OFFICE DESIGN. First Things First: developing a working budget.

Coco Chanel once said that you should take one thing off before leaving the house. She was mostly making a point about a well-edited narrative, and like much of Chanel, this mantra (too) proves as immortal as it is universal.

My philosophy regarding all matters of design focuses on editing: start with every idea and plan you’ve got, and then throw most of them away. Be organized. Keep the ones worth keeping. And as a beloved professor in architecture school taught me: no one knows what you left on your desk; it doesn’t matter.

How is this relevant for office design? Design, like the rest of the universe, starts with a plan. A well edited plan. Make it in excel.

Before seeing any place, meeting with your broker, CFO, or designer, figure out what you need. Not what you want to need. Here’s how:

a. Plan for your real team, and your immediate growth. We’re not building for the growth you’re pitching to your board or investors. Here, projection costs money. If your company truly grows ten-fold in the next 18 months, you’ll have plenty of cash to throw at the not enough chairs problem then. But for the time being, the multiplier counts.

b. See this spreadsheet for reference, and make one for yourself. It takes 20 minutes. Just do it.

c. For every employee you’re building for, you’ll need to allocate 100–150sq. ft. of space (the former for more traditional offices, the latter for newer/techier spaces which prioritize breakout spaces, phone booths, lounges. Younger offices tend to lean towards offering about 50% of total square footage towards communal space. If you’re in SF or NYC, every square foot counts, so count them.

d. On the lower end, you’ll spend $1500 per employee for furnishings and decor. A mid-range project, where build-outs are involved typically spend between $7,000-$10,000/person.