ISSUE 35  |  The Organized Life

Before & After: Makeshift Society in Brooklyn

September 04, 2014 5:00 PM

BY Dalilah Arja

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Makeshift Society, an SF co-working space founded in 2012 by three entrepreneurial women creatives (Victoria Smith of SF Girl by Bay; Rena Tom, an SF-based strategist and matchmaker; and Suzanne Shade, a curator and design maven), has taken its collaborative clubhouse to Brooklyn. After crowdfunding almost $32,000 on Kickstarter, Makeshift Society Brooklyn worked with Dash Marshall Architects to turn the ground floor and basement of a former pencil factory into a shared workplace for freelancers and small teams (including the Design Sponge staff).

Inspired by a visit to the Donald Judd house in Soho, Bryan Boyer, a principal at Dash Marshall and partner at Makeshift Society, set out to inject a “sense of ambiguity and open-endedness” into the 4,000-square-foot Williamsburg space. But there was one rule: no reclaimed wood. “In Brooklyn, rusticated wood seems to be almost a nervous tic. Makeshift Society is a forward-thinking community, so we wanted the aesthetic to look ahead,” Boyer says. Mission accomplished: The Dash Marshall team transformed the century-old studio into a bright and fresh communal office, custom-made desks, shelving, and door pulls included.

Where should we host the next Remodelista offsite? My vote goes to Makeshift Society Brooklyn. Here’s why.

Photographs by Bryan Boyer unless otherwise noted. 


Above: The construction took just over two months to complete, and most of the fixtures were made offsite. 

Above: A custom-mixed blue from Fine Paints of Europe was applied to the concrete columns and a bit of whitewash on the walls, but otherwise the bones of the building were left largely as is. 

Above: In the center of the ground floor, a cube that doubles as a conference room and workshop space was constructed from maple plywood.

Above: Makeshift Society Brooklyn on paper. 


Above: A custom-made communal table anchors the entrance—and most of the time is lined with rows of people working on laptops. Members of the coworking space include a jewelry designer, illustrators, and the Design Sponge crew. 

Above: The finished cube. The tables were made for Makeshift Society and the Clutch Dining Chairs are by Blu Dot.

Above: The columns were painted to divide the downstairs into two zones: a communal eating area and a workspace where full-time members keep permanent desks. 

Above: In the shared kitchen and dining space, Salt Chairs from Design Within Reach surround a white tabletop secured on Clamp-a-Legs by Dutch furniture company De Vorm. The wood shelving system was custom built. Photograph by Kelli Anderson. 

Above: Phone booths stand ready for private business calls. The leather door pulls were made by Canoe Goods for Makeshift Society—but you can create your own: Alexa shows us how in our DIY Video: How to Make a $20 Cabinet Pull for $2. Photograph by Kelli Anderson. 

Above: Next to the phone booths is the library nook where a Rochester Sofa from West Elm provides a place to get comfortable with a laptop or one of the office’s donated design books. 

Above: We’re taking notes on this clutter-free arrangement. The desk was built for the space, and the chair is from Heartwork. Photograph by Kelli Anderson. Visit Makeshift Society Brooklyn for information on memberships and upcoming classes and events. And tour Makeshift Society in SF here

Love lofty, light-filled workspaces? Have a look at the Everlane Studio in San Francisco and Totokaelo’s Fashion-Forward Office in Seattle. For another transformation in Brooklyn, see Before & After: A Brooklyn Townhouse with a Double-Wide Garden on Gardenista.