The other day, I took a tour of Etsy’s Dumbo offices and was pleased to find them as original, wacky, and one-of-a-kind as a workplace can get. There were larger-than-life-size birdlike sculptures to greet me at the door, a compost bike, and, of course, lots of pipe cozies.
The Etsy office doesn’t give itself away at first glance. I could be entering any business in a big old industrial building in Dumbo, right?
Wrong. The minute I passed through those doors, I entered the seriously zany territory of the online marketplace that peddles unique, handcrafted items from artisans across the globe. These living vertical walls are by Greenery NYC.
It’s a little like Oz. A friendly Etsy employee, sitting behind a reception desk made by artist Jack Henry, greets guests. The informal waiting area by the windows offers wood-crate seating designed by IN.SEK Design. The elaborately patterned wall separating the reception area from the office area looks as if it’s made of laser-cut steel.
It’s actually made of 40 panels covered with 400 square-yards of industrial felt applied onto chicken wire and stretched inside metal frames. The installation was designed by Etsy’s in-house pre-production manager, Hanna Alvgren.
A towering Mr. Grit by artist Conrad Carlson welcomes visitors to the reception area, along with what looks like his baby self, made by an Etsy “admin” (the Etsy term for employee) for a Halloween party. They really belong together.
Etsy admins don’t have individual landline phones at their desks, so the office provides several phone rooms. The door to this one is modeled after a British telephone booth. Most admins are probably too young to have ever used a real one.
There is never a dull moment, or an uninspired one, at the Etsy offices. Here, a black-and-white mural of Etsy wares has been added to over the years by various admins.
Never let it be said that the office lacks for pipe cozies. This one was created by artist Magda Sayeg of Knitta Please.
This wall was painted by Etsy admins during “hack week.” Juan Matiz, principle of Matiz Architecture & Design designed the 80,000-square-foot office space at 55 Washington Street. “By far and away, it has been one of the more unique design experiences; it was more like an art-direction showcase. Our architecture was primarily present to define the spaces with the Etsy-esque world thereafter taking over.”
Leftover evidence of fun and games in the Craft Room—where craft nights happen once a month.
Simple gestures can elevate design anywhere. Here, painting the wall of the craft room robin’s-egg blue, and adding the ubiquitous metal folding chair in cherry red, made the ho-hum room more inviting.
The highlight of the day—as it is with every start-up office—is lunch. Here, Katie Ross Crosswhite, Etsy’s Brooklyn food program coordinator, selects caterers and restaurants to create menu options for the “Eatsy” program. A regular caterer is Nahvae Frost. The day I was there, you could eat to your heart’s delight, whether you were vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, or paleo. No member of food chain was left out.
Greenery NYC created a living wall in the dining area as well as in the entrance hall.
One of my favorite areas is the bike room. Just imagine if those walls were industrial mouse gray! A gorgeous mural here makes sense: It’s where Etsy admins begin and end their days.
This compost bike is filled up and twice a week pedaled over to Added Value Farm in Red Hook. Etsy produces 150 to 250 pounds of compostables per week.
This communal workroom feels very college rec room; complete with sink–to-the-floor sofas, crushed synthetic upholstery, and dirt camouflaging carpet. The forest mural was done as a group project. The scene was projected on the wall and different Etsy admins contributed to the Paint by Number image. By 2016, the Etsy offices will be moving into bigger quarters in Dumbo—198,000 square feet to be exact, divided between 117 Adams Street and 55 Prospect Street.