How We Create

We’re not just creative designers at Shea, we’re thought leaders. Look here to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the realms of design, hospitality, and workplace, and learn how we help our partners find success in bringing their visions to life.

Green is Our Color: Shea’s Take on Sustainable Design in Workplace and Hospitality

Climate change. Sustainability. Adaptive re-use. Eco-friendly. What started as a mantra has become a worldwide ethos. Sustainability affects every industry, and design and architecture aren’t exceptions—in fact, design can be on the forefront of responsible environmental practices. As architects and designers at Shea, we impact consumer spaces across the country, and we consider it our […]

What Makes for Award-Winning Restaurant Design?

We recently had dinner at a restaurant that’s been nationally and abundantly recognized for its design. This isn’t anything new for us; eating, drinking, and absorbing all over the world is how we learn, so we always pay extra attention to hospitality spaces—not just how they look, but how they function. We don’t just look […]

Workplace Reinvention: A Shea 2022 Outlook on the Office

We’re calling it now: The office isn’t going anywhere. Sure, the way we work has changed dramatically over the past two years—but it’s just an acceleration of the direction we’ve been headed in. There’s no one-size-fits-all trend or solution that’s going to work moving forward, but we can’t lose sight of the idea that the […]

A Forward-Looking Design Firm: How Shea Makes is Innovating the Future of Design

Shea has always strived to be an industry leader in design, starting with complete integration of architecture and interiors (back when that was not a thing that was done), and elevating that approach into fully immersive design using all aspects of business, brand, graphics, interiors, and architecture to create complete branded experiences. Our next major […]

The Great Outdoors: The New Importance of Outdoor Spaces

We’ve already given the rundown on how we’re leading design thoughts for 2022 and beyond. Let’s dive into how a new level of importance has been placed on an area that’s always been significant: outdoor space design and experience. Outdoor Dining, Then and Now Outdoor space has always been a key feature for restaurants. It’s […]

Designing for the Future

A love note to restaurants: If you survived the last year, good on you. It was a hard-fought battle, and now that the industry is strongly marching forward, money and resources are tight and priorities are important. Many restaurateurs are taking on second-generation spaces to use infrastructure and save on costly kitchen additions and layout […]

A New Generation of Restaurants: How Shea gives new life to former dining spaces
It’s easy to be tempted to build a restaurant space completely from scratch. But creating a restaurant is costly, and most of those costs are hidden from guests—range hoods, venting, kitchen appliances. For a first-generation restaurant space, these items are, by far, a majority of the budget. Because of this, finding a second-generation space makes [...]
It’s Time for Next: Moving Into Post-COVID

The last six months have been brutal. The effect of the pandemic cannot be minimized or sugarcoated, but, like any major event in history, there have been some valuable lessons learned that we’ll carry forward for a long time. For business to go on and our day-to-day world to start spinning again, we don’t have […]

Strategic Design Is a Business Solution

Design is not about trends. Design is not covering everything in Pantone’s Color of the Year for 2020 (it’s Classic Blue, by the way) or knowing whether metallics are still in vogue. It’s not even about the finishes you choose, or those really cool chairs that you use to fill the space. In the real […]

Reimagination to Results: How Reinventing Spaces Brings Direct Business Results
There’s nothing more disheartening than seeing a good concept that should be thriving—walking into a restaurant that offers a good menu but a tired, stale overall experience. At Shea, we excel at breathing new life into existing concepts and aligning physical space and desired brand. Any restaurant space needs basic annual maintenance to take care [...]
Telling the Story: How to Bring Brand into a Space

A strong brand is the cornerstone of any business, and translating and extending that brand into a physical space is a strategic balance. It should never be directly literal (logos everywhere), but needs to inspire the vision, the tone, and the vibe, as well as setting the scene for the emotions and energy felt there. […]

Modernizing History: Creating new concepts in historic spaces

There’s something about a restaurant in a historic building that gives it a certain sense of place—it has its own past, its own personality, and, usually, great bones to it. Shea has plenty of experience creating concepts and designs in spaces on national and local registers, but even when a space doesn’t have a specific […]

Keeping an Open Mind: How Shea tackles the open-office debate

For the past two decades, the open office has reigned at the top of workplace design—taking down the walls between employees, seating them directly next to each other to encourage easy collaboration, and removing any vestiges of private offices and spaces. Innovative, energetic, and democratic in theory, but in practice? Not so much. As the […]

Design Details that Make Spaces “Insta-Famous”

The word “Instagramable” should be banned. Not just in design—in everyday life. Although Instabait designs are all over the Internet and social media (a completely valid way to build up a restaurant’s public profile, by the way), at Shea, we put the aesthetics and function of the design ahead of what’s hot on Twitter at […]

Work It Out: How Shea incorporates coworking elements into company workplaces

As more and more people are taking the opportunity for self-employment, and as technology allows many of us to work remotely, coworking spaces have experienced massive growth over the past few years. Companies such as WeWork and Impact Hub are making their presences known nationally, and single coworking spaces and small chains are cropping up […]

Fast-Casual Restaurants, Full-Service Appeal: Creating restaurants that don’t sacrifice style or substance for speed
Counter-service restaurants are focused on throughput—getting customers in and getting them out. Not the case when it’s a Shea-designed space. For us, it’s about keeping customers in, bridging the gap between fast-casual and full-service to still create an all-encompassing dining experience, even at happy hour. It’s about creating a space where guests want to stay—to [...]
Culture, Curated: How Shea creates office spaces that are influenced by—and influence—company culture
Walking into an office should immediately tell you exactly what that company’s about—from the signage to the colors to the carpet, that space is how the company presents itself, a physical extension of its brand. Basically, it’s the first impression, not just the front door. But it’s not just that a workplace’s design should reflect [...]
Designing for Dayparts: How Shea creates spaces that work and adapt all day long
The former definition of “fine dining,” which brings about connotations of dressing up and eating atop white tablecloths, is on the rapid decline. Flexibility and casual eating are on the rise, with consumers looking for the best-quality food on their own terms and time. And with margins slim in the restaurant industry, it only makes [...]
Changing the Skyline: How Shea takes office complexes from drab to attention-grabbing
It’s no secret: Competition between office buildings for tenants is fierce, and ever-expanding city skylines mean that there are more options than ever for companies looking to set up camp. What draws today’s tenants is thoughtful design—attention paid to detail, to amenities, to how office complexes can best serve day-to-day needs, making the workday a [...]
Building for Buzz: How Shea-designed restaurants keep their status as the hottest in town
Building buzz around a new restaurant is easy—the space is fresh, the food is exciting, the energy is high. And while occasionally changing design and menu features can keep things interesting, it takes more than that for a restaurant to survive—especially with the constant rate of restaurant openings trying to attract the same clientele. It’s [...]
Sit and Stay Awhile: How Shea takes hotel dining to new heights
Gone are the days of dingy dining rooms and standardized décor. Shea’s approach has always been to create hotel restaurants that are more than a convenient place to grab a bite while traveling—eating there should be a true experience to be savored. Shea creates hotel restaurants all over the country that combine creative food with [...]
Worldwide Wonders: How Shea designs globally inspired restaurants
We’re always traveling the world to see and absorb everything that’s timeless and traditional, taking in what’s new and what’s genius in other parts of the globe—and we take that inspiration back to make Shea as knowledgeable as possible. We love incorporating authentic touches into restaurants that show the décor was thought through as well [...]
Patio Perfection: Taking great design to the great outdoors
As the weather warms around the country, hordes of diners spill out onto restaurant patios, decks, and courtyards to sip craft cocktails and revel in summery flavors. Outdoor dining space makes for a compelling front door for guests, bringing a bold energy and flurry of activity at first glance. But more goes into designing a [...]
Fabulous, Functional Design: How Shea creates stylish, practical QSRs
The fast-casual restaurant market is the fastest-growing segment in dining. So now more than ever, quick-service restaurants need more than great food to stand out among the crowd when it comes time for guests to choose where they’re going to pick up dinner or head out on a lunch break. Great design is a must, [...]
Passion Projects: How Shea translates a life journey into design
We love what we do—because we get to work with people who love what they do. Whether it’s opening a restaurant that evokes their favorite childhood memories or creating a salon that really connects with patrons, our clients put their hearts and souls into making their lifelong dreams a reality, and we transform that passion [...]
Small Spaces, Big Impact: How Shea brings creativity to every corner
While we’re no strangers to renovating gigantic office towers or creating expansive, multi-level restaurants, there’s something to be said about taking on the challenge of a smaller space. When we work on a space with smaller square footage, whether it’s a quick-service restaurant, an expansion, or a retail space, we have to get creative to [...]
Experiencing the Everyday: How design and branding raise grocery shopping to new heights
As more and more of our tasks are outsourced to online, from shoe shopping to booking Ubers, there’s one major task that, for the most part, remains steadfastly in the brick-and-mortar camp: grocery shopping. At Shea, we want to make sure that it’s not just one more thing to tick off a to-do list; we [...]
Transportive Tables: How Shea takes diners to a new place for dinner
While the sharp bite of ancho chili may transport your tastebuds to Mexico or a healthy dose of Old Bay can remind you of Cape Cod, a dining experience is about so much more than the food. From the design of the host stand to the music to the carved decoration on the end of [...]
The Tipping Point: an objective perspective on the tipping debate
A 200-year history in America has allowed gratuity to become a given, but recent moves from restaurateurs nationwide are causing things to change. Why now? Let’s start with the basics. Restaurants generally don’t make a lot of money. (We say that as an objective consultant to restauranteurs.) The margins are razor thin and labor is [...]
All in the Family: Refreshing the family-owned business while keeping its heart
When diners walk into a family-owned restaurant, you want them to feel the history, the heritage, the soul behind the eatery that comes only with hard work from multiple generations. That family-built vibe is often accompanied by regular customers, steady business, and a dependable menu of favorites and décor from the heyday. But when establishments [...]
The “Smart” of Our Business Deals
We are all deal junkies. In our businesses, we love getting the new client, closing the sale, doing the deal. The Twin Cities is and has been on the cusp of a big burst of development, which is good news for us junkies.  Business is great here locally, right?  We’re all busy, busy and we’re [...]
Steakhouses for Women and Salons for Men: How Shea creates experiences that appeal to all
How do you get a group of women to make their girls’ night out reservation at a steakhouse? Or get a guy into a full-fledged salon for a haircut? At Shea, we make it our business to invite, engage, and deliver—and that means inviting, engaging, and delivering to everyone who wants to take part in [...]
Bridging the Gap Between Dining and Retail: Macy’s Herald Square
Macy’s Herald Square, the brand’s 114-year-old flagship store, embarked on a major remodel in 2012. On the agenda for the $400 million project were to bring in new brands, more luxury options, and a strategy to draw in more millennials—but at the very top was to add more dining and food options as amenities that [...]
Building a Lifestyle: How Shea takes branding beyond a single store
Some clients work with Shea to create a singular location or brand. But as lifestyle brands continue to grow in droves (think: lululemon, Anthropologie), more and more clients are looking to sell an overall lifestyle—and that’s exactly when Shea steps in to help. Bring on the juice. Rita Katona wanted to bring a new brand [...]
The Evolution of the Workplace: how Shea incorporates 21st-century ideals to create modern office spaces
As the traditional 9-to-5 office has disappeared, so, too has the traditional office culture: high-walled cubicles, standardized break rooms, and spaces devoid of visual and textural interest. Today's workplaces—at least, the ones that Shea's been dreaming up—are vibrant reflections of the people in them and their product. Our recent collaborations with Little, Akquracy, and 10 [...]
Where Everybody Knows Your Name: how Shea designs spots people want to return to again and again
Cheers. The Peach Pit. Central Perk. Finding the perfect neighborhood spot is an art. It has to be easy rather than fussy. And it has to be convenient, without sacrificing style or experience. Creating the perfect neighborhood spot? That’s even tougher. Taking an area’s vibe and translating it into an everyday space for locals—while drawing [...]
Leave with a Smile: How Shea has changed the dreaded dentist’s office stigma
If you hear “dentist appointment” and immediately conjure up images of drills and pain, you’re not alone. But two recent Shea projects, Camp Smile in Excelsior and Fiant Dental in Minneapolis, turn the traditional notion of dentists’  offices on its head. These brands and designs add color, texture, and joy to the same-old-same-old twice-yearly trip—while [...]
RBC Plaza: Repositioning, Not Remodeling
Setting up an office tower for success When two buildings come together to create a new whole, just making sure that the carpet matches isn’t enough—so when KBS Capital Advisors bought downtown Minneapolis’ 40-story RBC Tower and the four-story Gaviidae Common II next door, the collective partnership saw this as an opportunity to make a [...]
Sencha Tea Bar: A Full Reinvention
How to take a brand through a full reinvention Many of you may know the Tea Garden for their bubble tea drinks, their oddly pleasing tapioca pearls, and the college dorm-like furniture (most likely hosting a group of 8-10 teenage girls congregating for a Friday night hangout). The Tea Garden, now referred to as Sencha [...]
Davanni’s: How to refresh an institution
I walked into the Minnetonka Davanni's location, and had to admit I hadn't been in an actual Davanni's since college (University of St. Thomas). Sure, there were plenty of delivery orders (too many to mention), but I hadn't been in one in years. My first impression? Where is the cool, neighborhood pizza joint I remember? [...]
Designing Spoon & Stable
PROLOGUE: When you walk into a restaurant for the first time, you form an impression, whether you consciously realize it or not. Sometimes you're struck with immediate comfort, admiration, envy over a great item, or sometimes it's immediate dislike, which is usually reserved for us snobs in the business. When creating a restaurant, every decision [...]
The Logo Evolution
A brand: it's more than just a mark or a logo. It's the first building block in creating a complete consumer experience. At Shea, we always start with the brand, which is why our team goes beyond interior design and architecture to include experts in marketing, graphic design and production. Employing this creative diversity allows [...]