Studio Cotton are a brand, website and marketing agency for creative small businesses based in Bristol. They've been supporting independent brands since 2016 and I love all the great small business advice they give on their blog and via Instagram. I also have a lot of love for their, quote, "very pink" office studio.
I had the lovely opportunity of chatting to Aime Cox-Tennant, founder and managing director of Studio Cotton, on all things office interiors and why it's so important and beneficial to have an inspiring workspace as an independent business (that isn't just the usual basic white walls and cheap blue plastic carpet tiles). I was also allowed to be nosy and get a bit of insight into the costs of Studio Cotton's office because let's not lie, everyone wants to know if you have to spend lots of money on the interior design to end up with a beautiful, functional office space.
*Spoiler: no, you really don't need to spend lots of money*
Studio Cotton created their beautiful office interior with plenty of pragmatic business benefits in mind
First things first, the office interior style and colour palette is authentic to the Studio Cotton brand. The colour pink has been part of Studio Cotton's branding since day one and is successfully conveyed through varying shades of pink throughout the office space. Pink walls, pinks doors, pink sofa, pink stationary, the lot. The homely look and feel to the studio is very much a reflection of Studio Cotton's personality.
Their unique pink studio with lots of lovely plants also goes against the grain of a typical marketing agency workspace, allowing them to stand out from industry competition. The studio is instantly recognisable as Studio Cotton, and it's a great way to show off their brand creativity and personality as a serviced based business to potential clients. If a client was scouting for a new marketing agency to work with, I can almost guarantee that Studio Cotton would be the most memorable they visited.
The office interior is a great marketing tool that they fully utilise for their small business. “Sometimes it’s really hard to find something to post on social media, so the fact that I have a library of a thousand pictures of my office makes it so much easier” states Aime. If you follow Studio Cotton on Instagram, you would have seen that every other grid post (if not more) is a photograph of their studio or a close up shot of props in the studio. In today's day and age of social media marketing, their office interior is such a great back drop for easy and endless content creation that is always on brand.
In a much happier pre-Covid world, Studio Cotton hosts lots of workshops for creative small businesses in their studio space. Not only was it super beneficial to have a beautiful office interior for workshop attendees to enjoy (and saved money hiring out a separate space) but “having a pretty space gave people a reason to post about it” during and after the workshop events as well. Which in turn allows even more people i.e. potential small business clients to find Studio Cotton via social media.
There's also been some great PR opportunities, too: “One thing I'd kind of hoped for but hadn’t planned for are the PR opportunities," says Aime. "Not long after we’d fully settled into the office we had a six-page spread in 91 Magazine, which obviously wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t have a pretty office and a story to tell about that. But I’ve also been in a lot of magazines and public speaking, and the imagery used to represent us is our lovely office. We also used to sometimes hire out the office space for people to do their own photography and use it as a set. If a life photographer in our network or a small business owner needed to get some head shots somewhere pretty, then we used to welcome them in!”
And of course, one of the main benefits of creating a beautiful office interior for Studio Cotton is the positive impact it has on people working in the business. In it's simplest form, Aime wanted to create a work environment that “is a nice place to spend the day”. Creating an office space that is welcoming and comfortable encourages you to look forward to working there nine-to-five. Aime also has a strong sense of pride for her small business when other people and creative business love their office space as much as she does.
The importance of developing an interior layout that actually works for your small business
It's often great to get all the interior inspiration you can from places like Pinterest, Instagram or online design magazines like Dezeen. But I will say, take it all with a pinch of salt and don't get too distracted by the stunning, snazzy workplace interiors. Always bring yourself back to your own business and what exactly you (and your team) need from your workspace in order to be productive and successful day in, day out.
Normally when walking into an office space the first or main space is the working area for all the team, with meeting rooms and possibly a CEO/Director office branching off around the perimeter of the main space. But for Studio Cotton they have reversed this typical office structural layout; using their main open space to host workshop events and client meetings as well as having a breakout 'living room' area, with their dedicated work desks/areas then as the smaller rooms branching off of the main space.
This reversed layout allows the office interior to work for their small business, as well as optimising the floor area so that there's minimal dead space. So when looking for a new office location or wanting to update your current office interior, really think and plan out what exactly you want to get out of the space for it to best serve your independent business.
And of course don't forget the office essentials! I may be stating the obvious here, but this goes back to falling down a Pinterest or Instagram rabbit hole of saving images of fancy office interiors and forgetting to plan in somewhat basic, but very important, workspace elements. Your office space needs to be functional for your independent business as well as looking nice.
Before starting up Studio Cotton, Aime had previously worked in a ‘funky’ marketing agency office that meant well trying to create a fun and different work space environment, but it still seemed to miss the mark. Lots of money had been spent on a novelty football table and visually stimulating features, but the entire office space only had one boiling water point for tea and coffee for a business of over 180 people.
Moral of the story: don't get too caught up spending money on items that look impressive if it means compromising or overlooking other workplace essentials.
Surprisingly, it wasn't that expensive to create such a unique and welcoming office interior
As already mentioned Aime had previously worked in marketing agencies where they spent ££££ on the office interior, but still ended up with the usual cookie-cutter 'cool' office look and feel. Which in short proves that creating an office space that's unique to your small business, as well as inviting for team members and clients to spend time in, really doesn't have to be expensive.
Studio Cotton developed their office interior based on the money and time they had available when first obtaining the keys to the studio. Aime admits, “we didn’t spend any great amount of money on it, we looked at what were the key kind of pieces to make it feel warm and homely.” With the help of friends and the Studio Cotton team the interior works were carried out in several stages - which is a great way to allow for funds to build up and be spent at staggered times, rather than it feeling like one giant financial shock.
The first stage of works for Studio Cotton focused on the key interior elements - flooring, lighting and general decorating. "When we took the lease out on the office we had the standard blue carpet tiles," states Aime. "We were going to rip them up and put down a vinyl floor or something and found a parquet floor underneath." Which brings up a very important point in any interior design project (office or not): be prepared for potential unexpected costs, but also know when it's worth spending money on certain interior elements.
"We already knew we were going to put in a new flooring. I know it probably cost double to restore the parquet than place something [else] on top, but I think when you’ve got the option of having a 300-year-old glorious parquet floor or chucking a laminate on top it seemed an easy decision. We know we have a lease of 5 years, so with carrying out works on the office we divided the cost across 5 years. The parquet floor cost made sense," says Aime.
Including the additional cost of refinishing the parquet flooring, the total cost of interior works in Studio Cotton's 700 square-foot studio came to less than £10k - this was less than what they had originally anticipated on spending. I know people can easily spend that much money on just a kitchen in a residential interior project! And as Aime rightly puts it, when spreading the interior works cost over five years it really isn't expensive to create a beautiful and functional office interior like Studio Cotton has. This Instagram post shows some great Before and After shots of the studio if you fancy a bit of a nose into how it looked before they moved in.
Always know that you can change and update your office interior over time
Nothing is set in stone! Your small business is likely to change or evolve over time. After a year or two in your current office space you're likely to learn which elements/areas are worth updating or upgrading. Or maybe you come to the realisation that a completely different office space would actually be more beneficial for you and your business.
Studio Cotton have an art mural wall in their office that they update each year to keep things fresh, as well as currently planning on updating and rearranging artwork in the studio. Artwork is a great and reasonably cheap idea I've also mentioned in a recent blog post on updating a commercial interior on a budget. After having spent a couple of years now in their current studio, Aime has decided that there's elements she wants to improve further still, such as further adding to the lighting scheme. So don't worry too much about getting things perfect with the interior the first time round. Spaces can evolve and improve over time as your small business develops and grows.
I hope you enjoyed this case study style of blog post, and enjoyed some insight into office interior design. You can find out more about Studio Cotton and their services here. If you are looking to update/refresh your office space or hoping to start up a new business space soon, I've also written this other blog post on using coloured paint successfully in an office space if you want some extra office interior inspiration.
For any further interior design guidance I can help you out via a one-to-one consultation! Or if you're interested in working together on an interior project have a look at my online interior design services, or you can send me an email.
(All photography by Georgia De Lotz. All image credit courtesy of Studio Cotton)