When I started Refinery29 with my three co-founders 14 years ago, our first "office" consisted of the four of us crowded into my Greenpoint railroad apartment in classic start up style ;). We were small, scrappy, and wore a million different hats (I ran our Google Analytics and sent traffic reports, did all of our photography myself, and used to code every story, to name a few!) as we pioneered the unknown waters of digital publishing, working to build a brand that challenged convention and celebrated individuality.
We've hopped around to a couple different spaces since then—from that 5th floor walk-up apartment, to a shared space in SoHo, to a basement in TriBeCa, to an East Village open space—and we finally landed in our current office on a high-up floor of an office building in lower Manhattan.
As the co-founder and executive creative director, I spend my time thinking about how to use storytelling and creativity to change the representation of women, provide opportunities, and further our brand mission: to be a catalyst for women to claim their power. As we've grown, my role has also grown and shifted. I went from being hands on in every story to thinking big picture about the growth of the brand, mission and business. This has required a monumental change in how I create—being intentional about how I influence, inspire and guide our teams to make an impact and create their best work.
When we moved into our office at 225 Broadway five years ago, I sat with our design and photo team in an open office plan. A couple years later, a room opened up and I decided to move into my own space. I actually never had an official "office" at any job, and after having spent years sitting amongst the team, my understanding of a traditional office was that it felt intimidating … and that's something that I couldn't relate to. I wanted the ability to have private meetings and space to think, but didn't want to lose the creative kismet that comes from turning to your neighbor with a question or impromptu brainstorming that comes from being in an open office.
I envisioned creating a space with levity and warmth, where people felt at ease talking to me and ideas could emerge freely. I painted the walls peach, decorated the space with plants and artwork, and named my office the Peach Pit because of the color (and the fact that I'm a child of the '90s and loved 90210). I treat the space as a home-like environment with plants, candles, music playing, and I'll sometimes offer people refreshing face mists for fun.
In my office I answer emails and have meetings, but I like to think some of the most special moments come from the brainstorms. About once a month, I host Peach Pit brainstorms where I bring people from all over the company together to brainstorm while drinking rosé, eating peach-flavored candies, solving challenges, and opening ourselves up to new ideas.
A main component of Peach Pit brainstorms is a lovingly bedazzled buzzer. It's a no-limitations buzzer, so every time someone mentions budgets, restraints or KPIs, they get buzzed. I don't do this because I live in a la la land where those concerns aren't real; I do this because when we focus on those factors first, we can actually kill ideas and kill people's confidence in sharing their thoughts. I want to create a space where we welcome ALL ideas, not just carefully filtered ones. Braindump first, edit later.
I think it's so important that we create conditions for creativity, and for me, I've noticed that my best ideas have come when I make sure to have laughter, joy and honesty at the core of what I do. When we limit our thinking with outside constraints, we don't actually give ourselves the space to dream bigger.
As we started the Peach Pit brainstorms, I started to notice that often people's energy would be impacted from their previous meeting, email or conversation. To get people in a different headspace, we start each session with a Shake Out, an improv exercise where we stand up and move our bodies in cohesive timing (think a jumping jack, but one body part at a time). We shake it out because play creates trust, because it levels the playing field (I'm just as silly as you are, you're just as silly as I am), and to get us out of our heads and into our bodies.
When I was dreaming up my office, I wanted to do it on the cheap (forever scrappy!). I relied mostly on paint, hanging lots of R29-created artwork, and having the plywood zine stand made. I ended up creating the table with two pieces of plywood and a couple sawhorse legs, sourcing select items from around the office, and I even brought in a couple items from home. Very DIY!
The space is a bit of an "I Spy" with art and tchotchkes everywhere, like glasses lovingly painted by artist Alexa Meade (a 29Rooms artist collaborator), fun vases and bowls from Coming Soon, and the Peach Pit branding created by our illustrator Janet Sung.
Over the 14 years of building R29, we've been involved in amplifying women's voices and creativity, and so I wanted to surround myself with some of the powerful images we create on site daily. The images on my wall were made within our walls (and our walls in L.A., London and Berlin) predominantly by women artists.
My zine stand is jam-packed with titles from women-founded publications and creatives. It's a true assortment of friends' projects and inspiring magazines and books that spark my imagination. Having so many images around can help get me creatively unstuck when I feel like I'm in a rut.
I like to think that I create things for the seekers—the people who are looking to grow and develop themselves creatively, spiritually and humanly—and my office helps me tap into my purpose and channel my energy to do just that.