By Diane Cowen @ The Houston Chronicle

Fields Cos. enters new era in style with move to nearby Wortham Tower on Allen Parkway

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Originally printed in the Houston Chronicle.

From his new office on the 20th floor of Wortham Tower, the Fields Cos. CEO Jay Fields looks out at the construction site of the new Ismaili Center Houston. In another direction there’s Allen Parkway, Memorial Drive and the fizzy spray of the Gus S. Wortham Fountain, better known as the Dandelion Fountain at Buffalo Bayou Park.

After 15 years in another location not far away, Fields packed up his staff and office and shifted to a higher perch in Wortham Tower and with a whole new style for what feels like a new era for the business his father started in 1985.

His father Jerry Fields, who now lives in Wimberly, founded the company as a provider of steel for the oil and gas industry. Now diversified into real estate, private equity and pipe manufacturing, Jay Fields — who co-owns the company with his sister, Greggory Fields Burk — rebranded the company’s subsidiaries under the Fields Cos.

Jay Fields and his very collegial staff had worked together in the Prosperity Bank Building at 55 Waugh. He was 31 when they moved there. Now 46, it felt a lot like Fields had grown up and moved forward, but their offices were stuck in the past. Not only were they dated, but they reminded Fields of other times: an office his father used sat empty while another, used by a dear friend who’d died, made him sad every time he looked at it and realized his friend was gone.

For all of the downsides of the coronavirus pandemic, which started here in the spring of 2020, it brought opportunities, too. One was a glut of available real estate that could be had for a very good price. Fields looked at Wortham Tower and its amenities — cafeteria, barber shop, dentist, workout facility and coffee shop — and knew the time was right.

He hired interior designer Kristen Perrin of Perrin Projects, as they leased Wortham Tower’s entire 20th floor, reinventing its 16,000 square feet for offices that feel like a major update to their earlier offices.

“It feels a little bit hospitality and a little bit residential, but in a corporate setting,” Perrin said. “We try to design spaces that are neutral so they’ll stay timeless. Often you’ll see palettes that are tight, not high contrast, a company with a 10-year forecast can invest in a space that won’t look dated or trendy.”

Before, in 10,000 square feet, Fields’ Houston workers used an outer ring of offices with walls and doors, so private offices had great views of the outdoors, but inner-office workers couldn’t see it. Their lunch room was tiny — though it did have a massive TV — and whenever there was a full-staff gathering, they found themselves pulling in extra chairs and deciding who would sit vs. stand.

Now, with offices stretched around all four sides of the building’s outer ring, inside walls are now glass, so everyone can see through them. Interior spaces have bullpen-style cubicles, extra storage, restrooms and gathering places that include a large, open break room on one end and a cozy bar for end-of-day relaxing on the other.

Stepping into the Fields Cos. lobby off of the elevator, the first impression is impressive, with a beautiful reception desk near a seating area that resembles an elegant if comfortable living room. Then, a giant glass wall reveals a conference room with a long table topped with porcelain tile that looks like a slab of beautiful Calacatta Gold Italian marble.

Technology lets them bring in workers in other offices, and overflow attendees aren’t pulling in their own chairs, they’re sitting on a pair of extra long sofas that line the exterior wall.

“We wanted the offices to be more modern and fresh. We needed walls for the art, which we’ve been collecting from around the world for 35 years,” Fields said.

More than anything, though, they needed places to collaborate, whether it was formally in big conference rooms or casually over lunch or coffee in the break room or even at the end of the day on a Friday in their small bar, where even Fields’ goldendoodle, Michi, who comes to work with him most days, has a water dish filled with filtered water.

While Fields and Perrin drove how the office’s floor plan, plenty of people on staff provided input, with many playfully asking where the bar was going to to. At some point, it stopped being a joke and became an actual bar with lighted shelves, a beautiful wood ceiling treatment, four comfortable swivel chairs that return to their original position no matter how you get off of them. That means the chairs aren’t pointed in odd directions and no one has to go back and reposition them to how they ought to face each other.

Music is always playing in the bar, prompting some employees to ask for the same music in the break room. They’re working on it now.

Much of the furniture from the old offices moved with them, but Jay’s furniture is new, and the furnishings in public spaces are new as well.

More contemporary tables and chairs, tall tables with counter stools and even a banquette with individual tables are options, and off to the side is a family room-type seating area with a sofa and chairs. Employees, though, are likely to rave about the Keurig machine that replaced an old-style coffeemaker and the icemaker that continuously produces soft ice.

Some materials were splurges and others chosen to be kinder to the budget. There’s Taj Mahal quartzite on the bar’s backsplash but then the flooring there is porcelain tile. The reception area and Fields’ office have real wood floors, but the big break room has more forgiving luxury vinyl tile.

They’d planned to install all new lighting — even cans and strips in the ceiling — but in the end, the old lighting looked even older when viewed among the all new interiors.

“At night when I drive by on Allen Parkway, I can immediately spot this floor from all of the others and it’s because of the new lighting. It looks so much better,” Fields said.

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