Fab promises to bring great design to the world, and it all starts at home at Fab's headquarters. In this interview, Bradford Shellhammer, Founder and Chief Design Officer of Fab, offers some insight into the company's inspiration from the products they offer their customers to the design of Fab's offices.
1. As the world's largest and fastest growing design company there is a lot of interest in how you design your own workspace. Can you share your inspiration for the design of Fab's HQ?
It happened organically. We started at a kitchen table. Jason and I both knew we needed a great work environment, but we did not have a ton of cash to spend. So we pieced together our first workspace using inexpensive ideas (simple table tops attached to sawhorse bases from Home Depot as desks) with bigger ticket ergonomic items (Herman Miller's SAYL chair). Once we got funding and hired more employees, we built off the initial ethos. To this day a Fab desk costs $100 and seats two employees. Not bad. Inspiration continued as we filled the office with the things we sold: Vitra Panton chairs, Fab rugs we made ourselves in India, art from the thousands of poster designs we've offered, and Heartwork file cabinets. The Fab workspace is colorful and really is our website come to life. I should add that the space is intentionally open. We have very few offices, and the few we have feature glass walls. This allows for collaboration and transparency.
2. How does the design of your office help foster the creative culture powering Fab?
As I said earlier, it's designed for collaboration. We divide up groups and mix people from different areas. Furniture buyers sit with planners and sourcing directors in the furniture category. So we breed collaboration within teams but also across teams. The floorplan is designed to combat silos. While functional, the design is intentionally light-hearted too. Our team works long hours. Blow-up llamas and giant plush crocodiles and foosball tables do lighten the mood during crunch time. The trick is to keep things playful enough, without becoming Romper Room.
3. We heard that Fab employees are encouraged to personalize their desk with small, cool design items from your site. What are some of your favorite examples?
Fab employees are pretty unique people. We don't just hire smart people. We hire smart people with spunk, with desire, with passion. And they typically have a way with self expression. Grace, who runs Buying, has one of my favorite desk scenes: She has a cactus garden with a Pee-wee Herman doll living in it. She's also added a cat figurine. Every time I walk by I imagine Pee-wee in a desert and the funny things he'd say.
4. With a big focus on going global and Fab's European headquarters in Berlin, how do you balance the Fab brand with local flavor of Berlin? (similar? different?)
Fab's offices everywhere feel very much like the NYC office. However, real estate is more affordable in Berlin so we have more room there! I'm not sure if this is indicative of the local lifestyle in Berlin, but the office there always has fresh fruits and piles of cucumbers and carrots on offer. In NYC we have an ice cream machine...no wonder I am getting so fat.
5. What tips can you share for creating a cool office – whether it’s a home office, a small business or a bigger company?
Be smart. Use the many resources available. Read magazines. Scour blogs. Make mood boards on Pinterest. Collect images of spaces you like and go from there. Don't be afraid of color, but make sure they are colors you love (we work too much to not be inspired by our surroundings). Don't get everything from the same place. Mix it up! Create DIY things like the Fab-hacked desks or make a chalkboard wall. Little things like that go a long way. Balance affordable items with splurges that suit your needs: For instance, skimp on art (you can frame anything really) and put the savings toward a really comfortable chair. Just say no to generic office stores and bland furniture. Your office is as important as your home; you'll likely spend more time in your workspace than you will your house!