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How To: Make a Small Collaborative Work Space

In case you’ve missed the news, Groundwork BETA is open for business. Our BETA space is an office suite on the second floor of the Quest Center. We’re here every day until our space on the first floor opens in the spring.

Groundwork begins

Dena checking out the possibilities of our new space


A small space in comparison to the 4000 square feet we will be wrangling with in the spring, Groundwork BETA offered Dena and me our first taste of designing a functional work space. The challenge? Make a small space into a dynamic, creative environment, keeping with a tight budget. Here’s what we did:

IKEA Shopping Spree!

No need to reinvent the wheel. Coworking spaces around the globe use IKEA for their affordable and well-designed furniture. We figured we’d use IKEA to cover our basic needs and then seek our accent pieces elsewhere.

testing chairs at IKEA

Chair testing is a serious task.


We spent plenty of time testing chairs to find the most comfortable, sturdy ones for your coworking needs. We hope you agree with our choice.

IKEA chairs

Dena and the winning chairs.


Everybody knows that the best part about shopping at IKEA is that in addition to cheap furniture, you get quality time with an allen wrench. Dena and I prefer to call our time spent building furniture as “team building.”

furniture assembly

Fun times with table legs.


Creative Configuration

Once our tables and chairs were all sturdy and ready for use, we were faced with the challenge of configuration. How to maximize work stations, encourage collaboration, and make the space feel inviting? We tested several configurations until we got one that felt just right.

office configuration

This one was close but didn’t quite feel right.


DIY Whiteboards and Blackboards

We tend towards a minimalist aesthetic, so standard office whiteboards with the ugly metal rim seemed pretty offensive to us. Additionally, they don’t come in the big sizes we wanted and they cost an arm and a leg. Our solution? We went DIY.

You can get 1/4 inch birch plywood (it is nice and smooth) at Home Depot for $25/ per 4’x8′ sheet (as of this writing). A dry erase paint kit will cost you $20, and blackboard paint is $10 a pint. You can figure in another $30 for primer, rollers, and paint trays, and sand paper. All told we spent under $200 for two 4×8 whiteboards and two smaller blackboards.

DIY whiteboards

Painting party in Sarah’s basement!


As with the IKEA scenario, the fun part about DIY is the doing. I spent Black Friday rocking out to some sexy jams in my basement and painting boards. The whiteboards got 2 coats of primer, plus 3 coats of dry erase paint and plenty of sanding in between coats. The blackboards got two coats each. The results? Pretty sweet. Maybe we should change our business and sell these guys…

Bright Colors

Color is an important factor in designing a workspace. Most of us know or understand that color affects behavior. In my previous work as a marketing director and more recently as a web designer, I was constantly trying to figure out which colors would best communicate the feel of a brand or product. I recently read a great post about color on the Life of Productivity blog, which points out that highly saturated colors stimulate us, while low saturation colors have a soothing effect. Beyond that, specific colors affect different parts of us.  Blue stimulates our mind, yellow stimulates emotions, red corresponds to the body, and green speaks to balance between mind, emotions, and body.

reading nook

Check out the saturated colors of our breakout area!


Considering our BETA space is temporary, we opted against painting the walls. But as you can see in the photo above, we did get some saturated colors happening!

Get Bodies in the Space

Oh… wait. We need you for that! We designed this space especially for you, so come work with us. We are here Monday through Friday. Stop in to say hello or apply online to become a member. Here’s a final look at how the BETA space turned out. Pretty sweet… eh?

Groundwork BETA space

This space is ready for YOU.


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