Danielle Arps designs start-ups. After receiving a formal design education from Pratt Institute, Arps carved out a niche for herself like no other—becoming New York City’s interior designer of choice for the tech world. Her eclectic, sometimes industrial style lends itself perfectly to the dynamism of start-up companies and their desire to do things differently.
How did you begin designing for start-ups?
My first big project was a start-up. I knew that if I did a great job, that’d give me a potential client base through word of mouth. The start-up culture is one where different companies meet up monthly (at each others’ spaces) and they grow rapidly.
What is distinct about the design needs of a start-up, as opposed to an established company?
Start-ups like Facebook and Google brought about a new office culture, one that’s more about collaboration and the idea of a community; there has to be a level playing field. Programmatically speaking, this generally means open offices. Through my work, I’ve discovered that open-plan offices don’t necessarily bode well for everyone. I’m more of an introverted person so I wouldn’t do well in this setting.
I try to find a balance between public, semi-public and private spaces while also including fun and quirky elements. I’ve done hidden meeting rooms, 30-foot stadium seating and even designed a chair with start-ups in mind.
Do start-ups tend to be drawn to the same design styles and principles?
Start-up culture is all about being scrappy and utilitarian from the get-go. They usually begin with one or two people in an apartment or a dorm room, with their only tools being a laptop and writing surface. The movement toward minimalism is partly about staying true to one’s beginnings, but also about being hyperfunctional. I like to approach the design of a space with one overarching concept that’s woven into the company’s narrative—something that can be both striking and functional.
What are some of the limitations of designing for start-ups?
Start-ups come in many different sizes and grow rapidly. I’m currently finishing SeatGeek and their space is just under 30,000 square feet, which is relatively huge. I finished working on Uncharted Play last year, and their space was an entire brownstone in Harlem. I designed a speakeasy for them on the garden level, which was one of my favorite jobs ever. Although one tends to think of start-ups as smaller companies, which they are in the very beginning while also having similarities in programmatic needs, they range greatly in spatial types. Start-ups are a very cool and eclectic niche to be involved with.
How has being part of the Curbed Young Guns class of 2016 affected your practice?
Being part of that really gave me a huge boost of confidence while bringing amazing clients and vendors my way. I think being an entrepreneur is a crazy ride where at times I feel like I’m failing miserably while also having moments where I’m genuinely happy with what I’ve accomplished.
What is your own workspace like?
I just moved into my own space. I have a membership at NeueHouse and previously shared an office with my architect friend, but I’m finally in my own place. I’d say that the design is similar in its minimalism, but being an interior designer requires different needs than a start-up space. I’m thinking of it as more of a showroom than a workspace.
I collaborate with wonderful furniture makers in Brooklyn and have prototypes of my furniture designs in my office. The whole space is covered in fabric and material samples. I’ve only just moved in, so I’m taking my time to make sure it feels just right. I’m having too much fun designing it.
Photography assistant Kevin Jude
Hair and makeup Hiro Yonemoto