Muse Rooms coworking space pays homage to California’s rich history
While major coworking space game players like WeWork have closed locations and lowered membership fees in 2021, as we head into the last quarter of the year, that concept is improving as spaces small businesses such as The Muse Rooms are starting to reopen.
Originally founded in 2015, The Muse Rooms had three locations in Los Angeles before the pandemic. Like many businesses, they had to make tough choices, including closing two locations to keep their original Burbank location afloat. Founder Nancy Sexton was even selected to speak to Congress about her experience with SBA loan applications and the struggles of small businesses during this very difficult time.
The newest space is located a stone’s throw from Hollywood on Barham Boulevard. With colorful decor and Hollywood memorabilia, it has offices for one or more people, a meeting room with a round table (often rented as a writer’s room for television and film productions), a common area with offices for daily rental and a conference room equipped with a green screen along with black and white backgrounds for photography and filming. There is even a sweatshop that can be hired for events.
Sexton has a pretty interesting background. Although she grew up in a small Amish community in Ohio, she became an international model and singer. She even had four number one dance albums in Italy. Sexton then went on to become a screenwriter and host for FitTV and Travel Channel. She has pivoted her creativity into her current business. Over the past five years, The Muse Rooms has cultivated a true community of over 140 entrepreneurs, distance professionals and artists. I recently spoke with Sexton about the new location, the challenges of opening up in the midst of a pandemic, and how the unique design of this beautiful space can inspire creativity.
Amanda Lauren: Was this new space planned before Covid?
Nancy Sexton: No. Before Covid, we had two locations in the North Hollywood Arts District and in Burbank. We opened North Hollywood in 2015, Burbank in 2016, and then expanded this location to three times its original size by the end of 2017. We had approximately 13,000 square feet and over 140 members in total. It was glorious. We had just started making real money.
But in June 2020, when we didn’t get the funding we thought we were, we were forced to close our North Hollywood location to keep Burbank alive. It was only at the end of 2021 that we were able to secure the necessary funding to consider opening a new site.
Lauren: What Covid protocols have been taken in terms of design?
Sacristan: Covid made us rethink how we were going to build our location in Hollywood. The pandemic has made everyone shy enough to go out of homes and consider coworking, so we decided to create more one-person offices and limited the number of desks in each shared office. Normally we would have accommodated a lot more people in these larger offices. We have also added HEPA filters in shared offices and meeting rooms. We also require members to show proof of vaccination.
Lauren: How did you choose the current location?
Sacristan: We have a list of criteria that we look for when opening The Muse Rooms locations. Neighborhood, income, proximity to schools, highways, and more. For our new location, it was difficult. After North Hollywood closed we were devastated, but we still had Burbank to keep the brand alive. Without any Covid assistance, we were waiting to open a new location.
Then, in the fall of 2020, we finally got SBA funding. I had my eye on a building in Toluca Lake near the studios. We started chatting with the owner and were very excited to have such a prestigious location in an area with heavy foot traffic.
But in January my husband, Tim, was diagnosed with stage four cancer and all plans and discussions were cut short. We always did a lot of physical work to build our locations and there was no way Tim could help us. How could we even consider another place with him in treatment? Honestly, I wasn’t sure we could open a new location, but the universe prompted me to take a final look.
I found a building where the owner would do the construction for us, all we would have to do is design. This location ticked all of our boxes and it was even closer to the studios than the other building. The owner’s team built the space according to our design.
Lauren: What makes The Muse Rooms different from other coworking spaces?
Sacristan: The Muse Rooms isn’t just a business idea of ââwhat would make a cool office space. The basis of our design embraces the late 1800s, early 1900s of California’s rich history. The railway was completed in 1869 and it was expensive to cross the country to get there. A ticket cost $ 65 (about $ 1,400 in 2021) for the emigrant class from New York to San Francisco. The trip lasted seven days. When the emigrants made the journey, they couldn’t afford to bring much, but they could bring their crafts and that craftsmanship is present in our antiques, design and aesthetic.
We have anchored the basis of our design in history mixed with modern entertainment and art. It is bursting with creativity and inspiration in the Muse rooms. When you walk into The Muse Rooms, you feel creative, inclusive and warm.
Lauren: How did you find the balance between design and practicality, essential for offices?
Sacristan: We have a mix of the old and the new. The benefit of taking advantage of the past is that it already has a built-in balance and then we make sure our members have all the practicalities. We tend to keep our office designs more neutral so members can bring their own pieces to design their space however they want. Then we provide strong fiber internet and secure environment.
Lauren: How did you choose the art and the furniture?
Sacristan: A lot of our non-office furniture looks like it could fit in a turn-of-the-century movie. The pieces reflect this rich early California history. Then we complement these pieces with modern entertainment art. My husband has been working in the studios for a long time and we have a whole collection of unique studio inspired artwork. Art has to work with our space and we are very selective in choosing what happens on our walls.
Lauren: Why are the walls painted in unique colors?
Sacristan: We worked with our friend Melanie Florio, an artist specializing in the study of colors, to give our logo a makeover for our new location. We wanted colors that would evoke feelings of richness, warmth and luxury while remaining close to our original brand and logo. We believe that adding these colors to the walls sets us apart from our competition.
Lauren: What is the connection between the way a space is designed and creativity?
Sacristan: I have the impression that there is a direct link. Creativity occurs on a conscious and unconscious level, so when you are in an environment that stirs the two up like The Muse Rooms, you should be more creative. I say should because there is no absolute when it comes to creativity, but our members feel they are doing more and are more creative in our spaces. I don’t think it’s a coincidence. We attract members who thrive in our design and these are the kinds of people we want as clients.
Lauren: Has it been difficult to sell memberships because of the pandemic?
Sacristan: Yes. Not knowing if a space will be open overnight does not inspire confidence in members. But, now that more people are vaccinated, the Covid numbers are dropping, the kids are in school, the parents are in control of their family’s schedules, we are welcoming more new members. It was difficult, for sure. But, here we are and we are so lucky to have had so much success before Covid and our brand has taken us to the other side of this thing.
The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.