Studio Tour

Studio Tour: Fuzzco

by Sabrina Smelko

For Helen Rice and Josh Nissenboim, every day is steeped in creativity and culture. Partners in both life and work, together they launched Fuzzco, a full-service creative agency that partners with clients to design influential brand experiences. “Rather than framing our work within a traditional marketing approach, we draw inspiration from the broader world around us,” Helen begins, “the visual and performing arts, fashion and architecture.” To help bring that mission to life for their clients, it was paramount to have a centrally-located space that could echo that manifesto and offer their growing team a home base that was both inspirational and comfortable.

When they discovered this derelict metal warehouse that had been built in the 70s, the upside was the same as the downside: the sheer amount of space. With 7,692 square feet to work with, they had more than enough space to accommodate a sprawling office with lots of breathing room, a photography studio, a games room and library, and ample room for storage, but knowing how to best organize the space was stunting at first. In addition, while the location was just two blocks from where Helen and Josh live in an up-and-coming neighborhood in Charleston, SC the building needed plumbing and HVAC, all new electrical, a new roof and — needless to say — a design transformation of both the interior and exterior.

To help execute their vision, the couple worked with architect David Thompson to create a modern, gallery-like space that would also allow them to open up a product studio and retail shop, a dream they had conceived long ago. With a goal to craft “something that we could style differently year to year as our interests and tastes change,” Pretend Store was born and became just as important to the renovation as the second-floor office.

After installing six large skylights in the roof which immediately transformed the upstairs studios, the rest of the space came together thanks to a talented and helpful cast of local artists and makers: Michael James Moran built the entryway pieces, benches and side tables using shou sugi ban (charred wood) from local pine trees; Helen and Josh designed standing desks with Peyton Avrett; Billy Compton outfitted details such as the plywood Judd tables in the craft room and the whiteboards; and Workstead provided lighting and helped come up with a solution for hiding the insulation under the roof using peg-boards. As a final touch, they installed a honey bee observation hive. “The hive sits inside and you can look into it through panes of glass,” Helen explains. “The bees fly through a tube in the wall to get in and out to gather food and water. They are amazing to watch.”

A collaborative effort from start to finish, it took Helen and Josh two years to find, plan, and fully renovate Fuzzco, but, as Helen says, “We’re really happy with how it turned out — and two and a half years later, it still feels fresh.” –Sabrina

Photography by Fuzzco’s in-house photographer, Ben Jack

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Located in central Charleston, SC, Fuzzco is comprised of 16 rooms that span two floors: four bathrooms, three conference rooms, three private conference rooms, two storage rooms, a kitchen, a studio space, a photo studio, and a shop.
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Ample parking was high on Helen and Josh's wish-list when they were office-hunting. This place offered so many spots, they even spared a few to host their ping pong table and shipping containers for storage.
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A wide-shot of the studio shows just how vast and bright it really is.
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Sitting on the wide white staircase that leads up to the studio space are co-founders and Creative Directors, Josh and Helen.
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Upstairs, the floors, walls and ceiling are all white, providing the ultimate blank canvas for the team to build their ideas on and gain inspiration from. This area in particular is the "bridge" between the office space and the photography studio. The benches were created by Michael James Moran.
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The photography studio which features a mid-century modern couch found on Etsy.
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On the main floor, you'll find Pretend Store, where Fuzzco explores their passion for creating products and brands, allowing them to also play with retail, ecommerce and other business models. "For us, Pretend Store keeps us curious, sharp and always making things to put in the world," Helen says. This is the view from the atrium of Fuzzco, peeking down at the shop.
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The two pieces hanging on the wall are linen beach towels that Pretend Store created in collaboration with Todd Heim. Also pictured on the table are E.d'E. Perfumes, lanterns, and t-shirts.
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While Pretend Store fosters a team that’s continuously learning and thinking about the future, it allows their clients to experience new ideas to apply to their businesses. In collaboration with Real Thread, these simple graphic cat and dog t-shirts put a smile on almost everyone's face.
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Helen and Josh chatting about and admiring their creation. "The warehouse needed a lot of work," Helen explains, "[but] we love rehabilitating old spaces."
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As you enter Fuzzco, you're greeted with this vignette of their products, an affirming logo, and a peek into one of the workrooms.
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Down the hallway to the right, you'll find a meeting room, another studio space (both on the right) , and the workroom (left) that was hinted at in the entry. This is the view from the hallway looking toward the center of the building at Pretend Store.
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Directly on the other side of Pretend Store on the main floor, you'll stumble into the kitchen which -- in comparison to the second-floor studio -- is a more comforting and intimate-feeling space, perfect for decompressing and snacking.
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Last but certainly not least is the craft room outfitted in plywood tables designed by Donald Judd and built by Billy Compton, perfect for getting loose and playing with imagination. The artwork is by Tim Hussey.

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