Elle Decor May 2017
CO-WORKING SPACE FUIGO IS A STUDY IN COLLABORATION, INSPIRATION AND OPEN-OFFICE DESIGN
The new Manhattan work space specially created for interior designers, not only eases their workload but also serves as a hotbed of creative interaction.
Written by Patrick Rogers | Photography by Joshua McHugh | Original article in Elle Decor Apr 2017
For sisters Pamela and Steph Katch, partners in the interior design firm Katch I.D., sketching plans for Upper East Side apartments in a Brooklyn loft with high ceilings and glorious natural light was one of the pleasures of owning their own business. “We loved Williamsburg,” says Steph, who relished the area’s edgy energy even if its location was a reach, in many ways, for much of their clientele. But last year, when the four-person firm was forced to move, the Katches found a new home in Manhattan at Fuigo, a group workplace specifically conceived for interior designers.
There, amid the 58 desks arranged in large, open spaces, they discovered a new pleasure: serendipity. “The other day, I was working on a design for a farmhouse renovation on Long Island when I found a picture of the perfect pedestal sink sitting on the Xerox machine,” says Steph. “Then, I was on my way to the kitchen when I ran into a designer carrying amazing resin sculptures by Faye Toogood, an artist I had never heard of.” That sort of creative exchange happens all the time at Fuigo, Pamela says: “You pick up all kinds of inspiration that you might not have, if you had been left to your own devices.”
Since opening last year, Fuigo, by adapting the model of communal work spaces like WeWork and the Yard to the creative and commercial needs of professional designers, has attracted both established firms like Alan Wanzenberg Architecture/Design and Sheila Bridges Design, as well as two-person startups.
“We wanted to create an environment where you can say, ‘Hey, my upholsterer just broke his arm, do you know anybody in Greenwich?’ ” says Mickey Riad, who founded the company with his brother, Maury (together, they own the Fortuny fabric company), and interior designer Bradley Stephens, who was responsible for the layout and furnishings of the 18,000-square-foot office. Adds Maury: “At the same time, we wanted to take away all the tedious stuff — the bookkeeping, order processing, updating the software — to allow designers to spend more of their time actually being creative.”
At the heart of the enterprise is Fuigo’s impressive design library, which occupies the central corridor of the Park Avenue South studio. It houses more than 15,000 carpet, tile, stone, and fabric swatches, according to Rae Vermeulen, who bears the title of Resource Oracle and heads a staff charged with researching and sourcing materials for Fuigo’s members — from hand-printed wallpapers to the best-built massage chairs. The library is also where vendors stop by on a regular basis to show off their newest wares, like Lauren Hwang, who recently arrived with 50 swatches from a collection of bespoke silks handwoven in Laos.
“It’s a pleasure to get to see so many designers in one meeting, in an atmosphere like this where people are open, engaged, and curious,” she says. “That’s not always what I’m used to.”
Another key offering of Fuigo, less obvious than the studio’s Ping-Pong table and fridge stocked with Greek yogurt but highly valued by its designers, is a digital platform with software for accounting, tracking orders, and digital design. There are also “business concierges” to take care of everything from shipping samples to catering lunch for client meetings. For Andrew Law, an interior designer with a five-person staff in Washington, D.C., that was a deciding factor for opening a two-person satellite office at Fuigo last year — as well as the opportunity for collaboration. “A small officelike mine can feel very insular,” he says. “But to have all these people in one space, I find it very dynamic.”