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Beyond The Bio: 16 Questions With CBT Architects Principal Lois Goodell


This series profiles men and women in commercial real estate who have profoundly transformed our neighborhoods and reshaped our cities, businesses and lifestyles. 

Lois Goodell has more than 30 years of professional experience in the interior design and planning of a variety of workplace, higher education, retail and mixed-use spaces. As CBT’s director of interior design and leader of the firm’s Workplace Strategy Group, Goodell plays an active leadership role in design, management and development.

Lois Goodell, interior design principal and director at Boston-based design firm CBT.

Her award-winning work is interdisciplinary, and fosters a closer connection between education and workplace interiors for high-tech, institutional, financial, legal, nonprofit and large corporate clients, both national and international. Notable projects include residential projects like The Garden in Taiwan and Armature Works in Washington, D.C.

Bisnow: How do you describe your job to people who are not in the industry?

Goodell: My job is about changing lives, one space at a time. Interior design — whether in the workplace, at home, in hospitality or academic spaces — defines the nature and tone of how we live our day-to-day [lives]. By finding new ways to incorporate light, texture and color, I try to shape people’s sense of well-being in ways they might not even realize.

Bisnow: If you weren’t in commercial real estate, what would you do?

Goodell: If I weren’t in my current role, I would love to work in film as a director. Great films shed light on stories, real or imagined, that deserve to be told, highlighting experiences, relationships and landscapes in creative ways, which I think is a lot like what I do, just through a different medium.

Bisnow: What is the worst job you ever had?

Goodell: Early on in my career, I found myself in a publishing job that felt routine and mechanical. While I loved the industry, I realized how much I valued being actively creative. The need to feel inspired and surprised by my work every day led me to where I am now.

Lois Goodell with Dave Madson, a principal at CBT.

Bisnow: What was your first big deal?

Goodell: In the '80s, I designed an office space for a Boston law firm that has since become exemplary of what we do at CBT — use design to create community and identity. This specific project installed bold furnishings and artwork, despite what other legal offices were doing at the time, and demonstrated that workspaces are about communicating a confident and authentic sense of firm character. From a retrospective point of view, this project was a pivotal turning point for our firm.

Bisnow: What deal do you consider to be your biggest failure?

Goodell: I prefer to think, rather, about important lessons learned. The biggest lesson is to listen and hear the needs of those who will be interacting with the space every day — everyone from new to returning visitors. Designs that don’t explore the richness of other perspectives fall short of their full potential.

Bisnow: How do you define “making it”?

Goodell: Success largely depends upon how people interact with spaces I’ve designed. If everyone who uses the space says, “this feels like me,” then I know I’ve achieved the goals that I set for myself and ultimately, the project as a whole.

Bisnow: What is your biggest pet peeve?

Goodell: Closed-mindedness — when someone is so focused on one solution or has a set vision of the end product that they don’t explore other options. Even if we end up at the original suggestion, experimentation welcomes solutions that, initially, may not have been top of mind.

Bisnow: Who is your greatest mentor?

Goodell: My mentors are always shifting depending on where I am in my life. However, my parents were my first and have been my constant mentors. They introduced my brothers and me to the beauty of travel, culture, music and alternative perspectives, instilling passion, innovation, positivity, compassion and empathy — all traits that have impacted my life and my work.

Bisnow: What is the best and worst professional advice you've ever gotten?

Goodell: The best professional advice I’ve ever received was to set goals and create my own individual path toward achieving them.

The worst professional advice I’ve ever received was to do a task in a set way as a means of advancing toward a certain objective. I’ve never prescribed to allowing someone else’s expectations dictate my own actions.  

Lois Goodell brainstorms potential workplace design solutions with clients at CBT’s studio.

Bisnow: What is your greatest extravagance?

Goodell: Unassigned time has become my greatest extravagance. Finding space to clear my mind and relax, recharge and reflect has become so rare that I’ve found I have to take advantage of it when it presents itself unexpectedly.

Bisnow: What is your favorite restaurant in the world?

Goodell: There’s a tiny restaurant about the size of a household dining room in the mountains of Italy that has the greatest combination of service, quality and taste I’ve ever encountered. Everything is rustic, fresh, authentic and from the earth, and really makes me feel connected to the entire country. I’m keeping the name to myself so that it can continue to be my private sanctuary.

Bisnow: If you could sit down with President Donald Trump, what would you say?

Goodell: I would say to him what I would say to any leader: work in the best interest of your people, act with compassion and live as an example of moral exceptionalism. Serving the greater good should be the prime goal of everyone on this planet and, when you’re in a position of high power, it’s your responsibility as well.

Bisnow: What's the biggest risk you have ever taken?

Goodell: I vacationed in Belize a few years ago and had to take a tiny boat in a storm to a small island off the coast where we would be spending several days. The risks were obvious — potentially capsizing in the middle of the stormy sea — but seizing the adventure resulted in experiencing one of the most beautiful areas of the world. That boat ride taught me that taking risks can be worth what’s on the other side.

Bisnow: Whose work do you most admire?

Goodell: Two of my favorite design firms are Studio O+A and Yabu Pushelberg. Their projects really capture the spirit of collaboration in that they call on artisans, metalworkers and custom fabricators to help create their distinct and specific vision for a space. They have a long track record of starting with a feeling or a story and translating it into a tangible space.

Bisnow: What keeps you up at night?

Goodell: I often dwell upon the fact that sleep consumes the hours that I could otherwise be expanding my reach — there’s so much in a life to do! From the scale of family, friends and colleagues, to the impact on the bigger world we live in, there’s no time to sleep.

Bisnow: Outside of your work, what are you most passionate about?

Goodell: Broadly, I’d say I’m passionate about the world — seeing it, saving it and making it easier for other people to enjoy it. Frederick Law Olmstead’s ability to envision how nature could intertwine with the evolving urban realm has always inspired me — having a lasting impact with a design that grows over time.