Couple loves to share designs

By Bryan Richardson

Every business needs its hook.

For Box Lab, Chris and Marci Spaw decided to have several hooks.

One of them comes into play when people walk into the architecture firm on 407 Poyntz Ave.

The showroom offers a look at what people could put into their homes – such as dishes, silverware, doorbells, shower fixtures, toys and furniture.

Many of the items come from brands the Spaws have used in their own home.

“People don’t normally walk into an architecture firm,” Chris said. “It’s a great way to show people what modern design is.”

As a design-build firm, Box Lab can both design and construct projects.

The firm has a working kitchen area as a display for potential clients.

“Design is one thing, but you have to be able to use it and live with it, so we like to be able to show people how it works,” Chris said. “Education is a big part of what we do.”

The firm started in 2008 with the goal of bringing energy efficiency to the Midwest.

Chris received inspiration from the jobs he worked while teaching at Kansas State for a decade.

In particular, his work in Norway inspired him to look for ways to be energy efficient.

“You have a very limited amount of space,” he said. “If you have a small footprint, how do you make it feel larger while being efficient?”

Marci, who also taught at Kansas State, said the company also works to be a part of the community through making its space available for UFM (community education) classes and fundraising endeavors such as “Promenade on Poyntz,” a benefit done by downtown Manhattan businesses.

“That helps us stay connected to Manhattan and be able to respond to what’s happening,” she said.

Marci said they are committed to downtown Manhattan and the community as a whole.

She is a part of the Manhattan Rotary Club and the Manhattan Arts Center Board of Directors.

“Being involved in the community as a whole is beneficial for everybody,” Marci said.

Marci and Chris arrived in Manhattan in the early 90s to attend K-State. Marci came from a farm south of Lawrence, Chris from the Kansas City area.

They both worked in the dorms, Marci for Boyd and Chris for Van Zile.

The two self-proclaimed introverts said they probably wouldn’t have met if they didn’t work together at the shared reception area.

“We met there and he’s been my best friend ever since,” Marci said.

They got married in 1997, staying in the community after Marci received her master’s in horticulture and Chris received his master’s in architecture.

Now that they own a business, they work to their strengths.

Chris puts his experience to use with design and construction work as well as dealing with clients.

Marci keeps track of Chris, and handles the retail area and business aspect of the company.

“Marci’s the brains of the operation,” Chris said. “She keeps it all running.”

Their son, a fourth grader at Theodore Roosevelt, even gets into the act – helping pick out toys and books to order.

“He’s had some very successful picks based on our sales,” Marci said.

The system works well for them, they said.

“We’ve always wanted to work together and spend time together,” Chris said.

Marci said they would probably be too busy to really see each other if they didn’t work together.

“I would not go back to any other way,” she said.

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