Balance, Design, Products, Technology
November 4, 2010
After careful deliberation, my girlfriend recently decided to say farewell to hour long bus commutes to pursue some promising freelance opportunities and work from home. The bad news? We only have one home office space between us in our modest sized one bedroom apartment (and in reality it’s only the smallest of converted closet spaces).
When space is at a premium, dining tables can easily become serviceable desks. The challenge is keeping it organized for dual duty.
Like a vagabond, she’s been wandering between the living room, working from bed, and now increasingly camping out at the dining table…my very own cute laptop carrying hobo. But after testing working from nearly every corner of our apartment, she’s realized the dining table offers the best bet as a transitional work area until we find a long term solution.
Small space dwellers often maximize utility by squeezing dual duty from dining tables because they offer the most convenient option to transform from a place to eat to a place to tweet. In fact, some of the best desks are dining tables.
With this new change in mind, I’ve been considering how to balance Emily’s work flow while also trying to make sure the dining room doesn’t devolve into an amorphous area where neither work nor dinner is enjoyed due to mounting clutter (“Honey, pass the salt…and please move your mouse”). There are certain strategies to prevent work from overtaking the dining room and create a “now you see it, now you don’t” hideaway home office. Here’s what we’re going to do:
Hire an electrician to install an easily accessible electrical outlet. The closest outlet in the dining room is awkwardly positioned at shoulder height near a door. Snaking an extension cord from high up across to the dining table for the laptop isn’t safe. Installing an outlet nearby or positioning your dining table accordingly will ease access and reduce cable clutter.
Add Wi-Fi printing capabilities. The Apple Airport Express is a dandy little device that allows any USB printer to become a wireless-accessible printer. Sharing a printer wirelessly means I can keep the printer hidden away in the closet, but accessible to both of us throughout the day.
Find a good looking caddy for storage. Working from a dining table means living without the drawers and shelves usually accessible from a desk. A cart or caddy on wheels can be a handy way to keep supplies, accessories and peripherals in arms reach. And at the end of the day, the caddy can be placed in a corner, hidden under the table or put away in a closet. The Componibili from Kartell or the Boby by Joe Colombo are our top two choices, since they both look great out in the open. Add some caster wheels, even better.
Cable organizers for USB cables. A few of these keep the clutter at bay and extend the life of your USB cables and other peripheral cords. We especially love the Bluelounge Cable Clips, since they’re available in a variety of colors and sizes.
Adding a tech gear tray. It’s much easier to carry and hide away the laptop, cables, digital cameras and office supplies from one room to another using a tray. There are even options for wireless keyboards, but a regular carrying tray does wonders at organizing. Our favourites are these clear lucite trays (above).
Consider adding a runner or tablecloth. Working from your desk means more surface wear and tear. Adding a table cloth or runner will help reduce scratches. It can also hide any peripherals or tech accessories installed on the underside of the table (see below).
Now for more serious permanent solutions when your dining table has to be your desk, day in and day out.
Go down under. Mounting cables, cords, power strips, and even a small sized PC on the underside of a table is the most serious solution for hiding clutter, but the results are quite impressive when done right.
Install a desk grommet in the middle of the dining table. This is a much more committed installation, requiring drilling a hole into your table, but these type of desk grommets are fairly easy to install, offer a variety of useful connections, and could easily be hidden by placing some sort of centerpiece ontop when your desk has to transform into a dining table for entertaining.
For now the greatest challenge is to find additional storage for office supplies and maintain the apartment as clutter-free as possible with both of us working from home. Especially important since both of us require areas to photograph; her for recipe/food photos and I with the myriad of tech and design products I snap throughout the week. And of course, the dining table is often our “photo studio,” making it even more important to keep things in neat order. The other issue is finding a comfortable seating solution that works both as task chair and dining chair (the classic Eames executive chair tops our list). All this organizing and planning is like a second job. Sigh…perhaps we do need that second bedroom now!
Balance, Design, Products, Technology
November 3, 2010
It should be no surprise that this week’s Playlist from Brain Pickings’ Maria Popova—our favorite curiosity cicerone and curator of eclectic interestingness—is loaded with musical resources and discoveries we’ve not yet covered on Lifework. Take a moment to get out your thinking cap, then sit back and enjoy a few tunes from her constantly changing workspace.
What do you listen to while you work? If I am to bill myself a curator, I kind of have to walk the walk in all aspects of life. And music is a big part of mine, so I take great care to curate specific thematic playlists for myself (and, occasionally, others). I think music has a tremendous impact on your mood, mindset, and creative outlook, and playlists are to music what “functional beverages” are to drinking—a potent blend of ingredients designed to serve a specific physiological or psychological purpose. I have different playlists for writing long-form content (some classical music, some drawn-out indie tunes), for tweeting, for research, for technical work, for design.
I also have a few podcasts I listen to at work every once in a while—I really like Coverville, a treasure trove of cover music. I love CD Baby’s 60′s Pop Podcast. NPR’s All Songs Considered is a staple. I’m quite the music geek, so most of the emerging artists they feature aren’t really new to me, but the show is beautifully curated and narrated.
How do you listen? Headphones,always. Playing from my laptop. In fact, I can’t work or concentrate without headphones on. Even if there’s nothing playing. It’s just how I’ve wired my brain to signal focus time.
Do you have any favorite music websites/providers? I actually take a lot of pleasure in curating my own playlists. But, on occasion, I like the sort of controlled serendipity that recommendation engines offer. Pandora, every so often, manages to surprise me in wonderful ways. Stereomood also has some neat thematic mood playlists. I’ve been getting more and more into Spotify.
Does music influence your work? Absolutely. It’s a less direct influence than saying a specific song or album is reflected in a specific piece of writing. But I certainly have certain types of music that I use to get myself in certain creative spaces and mindsets. For example, I have a playlist I use for long-form writing, which features some classical standbys—Vivaldi, mostly—and a bit of Eastern-inspired indie music. I’m particularly taken with Taken By Trees’ latest album, East of Eden. That’s Victoria Bergman’s solo project. She’s probably best known as the female vocal on Peter Bjorn and John’s “Young Folks.” For this album, she traveled to Pakistan and incorporated a lot of Pakistani folk influences into her signature Scandinavian vocal sensibility. Beautiful work.
And when I do research for a story, I like to dig out some of those dusty vintage gems— Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Shirley Basey—often with a modern remix twist.
Then for my Twitter time, which is really quite a lot of time, I listen to incredibly eclectic stuff across my entire music library—from ethnic-inspired dub and pop like Balkan Beatbox and Fool’s Gold to jazz classics like Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong to some indie favorites, any list of which would be tragically incomplete. But a few all-time favorites include Emiliana Torrini, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, Zee Avi, Angus & Julia Stone, Federico Aubele, and Kings of Convenience.
Where do you find music recommendations? Who influences your musical taste? I don’t really read any of the music blogs. Some of the new music I discover is actually through some sort of recommendation algorithm based on my existing likes. I use Amazon’s recommendations quite a bit; I find they hit the spot. Pandora, of course, is also great for that. But I’m a big believer in human-curated content, so the majority of new discoveries come from a handful of well curated new music podcasts I subscribe to: NPR’s All Songs Considered, KCRW and KEXP’s song of the day podcasts, and Wired Underwire.
As far as taste goes, though, I can’t really say anything influences mine. After all, these recommendations and new music discoveries are only effective to the extent that they reflect my existing taste, which is pretty static in terms of the actual musical qualities of what appeals to me. Certain types of rhythms, a certain lyrical sensibility, a few very specific touches like handclaps and vocal harmonies. You can outsource discovery but you can never outsource taste—what you actually like, what makes you happy, rather than what you broadcast liking as a badge of the type of person you are, your brand. Music should always be about what makes you happy.
If your work was a song or a musician, what or who would it be? Probably something very diverse and eclectic like Thievery Corporation. They mix elements of acid jazz, dub, Middle-Eastern, bossa nova, lounge, even reggae, and are very much about creative collaborations—their roster of guest vocalists spans an incredibly wide spectrum of talent, from David Byrne to Pam Bricker to The Flaming Lips to Emiliana Torrini. That’s what Brain Pickings is all about—the cross-pollination of disciplines and ideas as a petri dish for creativity.
Walk in the Sky, Bonobo (ft. Bajka)
Where Do I Begin (awayTEAM remix), Shirley Bassey
Like a Child, Junior Boys
Sweet Tides, Thievery Corporation (ft. Lou Lou)
On the Radio, Regina Spektor
Keep It Quiet, Ra Ra Riot
Day By Day, Taken By Trees
Hold Heart, Emiliana Torrini
Failure, Kings of Convenience
Strictly Rule, Vetiver
Made Up Love Song #43, Guillemots
Sweet Darlin’, She & Him
Blue Skies, Noah and the Whale
Images: Maria Popova
November 3, 2010
A while back we took a tour of Lara Parent’s home office. Lara is a photographer and her space is wall-to-wall images. No pin boards for this woman. Lara sent me her office’s most recent incarnation. She’s now rid herself of a chair! Here’s Lara:
“When we were reconfiguring my studio/office, my husband and I were talking about working on the floor as kids. I was sharing how I used to love drawing while lying on the floor and he was sharing with me how he used to draw or make little things while using the top landing step on the second floor of his house as his “table” and the 2-3 steps below him as his “chair/stool”
I also love that I can see so much of the sky, the trees, an occasional bird. It’s calming. I love the light from this west-facing window.
As for the space itself, it feels larger working closer to the ground. I notice more of my environment. Being at such a low vantage point also has inspired me to clear the clutter, to strip the book shelves to reference books, magazines, journals, photo files, etc, that I actually pull out and draw inspiration from. It also minimizes the big rectangle computer monitor that now dominates the space. By putting the computer so low, it disappears a little from view. But I am still trying out the low work space…I don’t have the seating fully worked out. The straw cushion is comfortable, but it lacks the necessary back & lumbar support. I can’t work for long stretches on the computer…which maybe is a good thing as it gets me to get up and stretching. Often.
November 2, 2010
This is it. The very last day for you to go into the draw to win one of the 5 painted Eames rockers.
I’d like to thank all the artists involved for sharing their talent and time and energy. Mark Giglio, Phil Lumbang, Christopher Lee, Josh Cochran and Andrew Holder. Amazing work from all of you.
And good luck to all our entrants!
It’s been a blast!
November 2, 2010
1. Timor Desk Calendar, $149 There’s no smarter investment than a perpetual calendar (especially when it’s a classic icon of twentieth-century design like this one by Enzo Mari). Get it: Nova68
2. Danese Milano Perpetual Calendar, $149 Enzo Mari clearly knew his stuff—which is why this elegant wooden wall calendar by the Italian designer also made our top five. Get it: gSelect.
3. One Calendar, $25 Streamlined and clean, this simple statement-making flip calendar from redstarINK, will, thankfully, never go out of style. Get it: redstarINK at Etsy
4. 50 Year Calendar, $20 Not only does it help you stay up to date, but this alloy calendar also acts as an (almost) endlessly interesting piece of desktop decor. Get it: Kikkerland
5. Gray/Navy Vertical Dry-Erase Calendar Decal, $35 Need some desk space? Opt to keep track of important dates with these colorful, unfussy peel-and-stick decals. Get it: PB Teen
Images linked to their sources within the numbered text
November 2, 2010
A couple months back Unplggd reader Marshall Dunbar shared his dual screen “hobbyist” setup (which his wife countered, describing it as his obsession). He’s written back with an update, revealing a pared down monitor setup, trading in dual 20″ displays for a single 27″ with a sidekick iPad, cleaning up his act for the arrival of his “iBaby”.
Marshall shares: “The original dual display setup including the monitors, iSight, and desk mount will be sold online tonight! It is now my plan to only upgrade/update every 2 years. You can tell by my desktop that I have another addition…my “iBaby”! Yelp, that’s a sonogram of our baby (8 weeks into pregnancy). This helped me decide to slow down on my hobby/obsession!”
Thanks and congrats, Marshall! We especially like your custom desktop wallpaper.
By Gregory Han.
This story appears in partnership with Unplggd, a site for people who embrace technology and design in their home.
Balance, Design, Products, Technology
November 1, 2010
Sharon Suh recently left her corporate job as a photo editor to pursue her passion for photography. Here she shares her freshly minted home office.
How long have you worked from home? And where is home? My new home is in West Hollywood. I have been bi-coastal for the last two years between Cobble Hill in Brooklyn and Los Angeles. I started my own business as kid’s photographer in 2009, and it has been going well after the Daily Candy story that came out recently. Check out my website! When I bought the new place I was just coming out of an emotional breakup and finding this space was the answer. I found a reason to FOCUS and find myself again, and I realized I had a very small budget. But that turned out to be a great challenge. It was an interesting change, from being in a corporate art department environment as a photo editor at various magazines in New York, (Vanity Fair, Glamour, InStyle, GQ,Travel and Leisure and Bon Appetit) to working from home full-time as a kids photographer. Freelance is a beautiful thing but since you are home so much, you have to really love the space you are in! And I do love it. Nate Berkus recently called me to feature my space on his show for a piece on designing a small space on a budget which aires on November 10.
Describe your style? Simple and with a slap of striking. I am drawn toward fashion, photography, interior design and food that are these two things. In character, in manners, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity. I think Henry Wadsworth Longfellow might have written that but the sassy girl in me needs a smack of subtle visual drama.
How would you define your aesthetic? Graphic and simple. The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.
How do you keep your office organized? Being a photographer, I find that the best computer for photographers and designers is the Mac Book Pro or the 27 inch iMac. I have the Mac Book Pro and it’s fantastic. My next purchase will be the iMac when I can afford it. I DISLIKE clutter so I only have on my desk what I need.
When you were setting up your home office what did you keep in mind? LESS IS MORE. GREEN. I am trying to go paperless and liked the idea of buying second hand or recyled products so that it could be the ultimate green office. COLOR. Color of the room or walls are very important. Color will stimulate productivity and if you are feeling blocked or lethargic, then paint the wall a vibrant color or wallpaper. If you don’t like it, you can always go back.
Is there any piece of home office furniture you covet? The Setu chair in white or the Sayl chair in Red. It’s so chic.
What is a desk accessory you can’t do without? My vision boards inspired by Nate Berkus, my Mac computer and a great chair.
What would you change about your own workspace? I got my desk at a garage sale for $20. I was in a rush putting my office together so I know that I will be finding another one soon that is either made of recyled materials or at a vintage store or garage sale.
What do you most love about your space? The striking color, and the art work all around me. I have my three vision boards that keep me focused. One vision board has photos of my feet. It’s a series of places all over the world that I have travelled too. Next the most recent thank you cards I have received. I am a big fan of being thankful for everything you have, and not keep thinking of all the things that I don’t.
What inspires you? Artists inspire me. A few artists that have inspired me are graphic designers Fabian Baron and Robert Festino, editor LIz Tilberis, designer CoCo Chanel, photographers Richard Avedon, Peggy Sirota, Terry Richardson and Bruce Weber, painters Alex Katz, Ellsworth Kelly and Cy Twombly and the list can go on and on and on.