The moment you enter the new 12,000-square-foot Blackbird House in Culver City, your spirit shifts. With everything from soothing music and wellness and fitness classes to inspired interior designs and chef-curated cuisine, it feels like a retreat. I recently spoke with Bridgid Coulter, the woman behind this innovative co-working space launched by women of color and intended to be a safe and welcoming space for them – and all who support this inclusive mission – to learn about her plan to take Blackbird to new heights. Coulter is a visionary. She is also a mother, lauded interior designer and wife of actor Don Cheadle.
Why did you want to jump into the co-working business?
Last summer, I was looking to relocate my design studio and found that traditional commercial lease offerings had pretty much been replaced by the co-working phenomenon. I became intrigued with the new model of the shared-space concept – an interesting (often designed) environment with Wi-Fi and utilities included. A community of aspirational entrepreneurs and creatives with free coffee, perks, programs, amenities and the promise of camaraderie. For a short time, I joined a West L.A. co-working space owned by women, but for everyone. While there, my team was quite productive and inspired, but there weren’t a lot of people of color there. I couldn’t help but wonder what it might look like to shift that matrix to a community that was owned by women of color and welcomed allies. The seeds for Blackbird were planted.
Tell us about the concept for the interior.
The bird-loft/birdhouse meditation room stands at the center of the space and is visible from pretty much every area. It’s the catalyst for selecting this space. In terms of creative inspiration, the idea of tribe is the overall grounding concept. The color palette, space planning, furnishings and cafe are custom designed to be warm but professional. Jeweled tones, sophisticated fabrics and subtle patterns also help bolster the environment.
How did you come up with the name Blackbird?
In my early contemplation on what to call it, I threw around some touchy-feely names and some abstract names. We were al-most called Persimmon (until a friend tried to cover her laugh, but I saw the snicker). After compiling a list of 1,000 possible names, I read an article about the origins of the Beatles song, “Blackbird,” and it brought me to tears. The article explained how a pained incident of American racism in the ’60s was the catalyst about this song of hope: “Blackbird singing in the dead of night/Take these broken wings and learn to fly/All your life/You were only waiting for this moment to arise.” This is that time all my life I was waiting for. We had to be called Blackbird.
How is Blackbird different from other spaces?
Being a community by and for women of color is a beautiful base, but Blackbird’s three pillars are what tie everything together: productivity, wellness, community. All three feed our choice in programming, space design, membership invitations, partnerships and overall offerings. While I tend to believe work-life balance is sometimes an unattainable myth, we dream it, build it and practice it in so many ways between the space, the people and the programming; and when the collective is all together, it is certainly something beautiful to witness and be a part of.
Did you seek outside input?
I assembled an eight-person working advisory board from a diverse group of close friends – professionals, creatives, artists, social justice warriors, wellness practitioners and entrepreneurs – to help me guide the vision.
What is the cost of membership and what do you get?
There are four tiers of monthly membership: Bouquet/Community at $195, Branch/Floating Desks at $495, Ensemble/Dedicated Desks at $695 and a Glittering/Private Office from $2,000-$8,000. Membership includes high-speed Wi-Fi, coffee, tea, water, an exterior courtyard, a chef-led cafe, a podcast room, classroom space, two conference rooms, a meditation loft, fitness studio, flexible event space and a book club lounge.
How often do you host events? And what are the hours of operation?
We host six to eight events a month and bring in experts to speak on wellness and fitness, food and health. We also host political events and screenings. Our official grand opening is in October. The hours will be 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays and weekends 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. We have quite a few partnerships and amenities on the horizon.
Any plans to expand?
Absolutely! After Culver City, we’d like to launch two other Southern California locations: Downtown L.A. and the Valley within the next year. Then, a space in my native Berkeley/Oakland before we head east to Chicago, Washington, DC, Detroit, Austin or Houston, New Orleans, Atlanta and New York, with a five-year plan to expand internationally to Paris, South Africa, London (and, perhaps, Ghana).
For more information on Blackbird House, visit www.blackbird.house, or call 424-295-9400.