January 17, 2011
Artist, photographer, designer and blogger Elisabeth Dunker lives in Sweden with her husband Dennis, their two kids, Tovalisa 12, Otto 9 and their Devon Rex cat, Hiro. Her blog, Fine Little Day covers art and design. The Times called it quirky and put it at the top of their 50 best international design blogs. Here Elisabeth lets us into her home office.
How long have you worked from home? And where is home? I’ve worked from home the last 12 years. Home is in Gothenburg. (Sweden’s second biggest city).
Describe your style? How would you define your aesthetic? Mixed. Inconsistent, patched and repaired.
How do you keep your work space organized? The most important things like bills and other important papers I keep in a document collector. Otherwise I don’t keep it very organized.
When you set up your home office what did you have to keep in mind? Were there any particular obstacles to overcome? It was important to have a good chair because I sit a lot in my work. I also wanted to be able to cover up the big window since I work with photos on screen. The biggest obstacles, well I should have installed a timer or something so I took more breaks. I tend to work to much, that most be the biggest obstacles for me.
Is there any piece of home office furniture you covet right now?I have a good chair, “Sun” partly designed by Bruno Mathsson. A better desk maybe, bigger and more flexible.
What desk accessory can’t you do without? The document collector. The computer!
What would you change about your work space? I’m always dreaming of better storage (below are journals designed by Elisabeth and Camilla Engman. Together they run Studio Violet)
What inspires you? Flea markets and second hand stores. (Below porcelain designed by Dunker and Camilla Engman for their Studio Violet project.)
Balance, Design, Products
October 21, 2010
Here is the first in the BROODWORK Ideal Live/Work Space series. Philosopher Alain de Botton, a recent addition to the BROODWORK family, discusses his favorite place to write and announces his plans for Living Architecture – an exciting new project that makes contemporary residential architecture more accessible.
Alain lives in London and is the author of a number of critically acclaimed books including The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work. When asked what he does all day, Alain replied “Sit at home, at the top of the house, and think about stuff. And then mornings and evenings, lots of childcare with 2 very demanding and wonderful young men under 5.” Sounds rather familiar.
We asked Alain to describe his ideal work space. This is what he had to say:
“The best place I ever worked was Heathrow Terminal 5, where I had a desk right in the middle of the departures hall. I was invited to the airport to be a Writer in Residence (and later wrote a book about the experience, A Week at the Airport). The terminal turned out to be an ideal spot in which to do some work, for it rendered the idea of writing so unlikely as to make it possible again. Objectively good places to work rarely end up being so; in their faultlessness, quiet and well-equipped studies have a habit of rendering the fear of failure overwhelming. Original thoughts are like shy animals. We sometimes have to look the other way – towards a busy street or terminal – before they run out of their burrows.
The setting was certainly rich in distractions. Every few minutes, a voice (usually belonging to either Margaret or her colleague Juliet, speaking from a small room on the floor below) would make an announcement, for example, attempting to reunite a Mrs Barker, recently arrived from Frankfurt, with a stray piece of her hand luggage or reminding Mr Bashir of the pressing need for him to board his flight to Nairobi.
For most passengers, I was simply a terminal employee and therefore a useful source of information on finding the customs desk or the cash machine. Those who realised my role found it more appropriate to consider the desk as an opportunity for confessions. I was approached by a man embarking on what he wryly termed the holiday of a lifetime to Bali with his wife, who was months away from succumbing to incurable brain cancer. She rested nearby, in a specially constructed wheel chair laden with complicated breathing apparatus. She was 49 and had been entirely healthy until April, when she had gone to work on a Monday morning complaining of a slight headache. Another man explained that he had been visiting his family in London, but that he had another one in Los Angeles who were ignorant of the first. He had five children and two mothers-in-law but his face bore none of the strains of his itinerary.
When we call a chair or a house beautiful, really what we’re saying is that we like the way of life it’s suggesting to us (Alain’s home office is pictured above). It has an attitude we’re attracted to: if it was magically turned into a person, we’d like who it was. It would be convenient if we could remain in much the same mood wherever we happened to be, in a cheap motel or a palace (think of how much money we’d save on redecorating our houses), but unfortunately we’re highly vulnerable to the coded messages that emanate from our surroundings. This helps to explain our passionate feelings towards matters of architecture and home decoration: these things help to decide who we are.
Of course, architecture can’t on its own always make us into contented people. Witness the dissatisfactions that can unfold even in idyllic surroundings. One might say that architecture suggests a mood to us, which we may be too internally troubled to be able to take up. Its effectiveness could be compared to the weather: a fine day can substantially change our state of mind – and people may be willing to make great sacrifices to be nearer a sunny climate. Then again, under the weight of sufficient problems (romantic or professional confusions, for example), no amount of blue sky, and not even the greatest building, will be able to make us smile. Hence the difficulty of trying to raise architecture into a political priority: it has none of the unambiguous advantages of clean drinking water or a safe food supply. And yet it remains vital.
Judging from the success of interior design magazines and property shows, you might think that this country was now as comfortable with good contemporary architecture as it is with non-native food or music.
But scratch beneath the metropolitan, London-centric focus, and you quickly discover that Britain remains a country deeply in love with the old and terrified of the new. Country hotels compete among themselves to tell us how ancient they are; holiday cottages vaunt that they were already in existence when Jane Austen was a girl. The draughty sash window shows no signs of retiring. Inheriting furniture and not bothering with plumbing continue to function as mysterious symbols of status.
A few years ago, I wrote a book about architecture critical of our nostalgia and low expectations. It got a healthy amount of attention, on the back of which I was invited to a stream of conferences about the future of architecture. But one night, returning from one such conference in Bristol, I had a dark moment of the soul. I realised that however pleasing it is to write a book about an issue one feels passionately about, the truth is that – a few exceptions aside – books don’t change anything. I realised that if I cared so much about architecture, writing was just a coward’s way out; the real challenge was to build.
So on the back of a notepad was born a project which officially launches this week: Living Architecture is a not-for-profit organisation that puts up houses around the UK designed by some of the world’s top architects and makes these available to the public to rent for holidays throughout the year. (Dutch firm MVRDV‘s Balancing Barn is pictured below).
Our dream was to allow people to experience what it is like to live and sleep in a space designed by an outstanding architectural practice. While there are examples of great modern buildings in Britain, they tend to be in places that one passes through (airports, museums, offices), and the few modern houses that exist are almost all in private hands and cannot be visited. This seriously skews discussions of architecture. When people declare that they hate modern buildings they are on the whole speaking not from experience of homes, but from a distaste of post-war tower blocks or bland airconditioned offices.
Living Architecture‘s houses are deliberately varied. One of them by the Dutch firm MVRDV hangs precariously off the edge of a hill in Suffolk. Another in Thorpeness by the Norwegian architects JVA has four steel roofs, each of which houses a bedroom and a bathroom (the Dune House pictured above). A third, by the young Scottish practice NORD is a stark black box in the shadow of Dungeness nuclear power station. A fourth, by the legendary Swiss architect Peter Zumthor, is a secular mini-monastery which aims to bring an ecclesiastical calm and solemnity to the Devon countryside.” (Zumthor’s Secular Retreat should be completed next year, pictured below).
Photograph of Alain’s home office and the Living Architecture homes: Edmund Sumner
Balance, Design, Products, Technology
August 9, 2010
Mark Frauenfelder is a writer and illustrator who lives in Los Angeles. He is the man behind Boing Boing, a hugely successful blog that focuses on tech, culture and science. The blog attracts millions of visitors each month with content that jumps from stories on geodesic domes to infographics. He takes time out of his busy day to give us a quick tour of his work space.
How long have you worked from home? And where is home? I’ve been working from home since 1995. I live in Los Angeles and I’m the founder of Boing Boing (a blog with 12 million page views a month) and the editor-in-chief of MAKE, a technology project magazine. I’m also an illustrator and a book author.
Describe your style? How would you define your aesthetic? I prefer a spare, clean style, but I am constantly fighting against clutter. I have an old steel desk, painted gray, which I really like.
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? My lifesaver is the combination of having a Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500M sheet-fed scanner and the Evernote application. I scan every piece of paper that comes my way — bills, press releases, receipts, user manuals, tax papers, contracts, business cards — basically anything that’s flat and fits into the hopper. The digitized files are stored in Evernote’s cloud so I can access them anywhere — on my iPad, my iPhone, any computer. Evernote OCRs the documents so I can search for anything by keyword. These two things have gone a long way in uncluttering my life!
When you were setting up your home office what did you keep in mind? I like a bright workplace, so I chose to work next to a window.
Is there any piece of home office furniture you covet? I’ve always wanted an Aeron chair, and I’m getting close to treating myself to one. But even more, I’d like an Eames lounger with matching ottoman to take naps.
What is a desk accessory you can’t do without? My 19-inch Mac display. It’s connected to my MacBook pro.
What would you change about your own workspace? I’d love to figure out a way to hide all the ugly cables all over the place.
What do you most love about your space? I don’t have to commute to work. It would kill me to have to drive on the LA freeways every day.
What inspires you? When I go to Maker Faire, a DIY festival that attracts 80,000 people, and I see all the incredible creations people have made in the basements and garages. I also like visiting artists’ websites every day.
As editor of Boing Boing so many interesting things come across your desk. What’s the strangest work environment you’ve come across? This capsule office by Selgas Cano (photographer by Iwan Baan) is strange and attractive!
Balance, Design, Products, Technology
July 23, 2010
Where we’ve been this week…
1. Grist An interesting take on environmental news. Where to start: Tips on dealing with the summer heat when you work from home.
2. Color Collective You’ve got to love a simple idea that’s been beautifully executed. Here Portland-based artist Lauren Willhite takes photographs and art as inspiration and breaks each image down into 5 essential colors. Where to start: Go straight to the interiors category for some home office inspiration.
3. Ill Seen, Ill Said Jane Flanagan is an Irish woman living in Toronto with a wonderful eye for design and a very nice turn of phrase. Where to start: The post on following your heart when it comes to designing your home..
4. Mid Century Modernist A recent redesign has improved this site beyond belief. If you have even the faintest interest in mid century design head straight to this site – immediately! Where to start: Our very own Lifework contributor (and editor of Grain Edit) Dave Cuzner’s house tour.
5. Houzz An excellent picture-driven architecture site filled to the brim with interesting houses. Where to start: Type home office into the search box and you’ll find yourself wading through over 4000 images of compelling spaces.
July 20, 2010
“Whether it’s a minuscule Austin studio apartment, a slightly more spacious Boston pad, or a still modest duplex for a family in New York, there are plenty of inspiring, smart examples of tech working together with home decor from our Apartment Therapy house tour archives. Home offices, hidden laundry rooms, a crafty home closet studio space…even a home entertainment room from one of our own contributors here at Unplggd…they’re all from modest, if not quite small, real world spaces.”
To see more of each space click here.
This story appears in partnership with Unplggd, a site for people who embrace technology and design in their home.