Lisa Turner Way and Colin Way are the creative husband and wife team behind Colony, a beautiful co-work space in Calgary. The creative hub is an open concept loft with a lower level studio space, which inspires a collaborative work environment for the designers, photographers, and other likeminded creatives in Calgary who were looking to get out of their home offices. Lisa explains, “Whether you want to rent studio space by the day or have full access to everything happening at Colony, we have different membership options available.”

The space recently transformed, from a past-life to the stylish space you see in the slideshow. Their initial goal was to maximize the under utilized desk space to its full potential. We’re chatting with Lisa to learn more: 

How did you discover the property?
Colin was a photo assistant, (prior to starting his own company), for a photographer who built the space. Colin started renting there full-time and eventually took over the head lease to create Colony Studio share and cowork space today. Colin has been working as a commercial photographer in the studio for 12 years, and managed the studio for 6 years.

You consulted with Nam Dang Mitchell on the layout. What exactly changed from before?
Previously, the studio felt like a big wide open (very neutral) box, which in most ways it has to be for its intended use. However, there were some elements that we could modify, in order for it to feel more welcoming. When we consulted with Nam, we had specific goals in mind. We went from a studio where we could sit 3 coworkers to now being able to seat 8. Nam helped us figure out a way to optimize the space upstairs in order to create more stations, (something that didn’t exist prior) as well as a large meeting table/collaborative area and a reading nook. Nam provided us with drawings to scale that we could work with for the most efficient use of space. Next, Colin (my husband) and his co-worker custom built floating desks with storage cabinets. And we executed and expanded those ideas further to create the vibe we were hoping for.

Old movie lights were updated by spray-painting them black. As well as clothing rolling racks and hair and make-up area lights. My husband (Colin) and I also put together a large gallery wall filled with a fantastic selection of inspiration and gazing material on an otherwise blank wall. We added more furniture to the space, and cleared out a lot of unused, unwanted items.

Because we were expanding to create a larger co-work environment, we also renamed the studio (previously “Studio 122”) to “Colony Studio Share and Cowork space”. We hired a writer to work with us on the copywriting and naming, and I ( conceptualized the visual identity/graphic design and new website. The concept of an artist colony really resonated with us and our vision for the future of the evolving space.

There were a lot of needs (like photography studio, etc) but it’s still very stylish. What was your vision with the furnishings and decor?
Our overall goal was to create a beautiful artistic vibe in the middle of an industrial, Highfield area of Calgary. We wanted to makeover the space so that it felt welcoming for our studio renters and our clients, talent (models) and other visitors to the space. We feel the varying use of materials, textures, and art helped us achieve this vision for the space.

The vision for the furniture varied slightly depending on each function of the varying zones of the space. For instance, upstairs, the workstations are functional and minimal and comprise of a wood floating desk, and an eclectic mix of office chairs, with unifying ling cabinets underneath. In the reading lounge area of the upstairs, we wanted the furniture to draw renters in from various angles. We played with a juxtaposition of textures: leather, metal, brass, marble, velvet and woven cotton. We chose the glass coffee table so it felt visually lighter in the space. For the lower level, it feels quite industrial and the entire studio needs to be kept white for photography/video purposes, therefore one way to warm it up was to add plants, lots of inspiring art, design and photography books and magazines throughout the upper loft space. For the kitchen, we layered in cutting boards and fun dishes inside the cupboards. The lower level lounge area serves as a hang place for models (talent) waiting to be photographed, clients and studio visitors. We try to keep amusing reading material and good coffee nearby. Each zone has small details that add visual interest.

We attempted to re-purpose some items we already had. For example, we re-used plant stands from home, and some furniture items. We brought in some fun plants at an amazing local plant shop called “Plant” to bring some freshness and greenery to the space. My husband Colin and I even made about 9 (succulent) terrariums for the space, as they are fun and low maintenance. To update two leather couches were previously in the space, we added different textured throws and pillows.

I’d say the overall vibe and palette feels “postmodern, boho eclectic.”

How is the space used today?
The large lower level space can host pop-up events, gallery shows and photo and video shoots. The upstairs work area houses 6 workstations, and 2 eating areas, a meeting table and a reading/lounge area, while the downstairs hosts commercial/editorial/video video and photo shoot rentals. The space also has a kitchen (for catering), full hair and make- up area, as well as a full bathroom for wardrobe changes. And an old photo dark room. There is also built-in concealed storage for various equipment, materials and backdrops.

In addition to that, we have a rotating pop-up art gallery in the front entrance, as well as larger photo/art gallery in the main area. The space also hosts many private events/parties (catered and with DJs) and has even had two weddings at the space.

What is a typical day like at Colony?
It varies, while our coworkers are busy working away on their computers or notebooks in the loft area, the downstairs could be hosting a variety of events. Typically, photo shoots for advertising campaigns or magazine shoots. We also host art shows (we have our annual show coming up in February called MUSE) where the walls will be full of photography and lights will be set-up gallery style – the show is up for a week with an opening party on Feb 16th. We also have a charity fashion show happening shortly afterwards. We have also hosted various workshops (such as microblading and “how to” lighting sessions for photographers.)

What makes Colony stand out?
We would consider ourselves more “boutique” and cater to the creative community. We try to engage with all our members and renters as much as possible, and cater to their needs. The space can be adapted and transformed to meet the needs of various users of the space. We have a strong focus on the arts, and try to support and highlight local talent.

We are also located just outside of bustling downtown Calgary with a large parking lot that offers free parking. (This is something that many cowork/studio spaces don’t offer).