It may be hard to remember, but there was a time when food was simply just that. Sure, there was always a perennial respect for good ingredients and a smart presentation, but in the last few years—perhaps in tandem with a resurgent popularity for home cooking in the age of internet sharing—we've come to accept that what we eat can be as photogenic as it is nourishing. And that's where Food52 comes in.
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Launched in 2009 by chief executive officer Amanda Hesser and president Merrill Stubbs out of New York City, Food52 has grown from an online community of aspiring cooks to a formidable media brand. There are cookbooks, a podcast, and a YouTube channel. And of course, let's not forget about all the recipes, articles, and online store.
Because Food52 believes every meal can be beautifully effortless, and every gathering can be a backdrop for connection, it covers all aspects of eating with the type of versatility that's akin to salt and pepper. And all the while, the company makes the work look good, too.
So when the founders decided to expand their creative space for more content earlier this year, they already had a few things in place. For starters, they had the location: a 1,500-square-foot area two floors above their Chelsea headquarters that they dubbed "the annex." Secondly, they had Brad Sherman and Nina Etnier of Float Studio, who helped them design that flagship space.
"We wanted a space with a more modern feel than our other two kitchens, one with more graphic lines and stronger tones, but with the familiar warmth of our aesthetic," Hesser says. "It was important to us that this space feel strongly related to our main office, but with a sense of evolution."
Sherman describes the annex as the "hip cousin" to the headquarters. Instead of the bright and neutral shades that have come to be expected with the brand, Float Studio opted to use a palette centered on brown, black, and gray. "We stripped away traditional detailing, focused on cleaner lines, and used earthy textures in paint treatments and materials," Sherman notes.
But just as the annex needed to be stylish, it also had to be a functional workspace for testing, production, and storage. The team took time to maximize the space, ensuring that it had room to include a video test kitchen, four aisles of product, tall work counters, and an editing suite.
They opted for open shelving in the kitchen—a mainstay of Food52—alongside dark cabinetry and appliances that were signals of something new. The island, which can be moved, features tambour paneling to match the textured walls, and the arched entryway provides a hint of home.
And aside from what can be seen on camera, the behind-the-scenes details incorporate a packing station, video equipment storage, and individual closets. It's all part of the "simple, flexible design" that Stubbs says Food52 leans toward.
"The open shelves on the back wall echo the shelving we've had in all of our kitchens," she notes. "These allow you to create vignettes with your dishes and cookware, plants, and objects—and we fully embrace this ability to change up the look."
Thanks to the eight-week project, Float Studio and the Food52 founders have successfully created a workspace for their employees, as well as an inviting environment for their viewers. The annex will allow the team to push the brand further, but also serve as a small reminder of what it was always about.