How to Design a Coworking Space: An Interview With Grid.Works

Grid.Works, a coworking space in Phoenix launched by The Grid, embraces unique design elements and modern technology to give its members the best possible experience. We asked them some questions for our monthly spotlight about their inspiring space: 

Can you give us a brief overview of the space?

The space features smart technology throughout, embracing elements like lighting that adjusts based on usage, a custom app for members (available on Apple and Android), lockers for member’s storage and advanced WiFi systems. The Grid Works memberships range from $180 to $1,200. Options include private offices (11 total), reserved and open workstations (24 total), and “hot seats” (16 total) at collaborative tables. Membership includes free high-speed internet, printing and scanning, and use of the open kitchen (including unlimited coffee). Members also have the option to use four themed conference rooms, a fully equipped podcast audio and video production studio, a 1,600-square-foot multipurpose room/event/yoga space (the Banksy) that accommodates over 50 people and features a glass rollup garage door. We also rent the Banksy to non-members for classes and events. 

Which factors did you consider the most when selecting the location?

Phoenix is growing and becoming a more walkable and diverse city. The Central Avenue corridor (7th Ave to 7th Street) has seen a bloom of new retail and restaurants. People are moving back into the older, more walkable neighborhoods. There were no flex or co-work opportunities in the area. The Grid fills the void in the Uptown/Central Phoenix market.

How did you choose the furniture and overall design of the space?

Our architects have a niche business of designing airports and airport lounges. Together we chose furniture that was functional, fun and fit the space. We don’t have bean bag chairs, we have clean, open and well lit space that feels inviting for those who are here to work and network.

What do you think potential members look for/prefer most in the design of the space? What do you think helps create a comfortable environment?

We put ourselves in the position of a member. We know that location, access and parking are very important. We also realize sound abatement, lighting and varieties of space are important. We built this space from scratch, so we had the ability to incorporate best design practices rather than retrofitting an existing space. I think too many co-work operators try to fit a square peg in a round hole by trying to retrofit “cool and comfortable” into a space that has too many constraints.  

Which aspects of setting up the space were suitable for a DIY approach? Which ones required a professional?

This is where the fun starts. Having professionals guide and direct while you add your thoughts and ideas is a recipe for success. The DIY side can pick styles and character, while the professionals work out the implementation. Knowing which materials hold up to heavy use, how much room you need to accommodate safe flow through a space, correct balancing of lighting and HVAC systems – all things best left for a professional.

How did you put together a budget? Which voices of cost impacted your project the most?

There are two budgets: Build out and operations. Build out is a construction/furniture and fixture budgeting process – lots of input from professionals. The operational budget is an evolving budget and learning process. You can start with suggestions from other operators, but it really matures as you tweak and pivot to make it work. Needless to say, we are always learning.

How long did the entire project take?

Build out took 6 months for the entire space and the building. But preparation (design, permits, bids) took 4 months of work before we started work. 10 months total.

What aspects would you encourage future coworking owners to pay the most attention to?

Consider the function of the space and the real day to day uses. We often joke that we did not put bean bag chairs in the space. Couches and fun furniture look cool, but the reality is that you don’t see them used. Those areas turn into art rather than work space. Secondly, you need to build around a core use group or identity. Having your space identify with specific types of members and lines of business will help accelerate the use and function. You can’t be everything to everyone.

Do you have any additional thoughts on launching a coworking space that you would like to share?

Check back with us in 6 months and let’s see how it all is coming together…

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