2018 was a busy year for Milkwood Designs, we worked on fifteen projects totaling over 170,000 sq ft of space.
We work with a variety of different clients, seed stage startups to companies of over 400 people. I wanted to know what was the average cost per square foot for each despite their differences. The best way to compare all the projects is to divide the total project cost by the number of square feet to better understand the scale of each project.
The total project cost includes:
Product budget - all furniture, fixtures and equipment
Contractor fees - paint, vinyl, electrical, etc
Shipping + delivery
Assembly + installation costs
Once I compiled all the data I noticed trends and was able to see four distinct categories of projects that we works on this year.
Category 1: Large mostly furnished offices 20,000 - 30,000 sq ft.
Many of these were partially furnished subleases or plug n play spaces. They had good quality workstations, task chairs, and conference tables but needed other ancillary furniture to make the space feel more comfortable.
The focus of these projects was major branding improvements, since they were either taking over the space from another company or an unbranded space that didn’t have any personality. We use mostly paint + vinyl to bring the brand to the space and some new ancillary furniture (conference rooms, lounges, reception spaces, dining areas, etc).
They also featured custom furniture, including raw-wood slab tables, stages, and reception desks, as well as branded installations to display client logos, hackathon awards, additional office locations etc.
The average cost for this type of projects was approx $6 per sq ft.
Category 2: Small/medium office improvement, 4,600 - 8,000 sq fto
These were functioning offices of companies of 25-40 people that didn’t have branding or ancillary furniture beyond conference rooms.
The major focus of these spaces was adding lounges, casual meeting space, quiet working areas and improving the conference rooms.
For many of these, the branding elements were minimal beyond the reception area - most of these companies only have 1-2 year leases so painting didn’t make sense but temporary vinyls are an easy way to bring brand colors to the space while not incurring too many move-out costs. Because these companies knew they would be in their space a limited amount of time, we had to create designs that were flexible enough to move to the next space. If we installed a large lounge, we used a modular sectional that could be used in a future office as a large sectional, two sofas or many single seats depending on what the ancillary space available.
The average cost for this type of project was approximately $7 per sq ft.
Category 3: Completely new space for small company 3,200 - 3,800 sq ft
These were small startups moving into their own space for the first time - often from an incubator, coworking space or partial sublease.
This cost included everything for the space - workstation, task chairs, conference rooms tables, chairs and acoustics, dining space, reception, and lounges.
All of the companies had at least a two year lease and wanted strong branding throughout the space. We got to have fun with paint and vinyl, and even some custom brand elements like wood lettering.
The average cost for this type of project was approx $12 per sq ft.
Category 4: Completely new space with special requirements 5500-8500 sq ft
These were small companies moving into newly built spaces with unique space requirements - lab space or on-site client services.
We were brought on early, working directly with the architect, contractor or landlord, to ensure the buildout fit the needs of the company. We had to capture every detail - choosing flooring, carpeting, paint colors, light fixtures, fridges, ranges, dishwashers even hardware like door handles or coat hooks.
For the lab space, my team worked closely with the lab staff to create the floorplan based on the workflow. We also handled the procurement and installation of anti-static flooring - we used a type that fits together like puzzle pieces and can be reused so they can move it with them at the end of the lease.
The average cost of this type of project was just under $17 per sq ft.
These costs are incredibly low for workplace design, often brokers tell clients to budget $25/ sq ft for interior design. Milkwood can do this because we work like a lean startup, why not work like a startup when you work with startups? The main way we keep costs low - we have little overhead and primarily use residential grade furniture for its affordability and quick order times. Who wants to wait 12-18 weeks for a new sofa?
As for 2019, what will this year bring for Milkwood? A lot more beautiful and functional designs; making offices work; and all that jazz. We have some fun projects coming up that we can’t wait to share photos from!