Etsy’s headquarters is full of design ideas worth bringing home

Bonnie McCarthy

THE WASHINGTON POST – Hanging wicker swing chairs, a meditation room, vertical gardens and dog beds beneath open-concept desks blur the lines between home and headquarters at Etsy’s 200,000-square-foot office space in New York.

The online marketplace for approximately 2.4 million artists and makers is based in a 1926 industrial building in Brooklyn that once housed Jehovah’s Witness printing presses and still has caution tape on the concrete floors.

It’s not your father’s cubicle farm. John Mulling, principal and design director of Gensler, the global architecture, design and planning firm responsible for renovating the workspace in 2016, said a lot of commercial clients are looking for an atmosphere more like someone’s home, because let’s face it, everyone is spending a lot more time in the office.

We paid Etsy a visit to find secrets we could steal for our own homes.


You can take some of the techniques used during Etsy’s renovation of its headquarters in New York and apply them to your own space. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

Vision is really discovering and defining, Mulling said. It’s about asking, ‘How do you want to feel in the space, how do you want the space to function and what are the most important things for you in the space.

In a vision session, we might show a client [groupings] of imagery to help them visualise what resonates with them and their space, he says. We start by helping them identify, ‘This feels like us,’ or, ‘We would never do this.’ . . . Then, those images are used to define what the look and feel should be.

At home create a road map to help guide design decisions and prevent becoming overwhelmed. When you’re staring at a wall of paint colours, a room full of area rugs or shelves full of table lamps, it’s easy to get distracted.

Setting a vision will help you stay true to your goals. Once you have a good idea of the intention for the space, Mulling said, you can draw inspiration from various channels – social media, for example – to create a mood board that aligns with your aesthetic and vision.

A mood board could be digital (Pinterest) or analog (magazine cutouts and fabric swatches on poster board).

Attach images of colours, patterns and materials that you’re drawn to; graphic images or words that illustrate how you want to feel in the space (meditative, playful, productive, energised); and pictures of dream furniture to help you hunt for something similar.


Handmade pieces have soul and go a long way toward making a space feel original.

More than half of the Etsy office’s furniture and decor was handmade and sourced from micro-manufacturers.

They wanted to celebrate what they do, Mulling said.

They borrowed a lot from makers around Brooklyn to show all that beautiful artwork, that sculpture and those art installations.

At home shop local, and support artists and makers you find online or at craft events.

Create your own art (don’t be so self-conscious about your work!), or display the art and crafts of friends and family.


They had a rule, said Mulling, referring to one of Etsy’s guiding pillars of design, that wherever you stood, you needed to be able to see a plant or see greenery, and it makes a difference in how you experience your day.

Biophilic design is the idea of mimicking nature.

The company brought in a consultant to select plants and create interior and exterior gardens. It installed a 3,500-gallon rooftop cistern to collect rainwater used for plant irrigation.

Natural materials, colours, textures and imperfections of organic design also create a sense of being surrounded by nature.

At home h;;ouseplants, natural colour palettes (soft blues, greens, earth tones), natural fabrics and organic materials (natural woods, stone, jute, metal, clay) will help bring the outside in. It’s not quite forest bathing, but it’s a start.


Sentimental icons from Etsy’s former headquarters found new callings in the updated office space. Quilted logo panels stitched by employees now welcome team members to the green library, and architectural felted wool screens made by Etsy employee Trevor Dickson that once graced the front lobby were cut into sections and used as room dividers. Wall segments decorated by employees were removed, framed and hung for posterity.

We wanted to make sure we preserved those memories and translated them in a way that fits this space, said Etsy trend expert Dayna Isom Johnson.