Startups are in a class of their own, and organization and design of these companies’ office spaces reveal just how forward-thinking they are. Rather than relying on traditional spaces featuring long corridors lined with offices or large areas packed with cubicles, startups haven’t hesitated to completely rethink the concept of the office.
In many ways, these innovative designs reflect the creativity and ambition of startup companies’ founders. Whether you need the ideal space for your new company or want to encourage startup ideals in your current space, you can discover key design features and get inspired by cool startup offices.
Most startup companies develop custom spaces that meet their specific technological and space needs. However, startup office design often includes a few key aspects and amenities. Take a look at some of the most common design features and learn why startups love them.
One of the first things you’ll notice in almost any startup office is the open space. Gone are the countless individual offices and cramped spaces of traditional offices. In their place, you’ll find sky-high ceilings, fewer walls, and virtually no cubicles. Some spaces feature a select few offices, usually for those seeking a few hours of privacy, but an obstruction-free space takes precedence.
In startup culture, this openness is essential for ensuring that employees don’t isolate themselves and for encouraging interactions. Some even take this open concept to the next level with lofts, open shelving, and ample windows.
Many startup offices feature a mix of sleek, contemporary furniture that offers convenience and ease, as well as antique pieces that provide comfort and a throwback aesthetic. In most cases, office planners intend for all these pieces to be flexible, allowing employees to move or manipulate furniture as they feel inspired. This kind of flexibility also enables a startup to rapidly expand and adapt to changing needs.
Lighting is essential in any office setting, but startups tend to harness as much natural light as possible. To supplement the sunlight, startups replace traditional fluorescent ceiling lights with lamps that provide warmer, more pleasant light. Many also use lights to suggest boundaries for different areas of the office, a feature that can prove helpful in open spaces with few architectural barriers.
Contemporary interior design might inspire thoughts of natural colors and metallic surfaces, but most startups shy away from keeping their office spaces too monochromatic. In fact, bold colors and inviting textures are common features in startup office decor. Many startup workspaces feature company-issued hues to increase brand awareness, while others mix and match bright colors to insert visual interest throughout the office.
Most startups thrive on teamwork, which means common space should be a priority. These spaces typically include a variety of collaborative setups so teams can choose what works best for them. A casual space filled with comfortable sofas may be ideal for exploratory conversations, while large conference tables with ergonomic chairs may work best for brainstorming sessions. Common rooms packed with hotdesks are also popular for startups seeking workspaces without barriers to communication or collaboration.
Many startups take collaboration to the next level by offering a range of social opportunities, from game tables to well-stocked kitchen areas. These social spaces are designed to inspire creative thinking and playful interactions while supporting team-building initiatives. They also enable employees to take a break from mentally taxing work while helping them pursue friendly relationships and a healthy work-life balance.
Though common rooms and social spaces are essential for collaboration and team-building, even the most extroverted employees need to step back and retreat into private spaces from time to time. These quiet areas can come in many forms, from stationary soundproof rooms that create occasional audio barriers between employees to privacy pods that invite employees to put up temporary walls as necessary. Some startups even take the quiet concept to the extreme, with nap areas that allow employees to seek out relaxation and rejuvenation.
As traditional office setups fall out of fashion for startups on the cutting edge, so does the need for permanent workspaces or desktop computers. Rather than chaining themselves to their desks, startup employees tend to choose from a number of workspaces, often shifting locations based on the day of the week or the nature of the project. That means startup spaces need quick and easy data connectivity, no matter where employees opt to plug in.
Cool startup offices
From New York City’s design-focused Chelsea neighborhood to San Francisco’s edgy Mission district to countless cities in between, you’ll find cool startup offices all across the U.S.—and beyond. Check out some of the most innovative spaces.
Foursquare, New York City, NY
This New York-based tech company makes the most of a refurbished warehouse space with an attractive mix of cool steel and warm wood. Most workspaces are relatively open, which enables employees to collaborate on a whim. Foursquare’s space is also packed with lounges and social spaces, leaving plenty of room for gaming and destressing.
WeWork Chelsea, N.Y.C., NY
When you need a space to launch your startup in New York, WeWork Chelsea is a smart pick. Not only does this shared office space boast high ceilings and flexible work areas, but it also welcomes tons of natural light and offers great views of the city. While WeWork members can use the space for group brainstorming sessions, one-on-one meetings, or even solo work during the day, it evolves into a thriving social space in the evening.
Etsy, N.Y.C., NY
Etsy is known for its DIY approach to making and selling, and its New York offices reflect that concept perfectly. This sprawling space is divided into several different areas, each with its own artsy aesthetic. You’ll find overstuffed sofas and a living-room feel in the social space, collectibles and art projects in the lobby, and brightly colored, light-filled hallways connecting each space. It’s fun, whimsical, and sure to inspire creativity, just like Etsy itself.
Couchsurfing, San Francisco, CA
This social accommodation company helps travelers connect with like-minded people around the world, and the startup’s headquarters in San Francisco features a similarly social setup. With a mix of skylights and exposed beams, some levels look almost like treehouses, with plenty of cozy corners filled with couches, beanbag chairs, and even swings.
Dropbox, San Francisco, CA
As a tech startup that focuses on cloud storage, you might expect Dropbox to have wonderfully open spaces with plenty of room to think, develop, and plan. While the company’s main workspaces are indeed open and unencumbered, its San Francisco headquarters also offer much more. The space is dotted with alcoves large enough for one or two people, along with collaboration rooms packed with couches. The conference rooms here have unexpected names, like “Break Up Room,” that help inspire even more creativity.
Activision Blizzard, Santa Monica, CA
Just as you might expect from a gaming giant, Activision Blizzard provides plenty of space for developers and designers to test their products. While this could easily look like one large, open gaming room, Activision Blizzard took extra steps to create individual pods in a social space. This mix of private and public space enables employees to alternate between socializing and taking advantage of personal space as necessary.
Mojang, Stockholm, SE
Another gaming giant, Mojang mixes warm Scandinavian design with ample social space and a dash of country appeal. The results help developers feel as though they’re right at home, which can help to boost both comfort and creativity. Even Mojang’s social spaces look like home, with a kitchen-like conference area and a gaming room that’s like a living room, complete with plush sofas and throwback plaid fabrics.
Moo.com, London, U.K.
You might expect a business-card production house to have a relatively staid look, but Moo.com’s London offices take smart design to the next level. Here, you’ll find a welcoming mix of textures and materials, as well as a blend of neutrals and pops of bright color. Exposed shelving, open spaces, and easily movable furniture form the cherry on top of this quintessential creative startup space.
Whether you’re building a space from scratch or seeking out the ideal prebuilt spot, use these ideas as a guide for creating the best office design for your startup. With a convenient location, an inspiring workspace, functional technology, and aesthetically pleasing features, the perfect startup office design can push your team to do their best.