We catch up with Catherine Scudamore, Founder of Unicorn House – the beautiful, relaxed and very welcoming co-working space in the heart of the Cotswolds.
How was the idea of Unicorn House created?
Unicorn House was originally purchased as a commercial property development opportunity but I quickly fell in love with the building and started to think about how I could use it as a base for my own business. Having seen a lot of commercial property, around Cirencester I knew that there was a shortage of high quality, accessible space for small businesses, home workers and flexi workers.I felt there was a market for others, like myself, who would enjoy and benefit from working in a shared space.
What’s a typical day for Unicorn House?
There is no typical day at Unicorn House but there is a rhythm to the way we operate. Underpinning our ethos is the belief that everyone who walks in should feel welcome. We have created a calm and relaxed environment. The day often starts with a hot Yoga Session and we have some of the best local yoga teachers at Unicorn House.
Those who have practiced can then shower and head off to their own workspaces or members can settle down for a day in the House. Coffee and tea are always on the brew. The Community Manager then spends the day answering queries, showing the space, looking after meeting room guests and supporting members with any ad hoc requests. We pride ourselves on Unicorn House looking shipshape so you will often find any one of us with a pair of marigolds on if we get a spare moment.
Who are the people / companies you have using space at UH? Could you tell us a little bit about what they do please?
We have a very diverse group of members at Unicorn House. The current members include an online retail entrepreneur, a digital health company, a head hunter, property developers, a social enterprise strategist, management consultants, a user experience expert, social media companies, a writer and three lawyers! If you were to ask them ‘Why Unicorn House?’ I think that they would all say that the primary motivation for joining was to work in a space that allows them to work independently but with company around and a sense of community.
The building is beautiful- what space is available to use? How would you describe the style of interior decoration and where are the pieces from?
The building is indeed very beautiful, it has a lovely feel and I think that the juxtaposition of modern and mid century pieces with the original fabric of the building works particularly well. As an ex-interiors dealer I used a lot of my old contacts to find the right pieces and I had a lot of things made in the UK too. I used some well known British designers to give some gravitas to the space.
The Robin Day Polo Stools in the canteen for example are original frames with new shells. I sourced some of the original 70s John Madin desks when Birmingham Central Library was clearing out ready for demolition. The dedicated desk area at the top of the building is furnished with desks by the legendary Cotswolds furniture maker Gordon Russell. Chairs are particularly comfortable at Unicorn House and we built up our collection of preloved high quality office chairs by brands like Wilkhan Modus, Steelcase and Boss Design over the period of the build.
To curate a similar look I would recommend local companies like Original House in Calmsden, Antiques Emporium at Griffin Mill in Stroud, Laura Long contemporary art, Heugah Interiors, Rachel Cropper in Tetbury, Oops a Daisy and Roses in Cirencester for plants and Cotswold Tiles in Cirencester.
What is the history of house?
Unicorn House is based in the building originally known as Chesterton Manor. It’s considered an historic building in Cirencester and dates from the early and mid- to late-C17 with mid-C18 and C20 alterations; there is some archaeological evidence of an earlier building on the site. It has been offices for quite some time and has been home to a doctors surgery, a marketing company and a technical support company. I like the fact that there is evidence that it was a safe house and that there are priests holes and even a font within the building.
What are the perks of using the space at Unicorn House?
We tried to think of everything when designing the space to make it a really special environment to work in. We are lucky enough to have a car park, a gorgeous garden with outdoor tables and chairs for sunny days, a hot yoga studio and showers for exercise, breakout spaces to go and plonk down in for a cup of tea, meeting rooms to entertain guests in, a private phone booth for when you need a bit of privacy. I think that the space becomes a reflection of the businesses who use it. Support staff on hand is a major benefit to most small businesses.
We also partner with local businesses Soushi and Upraw and they both deliver lunches to the House. As we are also a workshop and training venue, members get priority booking and discounts on courses. Starting this month there will be a masseuse on site on Fridays and at the beginning of February is the launch of our Club Night, a chance for members to get together in a social environment with other local business people, there will be no pitches, speeches or business cards, its a social evening, if work collaborations happen as a result it will be completely organic.
Who would particularly benefit from using Unicorn House?
Anyone who likes to work with a bit of activity around them, if you were the type of teenager that needed music on when you were revising, its likely that you will thrive at Unicorn House! In all seriousness it’s right for anyone who visits the space, likes it and can see themselves working there. Whilst I hope it is an aspirational space I certainly hope its not elitist. There is no right type.
Rock the Cotswolds is a not-for-profit campaign created to promote the talent and creativity of the area.
It is sponsored by Crowe Clark Whitehill in Cheltenham – their belief in what we’re doing and generous support helps keep the campaign alive and kicking!