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Quirky offices in downtown Boston reflect influx of tech firms

A Star Wars-themed mural at Carbonite’s new Boston headquarters at Downtown Crossing.
A Star Wars-themed mural at Carbonite’s new Boston headquarters at Downtown Crossing. Justin Saglio for The Boston Globe/Globe Freelance

Step off the elevator into Carbonite’s new Boston headquarters, and you’ll quickly learn that the force is with you.

Darth Vader’s instantly recognizable silhouette is on a sliding conference room door. A well-dressed storm trooper gazes out at a small army of software engineers from his perch on a spray-painted mural. Even the bathrooms are in on the act: Instead of men and women, the signs say “Luke” and “Leia.”

Welcome to the new world of downtown office spaces. As tech firms have migrated into the staid Financial District and nearby environs during the past five years, they’ve done their best to put their unique stamps on work spaces. Goodbye, wood paneling. Hello, Yoda.

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Their offices have, essentially, become extensions of their brands — physical manifestations of how they view the world, and how they want the world to view them.

In the case of Carbonite’s 50,000-square-foot space at the Lafayette City Center, IA Interior Architects got to work in December 2013 and wrapped up designs last spring, in time for Carbonite to move from the Back Bay to Downtown Crossing. Total relocation and renovation cost: $4 million.

Why Star Wars? The data-backup firm is named after the substance that put Han Solo in a deep freeze in “The Empire Strikes Back.”

Reetika Vijay, managing principal of IA’s Boston office, said her team watched all the movies over one weekend to get inspired.

As it turns out, IA played an important role in several of the quirky Boston renovations done in the past year or so, such as Rapid7’s subway-themed office with rock-and-roll references sprinkled throughout at 100 Summer St. Also in that building, IA redesigned an office for the Game Show Network’s local game development studio. Oversized playing-card motifs are prominently featured.

Subways are also the theme at the offices of Rapid7, a security software firm at 100 Summer Street in Boston.
Subways are also the theme at the offices of Rapid7, a security software firm at 100 Summer Street in Boston. David L Ryan/Globe Staff Photo

The competition for young workers is hot, especially so in the tech world. It can be tough to recruit them, and sometimes tougher to keep them. That’s why you’re seeing perks such as game rooms and free snacks — fixtures at some Cambridge firms — migrate to the office spaces once used by lawyers and bankers.

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“It’s really a tool for recruiting staff because the market is so intense,” Vijay said. “It’s also a tool for retaining staff and making sure the other tech companies don’t steal your people.”

For companies early to the remodeling trend, the investment has paid off. Law firm K&L Gates moved into its office near South Station in 2006, adding a minimalist look graced with a wide range of modern artwork. The effect: It feels more like a Back Bay art gallery. Spokesman Jeffrey Berardi said the idea was to help the firm stand out to clients, while reflecting its global brand.

Recruits were struck as well, often commenting on the art, Berardi said. It “makes a very strong and positive impression,” he said.


Deirdre Fernandes of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com.