How Co-Working Spaces Became the Darlings of the Design World

Updated 08/07/19

Courtesy of The Assembly

You don’t need to be a career coach to know the workforce is changing faster than you can say, “Corner office.” Job candidates are trading in traditional resumes and cover letters for viral tweets and a strong Instagram presence. Forget having a side hustle: More and more people are ditching the traditional nine-to-five jobs in favor of freelancing. And instead of burning the midnight oil in a sad cubicle, they’re buying memberships to co-working spaces.

However, today’s co-working spaces have a lot more than free coffee and complimentary WiFi. A new crop of shared spaces are sprouting up coast to coast, giving members and social media followers some design inspiration.

For Rich and Sara Combs—co-owners of the Joshua Tree House who designed a women’s only space called the Assembly—a well-appointed co-working space is a no-brainer.

“We’re huge believers that our environment has an incredible power to energize and inspire us, or in the reverse to drain and deplete us,” Rich explains.

Located inside an old church in San Francisco’s Mission District, the 7,000 square foot co-working space places a heavy emphasis on wellness. However, there’s plenty of design inspiration to go around. The white, sun-drenched space is outfitted with curvy arm chairs, tan accents, and plenty of plants. The space looks natural—and that’s exactly the point.

“It’s been proven that being in a space surrounded by natural elements such as plants and natural light has the ability to increase productivity significantly, which seems only natural considering we are creatures of the earth,” Sara adds. 

On the opposite side of the country is Maison, another all-female space outfitted by design firm Ronen Lev. Located on the Upper East Side in Manhattan, Maison acts as a place of solace for mothers—and it shows. From the terrazzo backsplash in the kitchen, to the sleek peach and teal couches that occupy the space, Maison feels like an elevated take on your own home—minus the screaming kids and never-ending list of chores.

“Our inspiration for Maison really stemmed from the feeling we wanted the space to evoke: Incredibly personal and elegant, yet warm and familiar,” explains Jessica Kamel, owner of Ronen Lev, who drew ideas for the space from Scandinavian design. “By mixing and matching patterns and textures, we were able to achieve an environment that is equal parts work as it is play.” 

Kamel adds that as co-working spaces are becoming the new corner office, a place’s Instagrammable aesthetic offers more than likes and shares.

“Connections with others are a big reason why people want to work in a communal space,” she explains. “The overall personality of a space determines the community within it, which is why we’re seeing more and more beautiful co-working spaces. It’s experiential and people are drawn to an experience.”

But no matter how beautiful a co-working space is, it must be practical, too. Fortunately, the firms behind some of the prettiest places are equipped to deftly bridge the gap between form and function. 

At Assembly, the Combs created designated areas for phone calls, networking, and cranking out work, not to mention a juice bar and art table, where members can channel their inner Frida Kahlo with watercolors. With a custom bookshelf by Katie Gong as well as a kombucha and tea bar, courtesy of Fire on the Mesa and Aleksandra Zee, the office essentials get a stylish flair. 

Kamel, on the other hand, prioritized creating different types of working areas at Maison. 

“We created separate zones throughout Maison to allow for a range of working styles. Procession through the club becomes more intimate and quiet as members move from the social areas, like the full kitchen, stocked with drinks and snacks, to the serene library.”

Hit a creative block or need a break from your to do list? Instead of scrolling through Instagram, you can soak in the beautiful space. As the Combs put it, a well-appointed space can help you be more productive. 

“The benefits of a happy environment are reflected in our output and work, so naturally we’re seeing people put more emphasis and value in making it a priority,” they say.

A space that’s just as productive as it is pretty? That sounds like a win-win in our book. 

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