It’s no secret that working at a startup can come with enviable perks, including some really cool work environments.
A startup called Homepolish aims to take work spaces to the next level, and it’s starting to grab the attention of other startups, thanks to their unique vibe and unconventional pricing.
Interior designer Noa Santos and former Buzzfeed coder Will Nathan founded Homepolish in January 2013, hoping to make interior design more accessible and transparent. Unlike traditional designers, Homepolish doesn’t charge commission, which means that their services go at about a third of the industry rate.
“The industry standard is to take almost every client over budget,” Santos said to Business Insider. “The whole idea is that when you’re not working on commission, your incentive is to get the best deal for your client.”
Initial consultations with senior Homepolish designers cost $US80, or $US50 to consult with junior designers. After that initial meeting, hourly rates run at $US130 and $US100, respectively.
Though they also work with individuals, Homepolish has designed offices for 80 startups in just a year of business, including GILT, NewsCred, Bark & Co., and Venmo.
“I think the reason it’s caught on is that startups, like savvy clients in general, don’t mind paying, but they want to know what they’re paying for,” Santos said. “We’ve had startups come to us saying, ‘We move in in three weeks. Will you help us?’”
According to Santos, designing for a startup requires a completely different approach.
“I think the biggest factor is that the startup work environment can be somewhat unstructured in the sense that startups want their employees to work as much as possible, but be productive and happy,” Santos said. “That might not mean sitting in a desk chair.”
For many startup offices, it means mimicking home environments so that employees will want to spend more time there. At Venmo, for example, couches, stadium seating, and private music rooms are so comfortable that employees sometimes go there over the weekend just to hang out.
When envisioning a space, the designers usually start out by gathering information about the company’s style preferences, asking employees if they work in groups, and of what size.
Groups of two or three tend to benefit from having smaller meeting rooms and individual breakout areas. For companies that work in groups of five or 10 (or more), the team tries to add large living areas with couches or even a bar where they can get a round of drinks.
The competition for cool office space can get a little heated among startups.
“I think most startups want a little bit of crazy in their office,” Santos said. “One thing I think is really interesting that’s happening in the startup community is that offices are a recruiting tool. Ultimately they want to have certain things that other startups don’t have.”
Hidden rooms accessible through secret entry points like armoires or bookcases have become especially popular.
At Codecademy, coders who need a break can rest in a nap room revealed behind a bookcase that swings inward from a brick wall.
They can also grab a drink at the 25-foot bar, which Homepolish was able to install for less than $US5,000 thanks to discounts they get from using local vendors.
That left the budget wide open for installing other features, like a snack wall and 20 feet of window seating.
“We get some pretty interesting ideas, but I think since we’re able to do them affordably, startups can trust us,” Santos said.
And it seems no startup office is truly complete without a ping-pong table, though Santos has an explanation for why that is.
“The only method behind this madness is that when startups start to get too crowded, ping pong tables can be used as work tables, unlike other gaming tables,” Santos said.
Homepolish started in Manhattan before spreading to Brooklyn, Long Island, and Westchester. Now they’re expanding to Los Angeles, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, where they hope the prevalence of startups and an early adopter culture will make them even more successful.
“Since Homepolish is really new, some people find that frightening, but San Francisco has a different mentality when it comes to newness,” Santos said. “There’s a certain social clout to getting on board with a company early.”