Start-Up Solutions is a series that explores some of the common problems I’ve encountered in three years of designing offices for start-ups - and provides practical pointers for constructing work spaces that, well, really work.
Problem: What’s a more exciting place to work than a start-up? Young, forward-thinking, and fast-paced, it’s an environment where experimentation and an appetite for new ideas are the norm — so it seems only natural that the aesthetics of a start-up work space should somehow reflect that unique adventurous spirit. (Plus, with head-turning examples set by companies like Airbnb and Kickstarter — whose offices feature a “nerd cave” and a glass-enclosed courtyard, respectively — it can be tempting to pass up practicality in the name of cultivating cool.) But as alluring as all the fun stuff may be, it’s expensive. For start-ups designing their first offices (and most likely making ends meet on A or B rounds of money), it’s worth asking: which details make sense to splurge on, and which are worth waiting on?
Solution: First and foremost, keep it simple. Resist the urge to throw down on luxuries like reclaimed wood wall paneling, or a movie theater, or a game room — those things can come later. Instead, focus on creating a space you can build on, that can grow as the company does. Think: clean lines, neutral colors, and well-made, reasonably priced furniture that can stand the test of time. Personally, I like Nadeau furniture for high-quality, inexpensive pieces and Ikea for sturdy, indestructible butcher block desks. And if you splurge on anything, let it be on great ergonomic chairs (I recommend Herman Miller and Meelano) — your employees, who’ll most likely spend many hours sitting in them, will thank you.
Bottom line: cool can wait. As your company expands, so can your office — then, by all means, go for it!