January 3, 2011
Charles Hively, publisher and art director, opens the door to his Prospect Park home and office. Charles founded 3×3 in December 2003. It is the only magazine to devote itself entirely to illustration and with three issues a year, including an international juried annual of the best illustration in advertising, books and editorial, Charles is a very busy publisher.
How long have you worked from home? And where is home? I’ve worked from home on-and-off since moving to New York in 1999. First on the upper east side, then in Astoria and since 2005, Brooklyn. We’re one block from Prospect Park in a two-story home; we have the full second floor.
Describe your style? How would you define your aesthetic? Minimalist. I want my projects to look under-designed, inviting to read and memorable. The highest compliment I receive is when someone says they read one of our publications cover to cover. Fortunately dealing with contemporary illustration as a subject allows us an opportunity to showcase work that is not only colorful but meaningful as well.
How do you keep your work space organized? It’s actually disorganized chaos at most times, especially my desk. My partner, Sarah Munt’s desk is always much cleaner than mine. I’ll clean my desk after a major project or just recently before our Christmas party.
We do have two closets where we can keep our magazines and books plus supplies for mailing. And of course our bookshelves hold our reference materials. There are three sets of bookshelves throughout the apartment and every nook and cranny has something related to our work—we’ve managed to find some interesting spaces to hide stuff.
When you set up your home office what did you have to keep in mind? Were there any particular obstacles to overcome? As I’ve told people, we couldn’t have a live/work space and turn out publications and books like we do now twenty years ago—we would have to have had much more space. And as you know space is a premium in New York. We also can’t have our studio in Manhattan today, there wouldn’t be enough space even for what we need now at a price we could afford. So the space has to work well for living and working; actually I look at it as a work/live space since so little of it is just personal space. Almost every room has a business function whether it’s storage or workspace.
What I kinda realized but didn’t hit home until I moved in is that my commute is seconds. I rarely go outside—which I’m trying to be better about—except for lunch. And it’s a real shame as Prospect Park is just a block away. I have to say I’ve been better in 2010 about getting outside more but that’s the biggest difference in working at home. Working for someone else means a commute and in this city sometimes a long and always interesting commute.
Is there any piece of home office furniture do you most treasure? My Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman. I have had it for thirty years now, it’s much more a piece of sculpture to admire than sitting in. Not that it’s uncomfortable—because it isn’t—I fall asleep every time I sit in it. But it’s a good place to look over text and organize the day. A much more functional piece of furniture is my 4-foot adjustable height folding table which I got just a month ago on Amazon for $85. This gets a lot of use during our book seasons, I can spread out my little thumbnails and work out the flow of the book by color, theme or composition. Before this year I was stooped over in the club chair doing it on the floor—I’ve made good advancements this year!
What desk accessory can’t you do without? My Braun-like calculator.
What would you change about your work space? More open space and about 300 more square feet. The space is workable as it is, the light is great, the views relaxing it just would be nicer to have a bit more space to move around in.
What inspires you? Art. Books. Furniture. I collect all three and I pride myself in not paying retail for any of my furniture finds. I joke that my Eames shell chairs were just $50 each—a friend found them for me in a barn in Indiana—a set of eight in two different colors. My Mies Brno tubular chairs were just $40 each—a lot of times I’ve been lucky to find them where no one knows their real value. To me great furniture design is art, it’s 3-D sculpture. I like looking at them as much as I like sitting in them. And thanks to the Strand and Amazon my book collection isn’t pricey either, now when it comes to art, the price isn’t negotiable!
Balance, Design, Products, Technology
December 31, 2010
Meet Sandy Corsillo. He and his brother Emil are the masterminds behind Hickorees’s Hard Goods. I realize the interview is long but Sandy is really eloquent and I think this story warrants a bit of breathing space. See what you think. (All the office supplies I’ve used to illustrate this piece are available from Hickoree’s. And the sling shot at the end? Well, honestly who can resist a good sling shot?)
How long have you worked from home…and where is home? I began working on a nameless company in the beginning of 2007. I had taken a job in finance a year earlier and although I loved the company I worked for, the job itself wasn’t something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. So we set up a legal entity and called it Max Corsillo, after my childhood dog Max, and began talking to friends and family about ideas for the company. All I knew was I wanted it to be menswear related and I wanted it to have an online presence.
Fast forward to spring of 2008. After a number of false starts with graphic tees (they always looked like cheap homemade graphic tees), I pulled my whole family together (father, mother, sister, and brother — all artists except me) and made this proposal to them: I want to build a site with the objective of being a great menswear store that sells a small curated selection of the best brands in the world. Then I want to slip into that selection our own brands, products that we create. By doing so we could hopefully give the products we come up with an immediate legitimacy that they might take years to gain otherwise, and at the same time let the site itself feed off the exclusive ownership of the newest brands.
For this to work, I told them, we need two things: a great website (which I would build), and ideas for new brands that were unlike anything else being done at the time. Simple right? I told them all to come up with ideas and then I assigned the design/art direction of the site to my brother Emil. My mother managed the initial conversion to html/css and set up the domain and all that good stuff.
Next I began researching e-commerce design. I talked to a web designer friend who told me how much it would cost to have the site built. The number was too high. I bought a book on PHP and MySQL and spent the next nine months learning how to build the site myself. I was still working at my old job so this was all done before and after work and on the weekends at my apartment in Soho. Over the next 9+ months the site changed and morphed into what it is today. The name Hickoree’s Hard Goods was Emil’s idea. Originally it was the name he came up with for his vintage clothing collection, but it seemed to work even better for the whole store. We also changed our focus a bit and began to think of the site as a sort of modern day general store. Something that every town in America had in the 1950s.
During this time Emil started experimenting with ties made out of dead stock fabric. He made a few prototypes which were really well received by our friends, and before we knew it The Hill-Side was born. In March of 2009 our friend and soon to be partner, Hisashi Oguchi, sold 420 ties to United Arrows in Japan. The next day I put in notice that I was quitting my job and started planning to move into the apartment in Brooklyn next door to my brother. We made my new apartment our office. We launched the site in June. I stayed on at my job until the end of 2009, then in mid January we moved to our new office and apartment in South Williamsburg.
In other words, I have been working from home basically for around 3 1/2 years.
What does an average work day involve? How do you structure the day? We try to spend about half the day working together on all the little things that need to get done immediately. Things like shipping out packages and responding to emails. The other half should be spent on longer term projects. For me that means getting all our finances in order (a daunting task for one person), planning the production of next season’s The Hill-Side line, and working on new, upcoming projects. For Emil this means photographing new Hickoree’s products, researching new products, planning future seasons for The Hill-Side, seeking out new shops to work with for The Hill-Side, and also working on new projects.
This is the plan, but most days seem to begin with a plan and end with us feeling like we didn’t get enough done. We are at a place now where we need to hire people but we also need to invest everything in the growth of the business. This means each of us is overworked, especially Emil. Check back with us in a year and hopefully things will be very different.
What I’m really excited about is the future of Hickoree’s, from a tech perspective, beginning in the hands of a true web developer. I’m working towards this with a good friend from college who is on a totally different level than I am. Talking to him about what’s possible inspires me. It’s also a relief. Running a custom site by yourself, built by you, can be extremely nerve-wracking.
How do you organize your space? I’m thinking here of your physical space but also your virtual space. In terms of the spatial setup online, we want the site to be organized so that you discover something new when you come to the site. This goes back to the site being a modern day general store. We want the user to feel like he/she can comfortably peruse our shop and neither feel overwhelmed nor feel like the shelves are empty.
It’s more difficult to pull that off than it may seem. If you look at a lot of online stores they have like 50 brands all listed in a way that makes you feel like you’re in a generic department store. When I walk into a department store I feel overwhelmed. I want to go in knowing what I want and I want to get it and get out, quick. It’s fine for us if a customer knows what they want on our site and goes right to it; we are organized to make this easy. But we also want them to discover new things in the process. We are constantly striving to present an unexpected assortment of objects, yet when you look at the store as a whole it really makes perfect sense.
If I were a Hickoree’s customer, this is what would keep me coming back. I would be excited about the unexpected things I might discover on my next visit to the shop. It is important to have a diverse range of products and styles in the shop, but it all has to be coherent. We want each product and each brand to make the ones around it look better and in turn to be improved and enlivened by the products that surround it. This is what the front page is all about, and the “EVERYTHING ALL AT ONCE” link is our favorite part of the site. I guess our goal is for a customer to feel like they walked into a small, uncluttered shop with a surprising selection of stuff. And we want them to want everything.
What item from your desktop can you not do without? I try to keep my desk stark. Everything on it should be necessary or it should be cleaned off. My cup of iced coffee I guess, although that’s a little bit like a pack of cigarettes, I wish I didn’t need it.
What music do you listen to while you work? Right now I’m listening to The Shepherd’s Dog by Iron & Wine
What inspires you? There are two things that I think of when I think about inspiration: Inspiration like when you see someone eating cake with their hands and think, “Oh my god, why not make palm sized cakes and call them cupcakes!” (I imagine that’s how it went down), or inspiration, which may be closer to admiration, like when you hear about someone quitting their six-figure salary job to move to Honduras and set up a non-profit to teach young adults how to be entrepreneurs.
In terms of the cupcake one, I have no clue what inspires me until it does and I can’t predict what that thing will be before hand. It’s kind of like when someone asks what type of a woman I’m attracted to. I don’t really know until I meet her, but when I do it makes perfect sense. This is all vague, but so is the process of inspiration in my head. I do know that when I am inspired by a new idea or a new way to do something better it is an incredible feeling. And when that inspiration turns into a completed project and is well received… there’s nothing better. I think both Emil and I are driven by that feeling.
In terms of the admiration type, I’m inspired by people who fail repeatedly but refuse to give up. For me, the important thing I now understand is that it is highly unlikely an idea that comes from a moment of inspiration will turn into a success. I think this leads a lot of people who could do really great things to get discouraged and give up. Three years ago I was silkscreening on American Apparel t-shirts in my parents’ basement and was convinced I was going to make a ton of money from it. It was a total failure. The designs were good, but so are a million other t-shirt designs.
I realized that something I had worked really hard on and almost staked my future on wasn’t going to work, and I got really discouraged. But from that I was able to see what could be successful from a much better vantage point. So I came up with another plan and when that didn’t work I came up with another and another. Along the way, bits and pieces of the earlier ideas informed the next ones. In other words, the failures made for the success. I talk to people who say, “I wish I had a really good idea like Hickoree’s or The Hill-Side” as if the idea for either came to us in a dream or out of one conversation. That’s not the way it works. So when I hear of success born out of failure I am inspired, it makes me feel like things are possible without relying on a once in a lifetime idea that comes to you out of the blue.
Balance, Design, Products
December 30, 2010
Ex-Taschen editors Charlotte and Peter Fiell established Fiell’s publishing in July 2008 with the aim of “publishing beautiful, content-rich illustrated books across a range of interesting and pertinent subject areas. Some of the books we author ourselves, and some we commission from other authors whom we respect and trust.” I found them through two of their beautifully designed books: The Little Book of Shocking Eco Facts and The Little Book of Global Facts (which arrived at my house today, thank you Doug! It’s a very inspiring little book that I highly recommend). I hope you enjoy their London-based home office.
How long have you worked from home? And where is home? We have worked from our home in West London for the last 15 years and I think it has worked really well because we have always had separate offices – probably we would have driven each other mad otherwise. Working from home has its pros and cons, but definitely one of the greatest advantages is being on hand if you have children…it was great when our daughters were small as we could fit work around them rather than the other way round.
Describe your style? How would you define your aesthetic? Our look is definitely eclectic – a mix of contemporary office furnishings with “furniture classics” from the 50s, 60s and 70s….Charles Eames, Pierre Paulin, Vico Magistretti, Charles Pollock. We think it is really important to work in a pleasant space so we try to make our workspaces as un-officey as possible by having art on the walls and lots of interesting objects from our personal design study collection.
How do you keep your home office organized? Peter manages to keep a pretty tidy office, but unfortunately my desk is a mess of stacked paper as is my computer desktop….when it gets too bad I have to have a ruthless spring clean….which is very therapeutic.
When you put together your home office what did you keep in mind? It was important for us to create workspaces that had lots of book shelves and filing capacity, but also we made the conscious decision not to use desks or office chairs that looked too corporate.
Is there any piece of home office furniture you covet? An antique plan chest would actually be a really useful piece of furniture for us, but unfortunately we don’t have the room to accommodate one!
What is a desk accessory you can’t do without? Our Folle stapler it is just a beautiful yet functional object, Fiskars scissors are pretty great too…
What would you change about your own workspace? More space for more book shelves!
What do you most love about your space? Looking out through the window into the jungle-like garden which is planted with enormous palm trees.
What inspires you? We love the research that lies behind our books, especially when we make historical discoveries and, of course, working with other creative people such as the authors, editors and graphic designers is also highly inspiring.
Balance, Design, Products, Technology
October 15, 2010
When I spotted the jars of garden produce that Michelle Obama had packaged up so beautifully to give away as presents I was intrigued. Who had designed the packaging? Who gets that job? I want that job! Alissa Walker tracked down the story before I did and ran a great piece on the branding of the Obama vegetables here. It turns out Michael Cronan and Karin Hibma of creative agency Cronan were behind the packaging. They are also the clever minds behind the name of Amazon’s Kindle and the naming and brand design of TIVO.
I’m following Alissa’s story with a look at their hillside workspace. Often when we run these stories on couples it makes sense to cover it all off in the same post. This one I will run over two days and as you read on you’ll see why. I hope you enjoy these posts as much I enjoyed putting them together.
First up is Michael Cronan. I’ll follow this with Karin Hibma’s interview on Monday.
How long have you worked from home? And where is home? We have been working at home for about 6 years. We moved because the property just seemed perfect for us. We are in the Berkeley hills, a three acre place with good size house that functions well as office, working and living space.
We focus on working with new companies or new ideas in more established companies. We provide brand strategy as well as the name and visual identity for a company, product or service. The work spans from high tech to consumer foods, goods and services. We concentrate on who our clients and/or their products truly are and who/what they wish to become as our template for operation.
Describe your style? How would you define your aesthetic? Our style is relaxed, open and informal which is based on our backgrounds in fine art and our experience with highly successful entrepreneurs, presidents and CEO’s. Our aesthetic borrows from every other aesthetic. We look at culture, history and spend a lot of time trying to see “around the corner” to create strategies and tools that advance our clients’ goals. We are recovering modernists who love the modern form but recognize that design is essentially about enabling people to create better outcomes and we work to those ends, adopting the style that best conveys the message.
As someone with multiple clients how do you keep your office organized? I’m thinking here of the physical space but also your computer. Except for one of our first offices, which was a tiny 530 square feet, we have always had studios that averaged 5000 sq. ft. With this move it was time for a change and, as we have all experienced, technology has enabled us to essentially conduct the wide scope of our business from two large office/studios, one on each floor of the house. (Michael is also a painter, “Matchsticks” below is part of his 2001 Still Life series. For more work click here).
Karin works on a Burdick Desk combination set and I work on two tables, which we designed, they were part of our former conference rooms. The other two conference tables make a terrific meeting and dinner table, especially when we have large groups or get the Thanksgiving cohort of family and friends. I have two Aeron chairs at the desk and I have a Leaf Lamp on my desk that I use constantly, our oldest son Nick Cronan works with Yves Behar at fuseproject and this is a signed original (their younger son, Shawn is pictured above with Michael. Shawn is a sculptor and furniture designer. You can see his work here.)
We have always used Apple products since we worked with them long ago. I have three screens (which are not Apple) and also use my space as a painting studio as well, so an innocent visitor might think I am an artist that became a stock trader. Karin’s relies on a powerful laptop that holds everything and she plugs it into large screens in her office when she works there. I use a large Apple server and rely on my laptop to work on design and presentations when we are traveling. So we use similar tools but use them very differently.
The primary reason we can work like we do is the internet and the elegant and useful services that it holds. When a project requires, we work with an extended family of people (many of whom worked full-time for us at some point) almost completely online. They are web specialists, music folks, production experts and folks to help facilitate the work. These are folks who understand our standards and best practices and who generate fun in working together.
Are there any particular programs you find really useful? My programs are Illustrator, Photoshop, Keynote, PowerPoint, Word.
When you were setting up your home office what did you keep in mind? We wanted the office and studios to be relaxed and efficient at the same time, and as it turns out that has been a factor contributing to the growth of our business… it’s a great place to dive deep into the big picture. One of the benefits to my office/studio is the big fireplace, on cool winter (and summers in Berkeley can be cool, too) I have a big roaring fire of eucalyptus logs – great ambience, and warm! To be safe, we have redundant internet systems that help us make sure that our connectivity won’t go down and are sufficiently backed up on our computer systems, both of those lend a certain serenity. To be relaxed, and this was important to us, we wanted to have views and space around us, and to be able to be comfortable indoors and get outdoors easily. Both of our offices have big windows and doors. Being creative requires a conducive space — whatever that means to the individual creator — ours requires that “flow”.
Is there any piece of home office furniture you wish you had? I want more and bigger screens and ways to manage them. And I really need triage cord management!
What is a desk accessory you can’t do without? A green teapot that forever reminds me to be mindful or else I spill tea all over my desk.
What would you change about your own workspace? I would have twenty foot ceilings!
What do you most love about your space? Our home functions as a great place to have a business, our dining room is a great conference room, the living room is a cool place to interview and entertain people. The porches and kitchen and patios give us indoor/outdoor space. It is large enough to give us an expansive mood and it even accommodates Karin’s dad, who is 93 this year, as well as his health care folks. The place feels like a summer camp in the middle of Berkeley with outstanding views in a pretty high density city. So I would say that the positive impression that our former offices communicated is achieved here as well. Our clients often choose to come and visit us whenever possible. Imagine a summer camp three minutes away from Chez Panisse.
What inspires you? It will undoubtedly sound “schmaltzy” but it is the truth. I personally have to say the single most inspirational element in my life is my partner Karin. Her insights have always help take me to new levels of thinking. Next, our kids, who are both grown and in successful design and art careers, generate much inspiration around here. Their ability to do and think amazing things is rewarding to see and it definitely keeps me on my toes. After that include almost everything including the stuff I hate. Feeling that passionate about something means that I have to investigate further and learn the source of the irritation, it can lead to some interesting insights and inspirations.
Above is ‘Chalkbox”, another painting from Michael’s 2001 Still Life series.
October 7, 2010
A friend of mine is renovating her house and I spent time looking over swatches of fabric and thinking about color, sofa shapes and rug pile earlier this week. It was so nice to get back into that head space again. Renting has kept me from doing too much major work on the house that we live in…that and a rather tight budget! So it was fun to step into someone else’s shoes and indulge in a morning of talking nothing but interiors. It also re-sparked my interest in interiors shoots. Always on the lookout for great home offices I came across this one in Elle Decor. It’s the house of cosmetics queen Jeanine Lobell, actor Anthony Edwards and their four children. The whole home is pretty amazing – great use of color. But I especially enjoyed this workspace. The crisp white of the walls and the gallery of paintings is a perfect back drop to the desk. I feel like you could write the great American novel sitting at that desk.
Photographed by William Waldron.
August 2, 2010
A rather elegant cat landed in my inbox recently. Alexie Hiles, an illustrator and graphic designer based in France, sent the images through of Mr Grey in response to our Pets in the Office series. I was intrigued by her space and her work so I asked her to share a little bit more.
How long have you worked from home? I’ve been working from home full time as freelance graphic designer for 3 years, I’m working mostly in the fields of institutional and culture communication in France. I am also an illustrator, which I enjoy most and I try to post a sketch as often as possible on my tumblr blog. I would love create children books now! I’ve always had a place to draw where I lived as long as I can remember.
And where is home? Our home is in Lille, in the north of France, between Paris, Brussels, London and Amsterdam. I really enjoy living in one of Europe’s cross roads. We bought our house 2 years ago from one of my partner’s former architecture teachers. I like the idea that the place where I spend most of my days has been a home office for a long time.
Describe your style? How would you define your aesthetic? The house was built in 1930, we are furnishing it slowly with furniture found in jumble sales or vintage stores from the 30′s to the 50′s. The home office is the place where I feel free to stick any pictures I love anywhere on the walls just because I want to be able to see them all the time (and take it away when I’ve had enough of it). It is full of tins, old books and toys I find everywhere.
How do you keep your office organized? I’m thinking here of the physical space but also your computer. I organize myself with a pen and a paper – everything starts in my big blue notepad (they are always the same, I only change the colors of cover when I buy a new one). All my lifework is in there. I once threw one away by mistake, and had to have a look in the street paper recycling bin to find it… my neighbors thought I’d gone mad that day. When my notepad’s closed my workday is finished. Also shelves! Plenty of them – so that books, magazines etc. can stand vertically, instead of horizontally in piles. Filling the shelves with the books I love when moving in, it is always a great pleasure.
Are there any particular programs you find really useful? I use Skype everyday, it changed my way of working in team with other freelance graphic designers, they became kind of colleagues in a way!
When you were setting up your home office what did you keep in mind? When we moved into this house the ground floor walls, where I work now, were already covered with bookshelves which was ideal, and the former landlord had given us a beautiful old “double desk”. We just had to refresh the white paint, sit down, and work. We added a big old workshop table where I like to draw because it is far from the computer and a big “cat-approved” sofa to make the place warm and comfortable, friends are always welcome to sit down and have a drink and a biscuit.
Is there any piece of home office furniture you covet? Honestly not really… I might need to find a place on the walls for a proper inspiration board to avoid flyers, articles and post cards everywhere, that’s all I am thinking of for the moment.
What is a desk accessory you can’t do without? My “gigantic” screen, I miss it when working away from home on my portable computer.
What would you change about your own workspace? My workspace is a bit dark in winter, I need better lighting.
What do you most love about your space? When the sliding glass windows are wide opened in spring and summer I feel like working outside and I love it.
What inspires you? I receive the Grain Edit newsletter every day. I love art and graphic design from the 50′s, I love the clear, simple and efficient style. I admire the way artistes use subtle and bright colors. Charley Harper is one of my favorite illustrator. I also admire japanese illustrators such as Yoshitomo Nara, for the same reasons I guess. Apart from this, I think that if you pay attention around you, everyday life is always very inspiring.
Balance, Design, Products, Technology
June 4, 2010
Designer Susan Stewart takes us through the Los Angeles home office that she shares with her husband.
How long have you worked from home? And where is home? I’ve worked from home since I left the fashion industry in 2001. We live in the Hollywood Hills near Laurel Canyon. My husband Jon works in the music industry doing A&R and as a marketing consultant and we share an office that had been converted from a 2 car garage and is attached to our mid-century post and beam home. I used to work in the house until I had Jonah, our almost 2 year old son. When it got too distracting to work with Jonah around, I re-did the converted office and moved in with Jon. His half of the space I painted black and hung his rock artwork and guitars on the walls. My half of the space is white. I haven’t gotten around to hanging anything up, but I kind of like it like that.
I run an interior design firm designing for both residential and commercial spaces, plus I publish a design blog called Design*ByProxy. Design*ByProxy was initially the name of a service I started through Susan Stewart Design. It gives clients an affordable option to get a room professionally designed by me. The client pays a flat rate per room and all the design is done thru the internet/email. They answer a questionnaire, measure their own space, send me digital pictures of their room and describe the design direction. I then provide a furniture floor plan, concept board that includes paint colors or wallpaper, furniture selection, window treatment idea and provide a shopping list with links of where the client can purchase the items.
Describe your style? How would you define your aesthetic? I’m hired by clients to help them realize their own aesthetic and ideals ranging in styles from Classic to Modern, all with a West Coast vibe (easy not fussy). When you look at Design*ByProxy blog, you really get to see what my aesthetic is: design that innovates and inspires by embracing simplicity, luxury and humor. A signature look of mine utilizes a mix of vintage and modern pieces.
As an interior designer with multiple clients how do you keep your office organized? I’m thinking here of the physical space but also your computer. Are there any particular programs you find really useful? I have big white binders for each client that holds all the paperwork (quotes, floor plans, swatches, invoices) divided into the rooms I’m designing. I keep them in a cabinet. I also have a “My Clients” folder in My Documents with sub-folders for each one. I work on 2 computers, a Mac and PC because some of the programs I use are only available on one platform. I use AutoCAD for Plan Drawings and Studio Designer for ordering on my PC. Then I use ArchiCAD and Google Sketch Up, both for 3D rendering on my Mac. I use Illustrator and Photoshop on both.
When you are designing a home office what do you keep in mind? Feng Shui and storage. I’m not a Feng Shui expert by any means, but I think in the office it is important to incorporate it’s principles as much as you can while keeping a visually pleasing design. I can always feel a space immediately that has bad feng shui.
Is there any piece of home office furniture you love? Yes, my Eames Aluminum Group Management Chair. Years ago I had a flea market find that looked cool, but ended up staining the muscles in my neck and was told by the chiropractor I needed a better chair to sit at while working on the computer. I ended up splurging on my dream chair (I was a student at the time).
What is a desk accessory you can’t do without? It’s not really a “desk accessory” but a “desktop” accessory. I use GoToMyPc.com and it’s really great. It’s a remote control software service that enables my assistant to access my computer from hers through the internet. She can log onto my computer remotely and do the proposals, orders and invoicing without having to be at my office.
What would you change about your own workspace? I love my husband, but it would be great to not have to share the space. I only say that because he talks A LOT….not to me, but on the phone to his clients. It can be a bit distracting.
What do you most love about your space? The view from my desk of our Japanese pine tree and pond in our courtyard and my husband’s company.
What inspires you? Nature, colors, art, architecture, people.
Balance, Design, Products, Technology
June 3, 2010
Ghislaine Vinas, who recently won Benjamin Moore’s 2010 Hue Award, is based in New York and was one of our visitors at the Herman Miller stand during ICFF. Ghislaine’s interiors are a warm take on modernism that utilize a strong and saturated color palette. Here we talk to the designer about her work space at the country home she bought 6 years ago.
How long have you worked from home? This is my desk at our country home in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. We bought the house in 2004, spent a year renovating it and have been working on the interiors ever since. Being an interior designer, designing my own house is torturous and I don’t think I will ever be finished! If I need to get work done during the weekend and I’m not out on the deck with my laptop, you can find me here. I mostly use the time away from my New York City office to look for inspiration and to come up with new ideas.
And where is home? Home from Monday – Friday afternoon is downtown New York City. I’ve lived in the same loft for over 20 years right on the Hudson River. We work from the loft too. But life is crazy in the city and after my husband and I had our two little girls we decided to get a country house near my sister in Pennsylvania. So Friday evening to Sunday evening our home is in the country. It’s a little old farmhouse that my husband and I lovingly renovated with the help of my sister’s husband, Glenn who is a contractor.
Describe your style? How would you define your aesthetic? I would say that my style is modern, fresh, clean happy and a wee bit quirky. I like things that can be cleaned off easily, I dont like too much clutter but I like that my home reflects who I am. I get enjoyment out of being surrounded by things I have found around the world or even in my back yard from local garage sales or flea markets.
As an interior designer with multiple clients how do you keep your office organized. The New York apartment pictured above seems typical of your work – strong bursts of color against a fairly minimal backdrop of white? We specialize in one style – we are not an office that does traditional through to contemporary – we stick to simple happy modern – this helps keep our samples to a minimum and has helped clean up things a lot in the NYC office. Over the years I have honed my style so I dont want fabrics or other samples lying around that I dont intend to use. Two years ago we got rid of all our brochures and binders and it was such a relief to “clean house” Everything is online anyway so we are good at bookmarking our favorite sites and pieces.
We keep all our fabric samples in drawers – there are 16 big drawers all color coded. Our tiles and other materials we keep in drawers too for easy access. We have big boxes that we keep sample in on projects we are currently working on and its always great to see how all the materials start coming together. All other material is kept in giant client binders – these binders contain everything from plans and elevations to color inspiration and specific furniture pieces. The binders are evolving constantly as we work on the projects.
Are there any particular computer programs you find really useful? I used to have interns do weekly color copies of magazine inspirations and I kept them in a giant lateral file but now we use Evernote to organize all my inspirational images as well as furniture pieces that I really dont want to forget. So now when I am looking for something its such a breeze to find.
When you are designing a home office what do you keep in mind? I keep in mind that peoples lives are busy and we dont always have time to put things away – this means that a stack of bills on the desk top may be reality. So a nice paper tray could be a smart investment. I try and reduce clutter by having upper cabinets that are easy to reach from a seated position that can store unattractive real life things you need at your desk. Also essential is a good “box box file” drawer right next to the desk. Top drawer for essentials including check books, good hand cream and lip balm , second drawer for stationary and stamps and the bottom drawer for filing monthly bills. You also need good lateral files for all the other things that need filing like taxes and investment, school and other info.
An attractive trash can under the desk never hurts . Its always nice to have a beautiful cup holder for pens and stationary and a beautiful stapler, tape holder and paper clip holder. Recently I have started working with personal organizers so that my clients can have perfect tabs on all their files holders and just the right drawer dividers.
Is there any piece of home office furniture you covet? I love the Airia desk (and seriously not because its for Herman Miller) and I adore the big e15 table especially in yellow (above). I dream of having a giant desk like it. I love my vintage saarinen chair that I have in my PA house. I had it reupholstered in a brilliant magenta – it makes the perfect desk chair.
What is a desk accessory you can’t do without? A cup of coffee in my right hand. I would really love to get a set of “Anything” desk accessories (below).
What would you change about your own workspace? Well, my little spot in PA is kinda perfect for me but my office in New York needs help. In New York we sit at long white counters and although I can look out the window at the river from where I sit, I would love to have a freestanding table to work from. I would love to get a giant table maybe vintage or Baroque looking and have it shop finished in a crazy color – like fluorescent red. Then everything around it would be white. A giant inspiration board is the second thing on my wish list. My little space in PA feels personal and has an aesthetic, my New York space is about function and lacks personal style.
What do you most love about your space? Well, my space in my PA house is very special to me – it’s full of fun little memories because all the pictures on the wall were given to me either by the artist themself or by friends. I love looking out the window and daydreaming. There are always bunnies out there in the spring and summer and it’s so ridiculously idyllic that it makes me smile. I love my comfy magenta chair and the pop of color the rolling file add. I love that I can go out and pick some flowers from the garden and put them on the desk. In the pictures are peonies from my front yard.
What inspires you? Anything bright and happy. I love seeing unexpected color combinations. I love seeing things that are out of scale – an image of something small that has been enlarged or visa versa. I love animal objects. The beach is my favorite place in the world and inspires me. I love my girl’s (Mia Soleil and Saskia Luna) art work. I love designing with my husband Jaime. I am inspired by very smart people who are also creative and who don’t take themselves too seriously. Collaborations with clients get my heart racing. Graffitti and urban wall art is beautiful and surprising.
Images: The PA office: Jaime Vinas, the New York apartment: Eric Laignel
Balance, Design, Products
May 17, 2010
Jason Munn is the name behind the award winning one-man studio known as The Small Stakes. Jason’s work has been featured in many of the top design magazines and is part of the permanent collection at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Jason’s client list includes Patagonia, Wired and New York Times magazine to name a few. He is also well known in the world of concert posters. Since 2003 he has been designing for indie rock’s hottest bands including The Pixies, Death Cab for Cutie, Modest Mouse, The Flaming Lips and many more. Over 150 of these posters are featured in a book titled The Small Stakes-Music Posters which was recently released by Chronicle Books. Jason spoke to us about his home studio and the challenges he faced transitioning from a traditional office setting.
How long have you been working from home? I’ve been working from home full time for about the past seven years, before this I had been working in a couple different design studios. My first home/studio was a studio apartment, which became more and more challenging because there was not any type of separation between anything. Now we live in a two bedroom house, the second bedroom acts as my studio space
What challenges did you face transitioning from working in a design firm to a home based office? The biggest drawback for me about working from home versus in a design firm is the lack of communication or feedback while you are working on project. More and more I miss that aspect of a studio. Dirk Fowler, another designer and friend of mine who also works from home often send images of what we are working on back and forth to get feedback or advice from each other.
Working in a home setting, it’s easy to get distracted. Do you have any tips for staying focused on projects? I try to stick to a routine, but will be the first to admit I can have a hard time doing that. My wife has been back in school the last couple years, so she is often working late, so I’ll often do the same. When I’m stuck or in the thinking process during a project I tend to work in chunks of time and find myself walking around the block to take a break. I think the distractions of working in a firm versus working at home probably balance out, in the long run I feel I have less distractions. I do miss the commute to work a little bit, I used to walk to work and that was perfect for starting the day. Now if I have any errands or anything like that I typically do them first thing in the morning, so that becomes my commute.
Is there anything you would like to change in your workspace? As you can see I keep things pretty sparse and I often have the tendency to want to get rid of things rather than acquire them. I’m happy to have my own room to work out of versus having everything in the studio apartment. We also have a small room below the house that acts as the poster storage and shipping area, our shipping area used to be the kitchen in the studio apartment. I would like to try working from a space outside my house, maybe a shared space with a couple other designers. We’ll see, it hasn’t been a priority yet.
Balance, Design, Products
May 6, 2010
As a designer, blogger, author, artist, founder of Authentic Jobs and father of four boys, Cameron Moll truly has his hands full. He talks here about his move to working from home and setting up a space in the house that allows him to juggle all his roles.
You recently became self-employed. Can you tell us about that transition? This is my second run at self-employment. The first was a little over three years ago, lasting for about two years. It went really well the first time, but an in-house design opportunity came along that I felt was too good to pass up. The decision to return to self-employment recently came with as much uncertainty as the first. Transitioning from stability to instability is never a fun decision to wrestle with, especially as the sole provider for a family of 6. But it’s been about 6 months now since the leap, and things are going really well. Most of my income is from projects that I own or have started. This is intentional, as I promised myself I’d never return to freelancing without residual income to supplement or even supplant client work.
As a result, I’m finding I don’t have to worry as much about income this time around as I did with the first, which was funded almost exclusively by client work. Instead, I’m constantly trying to juggle everything I have going on–blogging, tweeting, email, and doing all of the strategizing, design work and customer support for Authentic Jobs and my letterpress posters.
How would you describe your workspace? What is the design aesthetic? How does that impact your work? My workspace is a continual work in progress. I’ve worked out of the home both times, and my office has usually been tucked away in the corner of our master bedroom. This doesn’t yield a lot of room, figuratively and literally, to be all that creative. Only recently did I finally secure a room in the house as a dedicated office. I’m still defining what I’d like that space to be. Currently it’s somewhat minimalistic on a theme of black and silver. Functionally, I’d describe it as a “working dad’s office on a budget”–a refurbished 27″ iMac, speakers and a glass desk that I’ve had since the first self-employment, an IKEA Göran folding table painted black (below), and inexpensive framing. Admittedly, I don’t fully agree with the argument that one has to have an intensively creative workspace to do intensively creative work. No doubt workspace can have an affect on one’s work, whether positive or negative or both. But creativity is often just as much a mental discipline as it is a visual one. Great designers can do great work even in the absence of an inspiring workspace.
Does anyone else use your office? The wife shares the other half. She is also an artist, but her mediums are canvas and glass.
How do you organize the space? I struggle to do work if there’s a lot of clutter on my desk or in the surrounding area–I’d rather be cleaning and organizing than designing. So generally, I try to keep as little as possible on or around my desk space. For example, I’ve got two printers tucked under my worktable, one dedicating to printing shipping labels and another that does 13″x19″ prints for proofing my poster artwork. As much as I can tuck away under the table or in a closet, the better.
What impact do you think color has on a workspace? I personally don’t use a lot of color in my own workspace. I suppose that’s because I’ve never been all that great at using color in an interior design sense. Digitally I seem to manage color just fine, but real life is another story.
What desk accessory can’t you do without? Probably my sound system or headphones. Music usually plays an important role in helping me design. Sometimes it serves as motivation, other times to accompany a lengthy design session, and often to block out other distractions or noise around the house.
Is there a piece of furniture you’d love to replace? My chair. I failed to mention that as part of my “working dad’s office on a budget” setup. I’ve got an Aeron knock-off, which costs about 1/3 the price of an Aeron. If I could justify the expense, I’ve read enough positive reviews about Herman Miler’s Embody chair (above) to trust it would make my days go even smoother, given how muchI’m seated throughout the day.
What inspires you? Great music (jazz, classical, film scores, instrumental post-rock), the environment around me, working with my hands, industrial design, my family…lots of stuff. I do my best to soak it all in and allow it to hopefully affect my work when the time is right. In terms of the work I do, I love being challenged. My letterpress posters (below) grew out of a self-inflicted challenge to see if I do something along the lines of Veer’s Type City designs, but on a much bigger scale. I tend to produce the best work when the challenge is daunting. I suppose it’s because I’m a fairly competitive person. But I also enjoy producing stuff I’ve never done before. The day I stop challenging myself is probably the day I give up designing.
You and your wife have four children. How do you manage a balance between work and the rest of your life? I don’t know that I bother striving too hard for balance any more. I do my best to put my family first, and then try line up what’s most important after that. On some days, all that other stuff may take priority over family, but hopefully only for a temporary period. Working out of the home tends to only increase the elusiveness of balance. That’s the other thing I promised myself I’d do before returning to freelancing again, that of having proper office space outside the home to create a physical divide between work and home. I’ve not made good on that promise yet. But so far, things are progressing fine without it.