Matt Hickman, is a freelance journalist and consultant who covers lifestyle, design and green-living. I talked to him about his Brooklyn home office.
How long have you worked from home? I’ve worked from home on and off for six years — half of which was spent as a graduate student. Home/work for the past three years has been a two bedroom, fourth floor walk-up apartment in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn. Red Hook, a heavily industrial waterfront area was once marked by gangster grittiness of all stripes … first the mafia and later urban gangs. The waterfront area is now infamous as a haven for working artists, designers, and writers since it’s slightly off the grid. Geographically, Red Hook is no Siberia but the lack of a convenient subway stop keep the rents low. Everyone seems to know each other and the smattering of bars, restaurants, and boutiques are predominately run or staffed by locals. There’s an organic farm, community gardens growing in vacant lots, historic longshoreman bars, waterfront parks and piers, and, um, an IKEA [the frame below in Matt's entryway is from IKEA]. I couldn’t imagine working from any where else … although it is refreshing to shed the pajamas every so often and attend proper meetings.
What does a ‘normal’ day entail? An average work day revolves a lot of moving around from bed to desk to couch to a stool in the kitchen. Lots of “walk” breaks and trips to Fairway market for lunch. Workdays kind of flow on and on, starting early and ending late. I spend a lot of time looking out my windows and thinking since there’s great light, little noise, and few distractions. I have city views and a full-frontal view of Statue of Liberty sitting in the lower New York Harbor. During late summer afternoons, I charge my laptop, grab a a blanket, and head to my roof where I get WiFi.
Is there any form of technology that helps you? My MacBook desktop is cluttered with Sticky Notes, otherwise my virtual organization habits are pretty minimal. I keep an old fashioned paper calender. IM is my virtual water cooler. Since I do miss the daily interaction of being in a proper office full-time, saying hello to friends and colleagues while taking a work break is a godsend (most of the time).
How do you organize your space? Is there a desktop tool you can’t do without? Working from my living and bedrooms, I have to keep everything organized and in-order (organizing and cleaning and redecorating is my ultimate work-from-home procrastination tool). Public radio is usually on at all hours and there’s a steady supply of caffeine in the fridge. Magazines and books (mostly fiction and memoir) are on hand for periodic recharging. Stamps, good pens, my Blackberry, and loose pieces of paper are all required in my work area. And then there’s cable television ….
What inspires you? Living in a creative enclave in the middle of the city really keeps the inspiration levels high. If I was working from home elsewhere in the city, I’d feel flat-out stifled, much more claustrophobic. It’s liberating (but, yes, at times lonely). I’m often inspired by — and frequently write about — the people around me … sustainable furniture designers, clothing designers, gardeners, art curators, dancers, web designers, eco-entrepreneurs, musicians, craftspeople. I don’t have to venture far. And I like that.