Tour This Upscale Coworking Space That Strives to Energize and Inspire Its Members
In this series, The Way We Work, Entrepreneur Associate Editor Lydia Belanger examines how people foster productivity, focus, collaboration, creativity and culture in the workplace.
The Gallery Floor at NeueHouse in New York features a staircase that leads to nowhere. Rather, it is the destination, functioning as seating where members can conduct one-on-one meetings, work solo or have an impromptu chat while taking in all that is happening around them. And although such steps are a trendy feature of many contemporary offices, at NeueHouse, they’re not tucked in a corner, gathering dust. They’re front and center, nearly always occupied.
People gravitate toward the steps, says Jon Goss, NeueHouse’s Chief Commercial Officer. Sometimes, in the evenings, they serve as seating where members and guests can watch presentations. He refers to them as the “epicenter” of the coworking space, as well as the “soul” and even the “mosh pit.”
“If you’re at a concert at Madison Square Garden,” he says, “sitting in the boxes at the top, paying a premium price, you’re drawing your energy from the people at the front who are standing in the GA section, bouncing up and down.”
Conversations with NeueHouse leadership often reference energy, but they never veer toward a cosmic place of spiritual healing. However, Goss does use the term “ecclesiastical” when describing the community. By being physically present, he explains, NeueHouse members exchange energy. Goss contrasts his use of the word “community” -- a real-life congregation -- with online platforms that call themselves communities but are merely virtual.
The coworking space, like many of its competitors, offers tiered membership options. There are Gallery members who have access to communal areas only. These spaces feature soft seating, long library-style tables, bookable conference rooms (both “executive” boardroom style and “soft seating” options), a counter where fruit, pastries and coffee are available and a sit-down dining area. Gallery memberships offer weekday, evening and weekend access and cost $900 per month for New York members and $650 per month for Hollywood members.
There are also Resident members who work on separate floors at dedicated desks (“Atelier” monthly memberships cost $1,250 for Hollywood and $1,500 for New York) or in small frosted glass partitioned offices (“Studio” monthly memberships cost $4,000 for Hollywood and $4,500 for New York). Fifteen people occupy the largest Studio office at the New York location. Resident members have access to the Gallery level and NeueHouse programming as well.
Reserve members have access to communal areas for five days per month and on evenings and weekends, as well as access to programming, at $400 per month for Hollywood and $500 per month for New York. Noir members have access to NeueHouse communal areas and programming only after 5 p.m. and on weekends, at $150 per month for Hollywood and $200 per month for New York.
There are also bicoastal Gallery members, who can work out of either the New York or L.A. location for $1,000 a month. And if you’re a resident in one house, you get one week a month in the other house and always have Noir access.
NeueHouse in New York is located in former auction house, while the L.A. location occupies the historic CBS Radio Building, where the pilot episode of I Love Lucy was shot, Orson Welles once broadcast from and Columbia Records was once based. Goss says the company is planning future locations in other domestic and international cities.
NeueHouse’s philosophy isn’t just about work. Culture and lifestyle also play a role.
“You’re not just coming in and taking a desk,” Goss says. You can come to a programming event. You can enjoy the hospitality and the food and beverage and the service. And, you’re within a highly designed environment.” It’s a more impressive backdrop for a client meeting than a cramped coffee shop.
Members can structure their days however they please. The design of the space and the timing of programming -- happy hours from 5 to 6 p.m., events beginning at 6:30 -- is conducive to helping members refresh, step away from their screens and meet people or listen to new ideas. They might grab a glass of wine, then head downstairs for a documentary screening. Perhaps a fellow member is the director, seeking feedback. Perhaps a member knows the director and coordinated the opportunity. Both the New York and L.A. locations have theaters for viewings and listening parties.
Nighttime events also include musical performances, book talks, member speed networking, stand-up comedy and more. They frequently highlight the unique talents and perspectives of NeueHouse members (e.g. a 23-year-old museum owner).
“Working here sort of reminds of me of how, when you were a child, your mom would just bring you places and you wouldn’t have to think about it,” says Anna Cogswell, who oversees membership at the New York location. “You would go to that art class, and you would go to a playdate, whatever it was. I think as we get older, it’s so tough to be up to date with everything: do your job, find a good concert, find a good talk. You want to do these things, but the day just runs out. Here, you don’t have to think about it. It’s just happening, so you can focus on the work that matters.”
Sometimes, celebrities also host talks and events, from Martha Stewart to Russell Brand to Prince William and Kate Middleton. The Hollywood location hosted the party on the opening night of the musical Hamilton in L.A.
“They come in, and they feel very comfortable,” says NeueHouse founding partner Oberon Sinclair. “No one’s staring. There’s no hierarchy here. You don’t come here and feel like, ‘I feel awkward,’ or, ‘should I act a certain way?’ It’s not pretentious.”
She also says that NeueHouse frequently welcomes former members to share ideas and make connections within the community.
“We have alumni who come back, who are always going to be part of the family,” Sinclair says. “I want those people to come back and mentor other people. I don’t want it to just be a one-way street.”
Although NeueHouse has a hotel-like feel, with waiters and receptionists taking care of members, all of the staff (including accountants) have creative pursuits on the side. And the food they serve is not too heavy for a midday meal, but still filling. It’s also not messy to eat, which is key for productivity or a business lunch. A seared salmon club with jalapeño bacon, tomato jam and tarragon aioli on a toasted rye bun will put a member back $16. An Impossible Burger is $14.
“We’ve worked with our chefs for a long time to come up with menus that are actually going to help people with their work,” Sinclair says. “There’s been a lot of thought that’s gone into the menu. It’s not just about likes, it’s about how you are going to feel at different parts of the day.”
Ultimately, NeueHouse is exclusive and inclusive. There’s a finite amount of space within the walls of both houses, and it’s purposely not packed too tightly with desks and people.
“A lot of operators in the space are really thinking about purely arbitrage of real estate -- ‘how many desks can I fit in this many square feet for this many dollars?’” Goss says of competing flexible workspaces. Whereas at NeueHouse, if a fellow member is seated nearby, “you don’t feel any pressure to talk to them, but you don’t feel any reason not to engage in conversation.”
Related video: Daymond John: Do This Before Selecting a Coworking Space