosphere, their food, and their bars that use Coppercraft Rum,” said Catton.

The Copper Blossom, the official 2016 Tulip Time Cocktail, was crafted by Coppercraft’s resident mixologist Forrest Dodson, who was inspired by the thought of warmer weather on a wintry Michigan day. The recipe blends rum, orange juice, falernum, and house bitters before being topped with in-house ginger beer and garnished with an orange peel.

While sipping on handcrafted cocktails in a tasting room accented with re-purposed wood and caramel-colored metal chairs, visitors have a perfect view of the distillery’s 350 gallon-Vendome copper finishing still and the larger 800 gallon stripping still in an industrial, yet intimate copper-hued ambiance.

As with every decision made during the distillation and mixology process, the aesthetic design, copper roof entrance, and layout of the building was done with careful consideration to form a handcrafted Coppercraft experience for patrons.     GLBD

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