About a month ago we shared a video of our new office space under construction. There’s been a lot of progress since (new video soon).
I thought it would be a good time to share some more details about the new office. We’re aiming to move in the first week of July.
First, why are we getting a new office space? For the past seven or eight years we’ve been sharing an office with Coudal Partners. It’s their office, we just rent a strip of desks and share the the common areas (conference room, kitchen, etc.). It’s been great in every way. Everyone at Coudal have been remarkably good hosts. We’ve made good friends, worked on some great projects together, and started a company together (The Deck). We hope all that will continue.
But it’s time for us to move into our own space. We’ve got 9 people in Chicago now, and only 5 desks at the office. We’re getting in Coudal’s way (they haven’t said this, but we definitely feel like we are). And we need privacy — currently we have to leave the office and talk in the hallway whenever we have a private call to make. It’s just time.
Also, this is a luxury item for us. When we launched 37signals in 1999 we shared an office space for about two years. Then we got on our own temporary raw space for a few years. That space was right up against the train and we used doors for desks. Since then we’ve been sharing the current office with Coudal for the past 7 years. So in many ways this is a luxury purchase for us. We don’t need this space — we could continue to work the way we work today. It’s definitely getting cramped, and people don’t have the privacy they need, but we could have continued to get by with what we had. But we decided that eleven years into our business we could afford to experiment with a dedicated space built out just the way we wanted. We believe it will pay off.
When we started thinking about what we wanted out of our own space, we realized we didn’t just want a place to work. We wanted a place to share our ideas and learn from others. We used to give workshops a few times a year, but we stopped because it was a hassle to book venues and deal with all that crap. We wanted to get back into the flow of doing semi-regular workshops and master classes. And we wanted to invite others to come in and teach us. We wanted our own venue.
We also wanted to make sure the work environment followed our general principles: Open in general, quiet when we need it, and easy group collaboration without interrupting other people. We also wanted to set up dedicated spaces for private phone calls, recording audio/video/screencasts, and room for expansion – specifically for our customer service/support team.
So those were the big picture ideas. We selected Brininstool + Lynch as our architect and worked with Grubb & Ellis to help us find a space. We looked at a variety of spaces – everything from house-like spaces to raw floors in empty loft buildings. In the end we took an empty floor so we could build out the space exactly as we wanted. We got a lovely corner space with tons of natural light.
The floor plan
The wall of windows on the bottom faces north. We have 12 desks lined up against those windows. Along that window wall there is a built-in full-length credenza for extra desk space and storage for each desk.
Across from the desks are five “team rooms”. When people need to work together in person, they’ll “get a room” so they don’t interrupt anyone else. The rooms are designed to keep sound inside. Any room can be used by anyone at any time, but no one can “claim” a room. These aren’t private offices, they are rooms to use when you need an extra degree of privacy or when you need to be loud with someone else. The rooms are lined in cork with inset chalkboards. They are highly functional, tackable-wall rooms. There’s power at the table and a flat panel on the far wall when teams need to look at the same thing at the same time. The front of the rooms are all glass to bring in natural light from the outside.
The office also includes three small “private rooms” which are basically built-in phone booths. These are quiet private rooms people can use to make a private phone call. There are two on the east side of the office, one on the west side.
The southeastern corner has a big room that will be used for expansion. We could eventually see this room being dedicated to our customer service/support team. It’s big and bright.
The office has a small conference room plus a soundproof “webcast” room where we can record podcasts, webcasts, screencasts, and interviews.
A classroom-like theater dominates the south side of the office, right off the entrance. This is a 37-seat theater (diagram currently shows 38, but we went with 37 for cheesy reasons) where we can hold workshops and master classes. Each desk and chair has power right under the surface. We’ll be teaching “The 37signals Way” to entrepreneurs, designers, programmers, marketers, writers, and anyone else who wants to learn what we’ve learned. We expect to hold regular classes, but we don’t know what the schedule is going to look like at this time. We’re really excited about this. More on this later.
Lastly, we have the kitchen and lounge area in the southwestern corner of the space. Big space for us plus our guests.
The space is about 11,000 sqft in total with about 30% of it dedicated to public spaces for our workshops. The surfaces in the office are a combination of wood, glass, cork, felt, blackboard, carpet tiles, and acoustical wall tiles. The color and material palette is warm, rich, and textured — reds and browns and grays with a bright white ceiling and the colors and variety of the city outside the windows.
The next chapter
This space has been a long time coming. We can’t wait to move in. We’ll have more video, photo, and details as we get closer. We’ll also be sharing other details like which phone system we went with, technology choices, etc.