When Todd Walker, AIA, founded Archimania with Jeff Blackledge, AIA, in 1995, they were strapped for cash. So their build-out in an industrial building in downtown Memphis, Tenn., tapped into their still-successful formula of doing much more with considerably less. “We demoed the walls and ceilings ourselves, and we also did the plastering and painting,” Walker says.

The studio—one of six 22-foot-by-88-foot office bays in the building—has an open plan that incorporates workstations set on casters, exposed ductwork, salvaged heart pine flooring, and lighting made from conduit and off-the-shelf pieces. “We designed our furniture out of plywood and borrowed equipment from a millwork shop to do the fabrication,” Walker says. The work came in at an unbelievable $7 per square foot.

The firm—with Walker's new partner, Barry Yoakum, AIA—has since grown from two to 16 and has taken over two more bays, but the space still works. “Clients see our office and get an idea of what we can do,” Walker says.