In 2019, a full year before the pandemic made remote and hybrid work a reality for thousands of office workers, Justin Fichelson and Michael Martin made a forward-thinking bet: that traditional cubicle-packed offices weren’t serving real estate agents. They founded Avenue 8, a California-based mobile-first brokerage firm where agents didn’t have desks at all, instead relying on a suite of digital tools to get their work done from home or on the go.
By early 2021, the company had dozens of mobile-first agents in San Francisco and Los Angeles. In the midst of California’s urban sprawl, it hadn’t felt the need for a permanent office. Agents spent much of their time operating from their cars, driving across town to shows and meetings with clients, and occasionally stopping by coworking spaces.
But not long after the pandemic ushered in a remote work revolution, Avenue 8 broke with workplace norms again: Earlier this year, the company opened the doors to its first physical office, a 3,500-square-foot footwell office in New York, as part of its East Coast expansion York City, carefully designed to look more like a luxury loft than a workplace.
The opportunity: The right time for expansion
After a reported $4 million seed-round investment in December 2020, the time was right to open in New York City: Months of pandemic work had bolstered Avenue 8’s mobile-first hypothesis, with office workers across the country went to their home offices. “The last couple of years have just accelerated the long-term trends that we thought were going to happen in terms of hybrid work, the importance of digital expertise and the importance of home,” says Martin.
And while a mobile-first approach brought new levels of flexibility to agents, the growing company saw a need for a dedicated physical space. Their New York City office would be the site of the company’s operational headquarters and would provide agents with a place to meet clients, prepare documents, and get work done. Unlike the coworking spaces the company used in California, an independent lease would also allow it to create a high-end feel that inspires a sense of trust and comfort in potential clients while also encouraging agents to work with to work with the company.
The problem: Bringing mobile-first to a new shore
A new city brought with it a new set of logistical challenges. “New York is a different animal because of the density of the city,” explains co-founder Michael Martin, adding, “It’s not a car culture. Even though the agents here are busy with shows all day, they need somewhere to go.” As Avenue 8 solidified plans for its eastward expansion, it envisioned a space that would be more of a focal point than a venue a daily goal was a clubhouse of sorts for agents who were constantly on the move, using it as a pit stop and as a place for client meetings.
The process: curating a rhyming space
To serve both clients and agents, Fichelsen and Martin focused on bringing elements of the home into the workplace. “We wanted the space to feel like home,” explains Martin. For clients, he says, it would “create a real sense of intimacy and privacy,” and for their mobile-first agents, they asked, “When you’re not working from home, how can your work feel almost like home.” ? ”
Avenue commissioned two expert luxury living firms: New York-based design firm Billy Cotton for the architectural elements of the space, and ASH Staging, a division of design firm ASH NYC, for the furnishings. Andrew Bowen, Head of Staging at ASH Staging, calls this hybrid of residential and commercial design “resimercial,” a style that some have argued encourages creativity and innovation in the office.
“The old way of office design was form follows function, and with a super beautiful staging by interior designers it was the exact opposite – it was function follows form because people don’t use [the furniture]’ Bowen explains. “If you make something resalable, it will be used, but it should also be beautiful. Form and function must work together.” In the 8 Avenue offices, this meant creating a clean look with no frills and choosing sleek yet durable furniture that could withstand everyday use.
The result: an upscale, comfortable office
A look inside the New York office from Avenue 8.
Courtesy Avenue 8
In February, Avenue 8 officially opened its New York office. The 3,500-square-foot space on the second floor serves as the company’s headquarters while also functioning as a “private clubhouse” where agents can work as needed, Martin explains. For Fichelson, “the space feels like walking into a multimillion-dollar loft in the Flatiron District.”
Because agents don’t have to come to the office, little emphasis was placed on creating individual workspaces. Instead, Avenue 8 installed lockers for workers’ personal belongings and placed the majority of workstations in one of two lounge areas. For more focused work or calls, agents can go to one of two payphones.
The main boardroom is equipped with a long conference table and a screen for the company’s hybrid or face-to-face meetings. With its high ceilings and arched windows — as well as crown molding and original maple wood floors that continue throughout the office — it was also created as “a place where you can bring a client to a close, where everyone signs the final paperwork.” exchange of keys. It’s the kind of environment you want to celebrate that moment in,” says Martin.
Tip: To bring workers back to the office, bring home to the workplace
“The office should look more like home – or at least how you want it to look,” advises Fichelson. For Avenue 8, incorporating home design into their work was essential. They needed a place that would attract busy agents who are on the go while also creating an environment where customers “can walk in and feel comfortable talking about their dreams,” says Martin.
Still, the co-founders claim that these principles of resi-mercial design endure beyond the real estate industry. At a time when office presence has fallen short of what leaders expect in the workplace, Martin argues that restoring the sense of home can ease the transition back for a workforce that has become accustomed to living the day in a domestic environment to spend environment.
Employees “don’t want to go back to the old offices,” he says. And with office attendance rates still only 47.5% of pre-pandemic levels after several so-called return-to-the-office showdowns, making offices feel more like home might just be one way to get executives to do so to bring employees back to personal work.