More firsts: Budget for basic furniture before you can fly.


Use the excel spreadsheet (link in previous post) for how much money you have, vs. how much stuff you need. You want to figure out how much will get eaten by the sheer multiplier of your team.

It’s always surprising to meet a CEO/CFO to whom one must explain that a 30 person office needs 30 desks and 30 chairs. And one must pay for them. No matter how cheap those desks and chairs are, they’ll put a real dent in your 50/100/800K budget. Here’s what I mean:

Startup Budget:

Task Chairs $250 * 30 = $7500

Desk $350 * 30 = $10,500

Storage $200 * 30 = $6,000

Total = $24,000 x 15% (taxes + delivery estimate)+ $3600

Real total = $27,600

(If you’re a true start-up, and your budget is in the 50K range, that’s a lot. This is also the time to question if designing a space for 30 employees when you have 15 today is really what you want to do. (You can always add more later.)


Task Chairs $550*30 = $16,500

Desk $500*30 = $15,000

Storage $300*30= $9,000

Total = $40,500 x 15% (taxes + delivery estimate) + $6075

Real total = $46,575

If your budget is $110–150K, you’re in decent shape. That assumes that the “work” is limited to painting, wallcovering, maybe some lights here and there. If it’s lower, consider axing some/most/all of the storage as it’s included on auto-pilot for most offices, but is seldom needed.

Still over? Keep the good chairs. Go lower on the desk number.


Chair $900*30= $27,000

Desk $1500*30 = $45,000

Storage $800*30= $24,000

Total = $96,000 x 15% (taxes + delivery estimate) = $14,400

Real total = $110,400

The key to this exercise is backing into a per unit (per employee) number that is realistic for you, not deciding whether you’re “low, medium, or high end”. Start with your desired end result (total budget), add in the communal areas (see below) and manipulate the cells until the numbers add up. Use the numbers from each category above as a guide.

Again, prioritize. Always veer on the side of the more expensive chair, less expensive desk. When in doubt, toss the desk storage.

People spend their lives in their offices: let the keep their backs and their eyes while doing it. Light requires it’s own post: it’s coming.

2. Budgeting for communal space:

A. Large Conference Room: everyone seems to need one:

i. Low End: 2 dining tables that slide together, and some chairs :$4,000

ii. Mid-Range: Find the cheapest carpenter you can: $10,000

iii. High-End: Go shopping (suggestions in later posts): $20,000

B. Medium Conference Room ( 4–6 people conf. One per 5–10 Employees)

i. Low End: $2000/Room

ii. Mid-Range: $4000/Room

iii. High-End: $9,000+/Room

C. Small Conference Rooms/Phone Booths. Same number as Medium-Conference Rooms.

i. Low End: $1,000/Room.

ii. Mid-Range: $2500/Room

iii. High-End: $5000+/Room

4. TRADEOFFS. Most need to make them, so lets start with the low-hanging fruit:

d. Your accountant needs a lockable storage/desk file-thing. Your intern does not. Most offices start with the assumption that everyone needs storage. They end with the CFO and accountant getting storage.

e. Desk lights. You probably don’t need these. Look into swapping out the lights overhead.

f. People spend 8–16 hours a day in their chairs. Get the best you can afford. There’s a world of options out there, start with:

Low-End: Sit on it — Novo

Mid-range: Sayl Chair

High-end: Classic Aeron Chair

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.