By Kristine Hansen | Photo: City Museum, St. Louis

What better place to fire up and energize your team than in a space dedicated to creative use? Whether it’s a co-working space in Chicago’s trend-setting Fulton Market or a whimsical children’s museum truly designed for all ages, there are plenty of spots like this throughout the Midwest. Interior design is strong and often it’s in an historic, thoughtfully renovated building given a new lease on life.

These intimately sized venues are ideal for team-building, brainstorming, strategizing or hosting a retreat, without the fancy frills of a ballroom or more traditional setting. Because the creators were also thinking outside of the box in designing these spaces, you can easily feed off of that energy. You may finally get unstuck on a business strategy or hit upon the brilliant idea you’ve been searching for while in one of these spaces.

In addition to cultivating a cozy, home-like vibe, many also feature outdoor spaces to further stretch out and perhaps host a yoga session or cocktail hour — your choice.


Anything and everything can be reused at City Museum, and that includes a bank vault on the second floor, built into the 10-story, 600,000-square-foot warehouse’s design. Guests can walk right on into the vault. What was once the International Shoe Company, says marketing supervisor Nancy Celedon Ortega, “is a mixture of children’s playground, funhouse, surrealistic pavilion, and architectural marvel made out of found and repurposed objects.” The museum opened 25 years ago by artist and sculptor Bob Cassilly and his wife, Gail. It hosts private events for groups as small as 40 and as large as 400. On the first floor is an oceanic and jungle themed, ultra-dimensional backdrop, while on the second floor are a marble bar and the aforementioned bank vault. Then, on the third floor is a spot suited for antiques lovers and history buffs, due to the salvaged architectural pieces. Rental fees include museum admission. You might be so lucky as to arrive on an evening this July and August when the City Nights rooftop series returns, bringing live music, light-projection shows, DJs and retail from artists and makers.


Tucked into Pillsbury Mill’s former machine shop, the aptly named Machine Shop reopened in 2016 — a century later — as a result of three investors tapping into the wisdom of groups like the State Historic Preservation Office. Just like in its earlier days, natural sunlight floods the 19,000-square- foot space via 193 windows. As a nod to the building’s history, some pieces of equipment were retained during the restoration process, as a reminder of its first chapter. Spanning two levels, between 100 and 1,000 people can be hosted for an event. On the first level the Break Room Lounge is bookable for private events and features high ceilings, leather furnishings, Soviet-era chandeliers and walls crafted from barn wood. Then, on the upper level is a mezzanine that’s included with private-event rentals, making for an airy space with an amazing view. Movable wood walls create lots of ability to customize the spaces even further. Portable bars — as opposed to a fixed location — allow you to always have drinks on hand and nearby.


Formerly a neighborhood stocked with meat- packing plants, within the last decade, the streets of this near-west enclave have since become lined with celebrity-chef restaurants (such as Stephanie Izard’s Girl & the Goat and Grant Achatz’s and Nick Kokonas’ Next) and trendy boutique hotels. Working From is a members-only, co-working space on the third and fourth floors of The Hoxton, Chicago, filled with open-shelf bookshelves artfully arranged with plants and cloth-bound antique books. When it’s warm, the outdoor terrace opens, providing space to congregate around fire pits.

For overnight accommodations linked to an event, it doesn’t get any easier than booking rooms at The Hoxton, Chicago, below, which also features two restaurants/bars — one on the ground floor and one on the rooftop. Both are operated by the locally famous Boka Restaurant Group. Groups can opt to use just one of the four conference rooms, home to flat-screen TVs, white boards and video conferencing. Food can be catered through Cira, The Hoxton’s lobby restaurant. Coffee and tea service, as well as snacks, are available to anyone using Working From. Like Working From’s main space, each conference room is outfitted with art on the walls, a sideboard and other details that make it feel more like a living room than a conference room. Each can fit between four and 10 people.


“This building was built in the late 1800s and used to be a livery. We bought the building and designed and renovated it ourselves,” says Julie Johnston, VisionLoft’s co-owner with her husband, Don.

Both have decades of experience in the business world and, by opening this space, want to give back to entrepreneurs. People can come here to collaborate on business ideas as well as create innovation in small groups. The blend of modern design and historic features is right in downtown Indy close to hotels, shopping and restaurants. VisionLoft’s list of preferred caterers, however, means attendees never need to leave the building so they can hunker down and focus on their meeting. There is also a full-service bar available with any event rental. In addition to weddings and parties, a common reason for a group to book the space is for a product launch or non-profit benefit.


Like Working From in Chicago, The Living Room functions mostly as a co-working space — and not many people realize it can also be rented for meetings and events. In 2017, The Living Room transferred to new owners, father and son, Jerry and Joey Haselmeyer, who rebranded to the new name shortly after. Within the 12,000 square feet of space, spread across more than one building, are four “living room” areas dedicated to private events. A popular use of the space is for hosting focus groups designed for companies to gather customer data. Instead of a one-way mirror, a live video stream — and a dedicated suite on the second floor, away from the focus group — allows a company’s employees to observe how potential customers react to their product or service. Local companies wishing to host product or food tastings have also found The Living Room to be accommodating. The Living Room will even provide on-site facilitators and moderators for a group’s meeting, avoiding the possibility of some employees not getting the full benefit as they are leading more than they are participating.