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How to Transform Your Workspace Into a Whimsical and Energetic Place


When Catalyst Ranch opened its doors in 2002, it was the first venue in Chicago to realize that the results of any offsite meeting can be enhanced if attendees are placed in the right environment.  Catalyst Ranch features six quirky, colorful meeting rooms of all shapes and sizes to accommodate training seminars, strategic planning meetings, association meetings, workshops, consumer market research, staff retreats, board meetings, sales meetings, and ideation sessions.

Cha Cha Breakout 1

Cha Cha Breakout 1

Eva Niewiadomski, Ranch Czarina, pondered what an ideal working environment could be and then coupled with extensive research, experience and gut instinct to create a pioneering and innovative boutique conference center in Chicago’s West Loop.  The team at the Ranch found it takes more than tables and chairs, notepads, pens, and A/V equipment to hold an effective meeting. We refused to believe that only Creatives should be allowed to work in fun, eclectic spaces. Everyone can be more productive if the conditions are optimized!

When you enter Catalyst Ranch, you’ll immediately notice the bright colors, artwork from around the world, unique vintage furnishings, and toys.  Wait, toys?  Yes, Play-Doh and pipe cleaners are available, along with puzzles, musical instruments and board games from every era.  It may look like a hodgepodge of fun, but there is a thought process behind every detail at the Ranch.  The toys and vintage furniture evoke feelings of nostalgia, which is part of the Ranch design philosophy.  Memories of childhood inevitably rekindle the child-like self, when we all had booming imaginations and no one thought about whether or not they were creative.  To learn more about the how the Ranch engages the senses to open the mind, check out this article on the Catalyst Ranch blog, Creative Juice.  In addition, as Peter Lloyd explains in his article, “Creative Space,” “Fun and play allow and encourage humans to generate ideas that are unconnected or illogically connected, to jump from sense to non-sense. If you haven’t found the ideas you need in the sensible world, they’re obviously somewhere else.” 

Catalyst Ranch And Jitterbug Room

Jitterbug Room


Mambo room

Mambo Room

A testimonial from Nicole Martin, Executive Director of HRBoost, from March 3rd is as follows:

“I had the pleasure of attending a Personal Best event hosted by the Catalyst Ranch. It was truly captivating as Eva personally guided me through each room. I honestly felt the same energy from the experience that I experienced from the Montessori school where I send my son. What a wonderful creative idea Eva has brought to life at the Catalyst Ranch. I would imagine any group of people would be advantaged by leaving their neutral day in and day out environments to inspire the inner child in all of us in such a way that it could bring teams to collaborate, inspire and explore the possibilities out of the office. HRBoost proudly encourages every individual considering a retreat, a venue or meeting for the team to consider the Catalyst Ranch.”

One of the primary motivations for going offsite for a meeting is to be in a different environment – hopefully one that inspires your team to think outside the box, communicate clearly, and make real progress.  Why would you want to attend an offsite meeting in a plain conference room just like the one you have at your own office?  Familiarity breeds more of the same thinking. That’s why the strange and wondrous mix of the design style found at Catalyst Ranch is so effective. It disorients the mind and sets it on a different path. New connections are made, exciting conversational detours occur and previously unidentified options are explored.

The meeting room configurations at the Ranch differ from hotels and other conference venues in that the breakout areas are included in the room.   There is a central presentation area, and couch groupings, over-sized pillows, hammocks, and café tables around the perimeter of each room for smaller discussions and breakout exercises.  “Conference room meetings with pre-arranged seating that become utterly predictable, boring, and much less productive than they could be. The opposite is true in a room in which people are free to get up and move around, stand up or stretch out, use the walls and easel pads to illustrate their points, and so on,” says Peter Lloyd.  Read his full article, “Creative Space,” here

Polka breakout

Polka Breakout

The environment at the Ranch inspires many to re-think their own workspaces.  Eva has taken her aesthetic to companies seeking to integrate creative design in their offices.  Companies that want to add some of that Catalyst Ranch SHAZAM to their workspaces can call on the Catalyst Ranch Design Team to transform their space into a place where employees flourish.  Add the creative play and energy of the Ranch to your every day!  Start with just one small corner (maybe a conference room) and see what happens!  Who knows where your imagination will take you?

Tango Room

Tango Room

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