January 11, 2010
Virginia Heffernan has a great column in the New York Times Magazine called The Medium where she explores Internet culture. Her latest column struck a chord as it looks at working from home, particularly from a woman’s point of view. She sings the praises of telecommuting – ”this time in a feminist key.” She argues that women have benefitted even more than men from telecommuting as it enables them to more easily juggle their workloads. We’d love you to weigh in on this argument. Let me know what you think. You can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
January 11, 2010
Melissa Riche and her husband took a suburban garage and it’s adjoining workshop and turned them into comfortable home office. I talked to her about what goes into setting up a command centre for her businesses.
What kind of work do you do and how long have you worked from home? I’ve been a PR person, either freelance or working for a company, since I was 21. My first bout of working from home was during the recession in the early 90s when I lost my job. I ended up getting lots of freelance work and stayed freelance for three years, then went to work for a PR agency for a bit of job security while I supported my husband through a mid-life college degree.
I went back to freelancing in 1996, and I’ve worked from my home ever since. Home has variously been: London, southern Spain, Santa Monica, New York, and now Mar Vista in Los Angeles.
Last year I set up a home staging and interiors styling business. I’m also involved in developing a TV show with a former PR client who has done a lot of TV already, and a producer/director friend of mine. I like to stay busy!
What are the advantages of doing all this work from home? It gives me flexibility and freedom to do what I want when I want. I can work early in the morning or late in the evening. I don’t get constant interruptions from other people, I control my own noise level – I can play music if I want, and I don’t have to listen to other people’s chatter! I can wear what I want and I can bring my dog to work! I can eat lunch at home and save lots of money. I don’t have to take time traveling to work, sitting in rush hour traffic I don’t pay rent, and I get to deduct some of the expenses of working from home.
You bought your current house three years ago. What were you looking for in a home office? We wanted a space we could convert. This house fit the bill perfectly. At the end of the yard was a permitted workshop / double garage. The garage is still there, with an entrance from the office space.
The workshop needed to be renovated. How did you do that? We wanted to bring in more light and ventilation and also reconfigure the space so that we had enough room for me, but also for my husband as well. He works full-time in visual production for a company in Venice but still uses this office sometimes. My husband and I created a plan on a computer program called Home Design Studio.
We added a skylight over my husband’s seating area, replaced the door with a glass door, and two sidelights for extra ventilation, put in a window on the wall where my desk would be. We installed recessed lighting, put in ceiling fans, tiled the floors with 18” square textured ceramic tiles. Finally we painted the walls pale green.
What would you do differently? We should have put in a bigger window over my desk. We hummed and hah-ed about it for a while, and settled on a smaller window because we have light coming in from the door. But when I’m sitting at my desk I don’t see as much of the yard as I would like. The skylight should probably have gone in somewhere else as uur neighbors have a messy pepper tree and when the skylight is open it drops dust through the screen.
What do like most about the space? It works really well. We have enough space for us to both work at the same time if we need to (although my husband is only in here at the weekends, mostly). I love the light, I love the way it looks from the house, I love the paint color we chose (it’s very soothing), and I love the floor tiles we chose.
January 8, 2010
A new report has busted a bunch of myths about working from home. Homepreneurs: A Vital Economic Force used data from the recent Network Solutions Small Business Success Index (SBSI) survey, commissioned by Network Solutions, LLC and the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. What did they learn? That home-based businesses hire more people than venture-capital backed businesses. And that home-based businesses are not part-timers, in fact 75% work fulltime on their business. For the whole story check out Grow Smart Business. Via Smallbiztrends. Photo: Vitsoe.
January 7, 2010
If you are thinking about working from home you certainly aren’t alone. In fact you’re in rather good company. LinkedIn and Hewlett-Packard both started from home. The Wall Street Journal just ran a great article by Colleen Debaise (author of The Wall Street Journal’s Complete Small Business Guidebook). The article includes the following five questions to consider before you take the plunge. Are you ready?
1. Am I passionate about my product or service? The start-up phase is stressful. You’ll need zeal to get through the rough patches, especially in the early days when hours are long and initial profits (if any) are lean.
2. What is my tolerance for risk? There’s no guarantee of success — or even a steady paycheck. If you’re risk-averse, entrepreneurship probably isn’t the right path for you.
3. Am I good at making decisions? No one else is going to make them for you. Consider how you might handle these early decisions: Do I incorporate? Do I advertise? Do I borrow money from friends or family?
4. Am I willing to take on numerous responsibilities? A start-up entrepreneur must juggle many roles — from chief salesperson and bookkeeper to head marketer and bill collector.
5. Will I be able to avoid burnout? Many entrepreneurs find it hard to step away. You’ll need to develop a work/life balance to avoid working seven days a week, losing touch with friends and upsetting loved ones.
January 7, 2010
A bulletin board or pinboard is a great way to get organized and inspired. On a recent trip to IKEA I picked up three simple cork boards that will hold all the paper paraphernalia that usually ends up cluttering my desk. Silke Stoddard, a deputy editor at Martha Stewart Living, posted her inspiring home office board – I don’t think mine will be quite as pretty! If you’re looking for a board that’s a bit more itneresting than the IKEA ones try Moore Magnets. They cover cork and magnet boards with gorgeous fabric (they also covers pins and magnets so everything matches).
January 6, 2010
An artist can be a demanding design client. Their workspaces need a particular light, have certain storage demands and inevitably will call for ubiquitous white walls. I talked to Austin-based architect Chris Krager about the studio he designed for artist Laurie Frick.
What did you have to take into consideration when designing this workspace? Laurie is an artist who works in several media, and in a variety of ways. This required that the workspace be able to accommodate anything from very large canvases, 3-D/free standing work, and small scale collages. She also sews and is a potter (there is a kiln room out back, and a small separate sewing room in the main house). Also, while the house is a slab-on-grade building, knowing that Laurie stands a lot, we created a “leave-out” in the slab that allowed for a suspended wood floor to hang in the center of the space, creating a more forgiving surface.
How did you manage storage issues? Laurie had a system of shelves and containers she planned on utilizing in the space. So aside from some storage above the sink area, there was no built-in.
Was it important to have the studio connected to the main house? While the studio is contiguous with the house, you cannot go directly into the studio from the house, you must go outside and enter through a door, either adjacent to the front door, or off the pool area. We did this to isolate any noxious odors that might be made in the studio and provide a clear distinction between the work are and the living area. The ‘Z’ shape of the house and studio wrap around the pool area creating a sense of enclosure, and leaving the remainder of the back yard as a garden space.
Is there anything you would do differently? No. I think it works very well, and she seems to be thrilled with it. I checked in with Laurie who adds “Chris is right, I love the studio. Just the right balance of clean design, and austerity so I focus on the work, feel free to make a mess and still feel good while I’m working in the space.”
January 5, 2010
“Type A” is the polite term people use to describe me. (I’ll leave the less flattering alternatives to your imagination.) I like to think of myself as organized, and so the first piece of furniture I purchased for my new home office is this fantastic file cabinet from Muji. This Japanese company has built its reputation on using earth-friendly, innovative materials. The file cabinet is made from powder-coated steel (a virtually pollution-free process resulting in a super durable product), and gets top marks for simplicity of design. I love that it fits under most desks, including the walnut veneer work table by George Nelson that I have my eye on.
January 5, 2010
According to the Telework Trendlines 2009 report, more men than women telecommute (defined as working at least one day a month from home or another remote location during normal business hours). Sixty-one percent of men telecommuted in 2008, compared to 39% of women. While the percentage of men telecommuting increased by 8% between 2006 and 2008, the percentage of women decreased by 8%. The demographic profile of today’s telecommuter: 40-year-old male college graduate living in a household earning $75,000 or more a year. Does anyone else find it surprising that more men than women telecommute? Maybe that’s only because of the way the research defined telecommute—just one day/month.
Less surprising is the location telecommuters most often choose to do their work; 87% of telecommuters said they telecommute from home, 41% work from client offices, and 37% work in the car. There’s still no place like home.
January 4, 2010
Architect Roger Sherman took a steeply sloping site in Santa Monica and built a family home for himself that allows him to work – and play. Sherman who founded his studio in 1990, is also the co-director of cityLAB, an urban think tank at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he is an Adjunct Professor of Architecture. You can also find four of his home designs at Hometta. I asked him about his award-winning home.
You’ve designed your home, known as the 3-in-1 House, to accommodate not only your family, but also your office and a tenant. Can you tell us why that was important to you? For me, it was an exploration of the post-suburban condition: how to reconcile suburban “wants” with the necessity of paying for those (what are now) luxuries, especially in an expensive area like L.A.’s westside. That meant figuring out where economies might exist, for instance, building a smaller house with rental unit to provide mortgage subsidy and dedicating part of the house to office use, rather than paying additional rent on an office elsewhere (at least while still a start-up), as well as fuel costs, etc.
The architecture of the project–its spatial complexity and interest–seemed to naturally flow from solving those problems, reconciling the conflicts they posed in innovative ways. As a result, I like to say that the house is in some ways a vision of what the new realities of suburbia might/should soon look like.
The office is on the ground floor and shares space with the rest of the house. How does that work in terms of privacy? There is a rather unique pivoting door just inside the main vestibule, which the office shares with the house: during weekdays, the door is swung out to engage the opposite wall of the entry hall, closing off access to the house and diverting visitors into the office. In the evenings and on weekends, the door is closed and concealed in the office wall, hiding the office from view and allowing people to continue into the house. The office also has two full-height wall panels which open to the front desert garden and street.
The office is closely linked to the dining area which is, in turn, open to the kitchen. How does each space interact? The dining area, which is the least used space of most American homes, is in ours actually designed as a swing space to do double duty as a conference area for the office during the day. We only use it for dinner parties on weekends primarily, so there is little if any conflict. At those times, the curtain is pulled closed, and it acts as a very nice backdrop.
There is a linear shelving element which ties together all three spaces, like a piece of domestic infrastructure. In the studio, it serves as a model/display shelf; as it moves into the conference/dining area, it is used as part children’s picture rail, part bar, and part presentation easel (office). And when it turns down to cross between dining and kitchen, it is simultaneously plate-and-glassware cabinet for the kitchen, and buffet for the dining area. It also holds the under-cabinet lighting for the kitchen counters.
The house was completed in 2003. You’ve been living in it now for about 7 years. Is there anything you’d do differently? Have you made any changes? Yes! I would have tried to plan for other “after use” scenarios such as what else the office might be now that it is becoming too small to accommodate the growing business–such as a guest room, library, etc. And the same for rental unit.
What your favorite desk accessory – something you couldn’t do without? Call me a luddite, but since I still use a Filofax and sketchbook, without a doubt it’s my Liquid Paper correction pen, to handle all changes to my schedule and sketches.
Photo credit: Tom Bonner Photography
January 3, 2010
Welcome everyone – to a new decade. But before we dash forward let’s look back just for a moment. Herman Miller is all about good design and we’re always looking for voices who reflect that. Alissa Walker has written “The Decade in Design“, an excellent round-up for GOOD. Of course, this is the time we get flooded with ‘the-decade-that-was’ articles. If you’ve come across a really interesting one please let us know. We’ll link to the best ones…