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Gnome is Where the Heart is

We sat down with Gabe, Principal and Design Director of Gnome Architects. He told us about building his business from his home, how he landed Bok, and exciting adaptive reuse project (hey, we know about that!) he's currently working on.


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We are excited to introduce an exciting new series called #TenantTalks. Every week, we feature one of our tenants and having them answer the questions you posed a few weeks back. Get ready to get schooled about all our amazing tenants! 

Can you describe what you do in a sentence or two?

We do primarily residential architectural design within Philadelphia.

“For people who are teetering on the ‘do I take the leap or not?,’ just take the shot because you are gonna regret it if you don’t.”

How did you build your business to what it is today?

I started the company back in 2013 with just myself out of my house. Gradually, as the workload increased and we got more clients on board, we expanded the team and moved into Bok three or four years ago. We’ve since outgrown our first space to move to the space we’re currently in.

Can you tell me about the name Gnome?

We used to be GJ Design and Architecture, which was kind of thrown together when I needed a business name at the beginning. Gnome was created working with a branding company. We came to that result by trying to find a way that identified us as residential-centric for the company as we do mostly residential design. The garden gnome feature of the front yard was symbolic of that while trying to be approachable, friendly, a little kitschy. It’s memorable. We wanted to set ourselves apart.

When did you decide to “go big?”

Moving out of my house, I had to make the leap to hire once I realized I couldn’t handle the workload anymore. We decided to bring on a third and a fourth and fifth within the last two years just to meet the demand of our clients.

What attracted you to Bok?

Initially, Bok was convenient to where I live in South Philly. I love the adaptive reuse of the building and also the tenant neighbors and the other resources within the building was a big draw for me. It’s also dog friendly--I bring my dog to work most of the time. It was also affordable as compared to other parts of the city.

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Do you collaborate with any other tenants?

We certainly have sourced, the office furniture for example, all came from other tenants in the building. We worked with them to build everything custom. We have worked with some with the other architecture firm downstairs, Toner Architects. We collaborate for educational opportunities, like Lunch and Learn sessions. We are looking for opportunities to team with some of the interior designers in the building. Our goal is to have projects with that intense, interior design component so we can pull in services from some of the other companies. 

If you could only give one piece of advice to other small business owners, what would it be?

Stay organized, for sure. For people who are teetering on the “do I take the leap or not?,” just take the shot because you are gonna regret it if you don’t. It took me a long time to really take the leap but I haven’t looked back since. It’s been one of the better decisions I’ve ever made.

Can you tell us about one of your most interesting projects at the moment?

All of our current projects are local to Philadelphia with the exception of one outside the city which is an exciting one worth noting. It’s an adaptive reuse of an early 1800s farmhouse was is certainly a break from the norm of what we’ve done. It’s an old farmhouse up in Newton where we’re renovating the interior wall and adding an addition. We’re playing with the idea of a sharp contrast between a historic, stone structure paired with this new addition with a lot of glass and lighter interior and stuff.

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