Balance, Design, Products, Technology
February 9, 2010
Timothy Dahl has been blogging every day since 2005 “which in relative terms isn’t very long but sometimes seems like forever.” His home improvement blog Charles & Hudson offers great practical advice on everything from insulation to updating a kitchen with wall tattoos.
How long have you worked from home…and where is ‘home’? I’ve always had a home office but I’ve only been working full-time from home this past year. Laura (my wife) and I moved from NYC last year and our home office there consisted of a 5-ft tall loft area in our 1-bedroom apartment. We called it our “John Malkovich Loft”. You couldn’t stand up (unless you were short) but we managed to wrestle a desk and chair up there and when seated it was a workable space although a bit claustrophobic.
We now rent a small bungalow in West Los Angeles that’s about 900 sqft and since we both work from home it was imperative we had a bit more space. Fortunately this property has a separate building in the back which serves as Laura’s fashion design studio and I use the second bedroom as my main office. I’ve also carved out a couple spots in our back yard that work great and given the incredible weather in Southern California we can use almost year-round.
Utilizing our indoor outdoor space breaks up the workday and nothing beats fetch with the dog or 5 minute breaks on a speed bag to get you revved up again.
What does an average work day involve? I’ve been running the home improvement blog Charles & Hudson for about 5 years now and early on my work consisted of simply writing and publishing posts every day of the week (tougher than it sounds). As C&H has grown into a larger network that now totals 6 websites, my work day encompasses not only writing/publishing but everything else that comes with building a business. I typically start the day with reading and answering email. I write and publish content for the next day in the afternoon/evening and set a good portion of the posts to publish at 8am EST the following day time which alleviates me from waking up at 5am or earlier to catch the East coast readers. Posts are still published throughout the day by myself or team of contributors.
Lately I’ve made more of an effort to network with fellow bloggers and industry folks by attending home related events such as the International Builders’ Show and Kitchen and Bath show. Working from home is great but it’s just as important to shake some hands and connect with people in-person.
Is there any form of technology that really helps you with your work? Although it’s been around for awhile, wireless internet access really changed everything. Working remotely from a library or cafe was always possible but you couldn’t publish or read real-time content.
What I can’t do without is GPS and the flow of innovative applications that have taken advantage of this technology that now fits in the palm of your hand. Google’s streetview and Yelp’s monocle (on their iPhone app) still blow my mind.
How do you organize your space? I’m thinking here of your physical space but also your virtual space (any particular software or program that helps keep things under control?) I keep a strong division between personal and business finances and use separate filing cabinets for each so there is absolutely no cross over. I also value proper lighting and keeping my office on dimmers but my desk illuminated by a lamp keeps me focused.
I straddle the PC/Mac world and find benefits for using both. It has come to my attention that I use about 10 different Google products which at times is comforting and convenient but also extremely scary.
The following programs are almost always open on my computer desktop: Thunderbird, Tweetdeck, Photoshop, Firefox, Notepad or Textedit and Trillian.
What item from your desktop/office can you not do without? A good chair. I could work from a slab of plywood as a desk but an uncomfortable chair impacts all of my work. A neighbor in New York was selling a set of Knoll Pollock chairs and we couldn’t resist. I’ve struggled with one too many crappy desk chairs from Staples that fall apart after 6-months.
What inspires you? People and places. Observing people working towards a goal whether it be an entrepreneur bringing a product to market or one of the kids I coach in lacrosse working on throwing with their off-hand. People focused on their goals and their journeys inspire me.
I recently spent some time volunteering with Habitat for Humanity and our job site manager and my fellow volunteers were a great source of inspiration. It felt great knowing we were all working together for a common goal that wasn’t about succeeding in our careers or making money but leaving a lasting impression on a family for years to come.
Travel is also huge source of inspiration and I’ve been fortunate to spend time in areas around the world. I also realize there is still so much to discover, not only abroad but across our own country. If travel can be wrapped into outdoor pursuits such as hiking or snowboarding, even better.
Balance, Design, Products, Technology
February 8, 2010
Erin Doland is a very organized woman, it’s her profession so you’d hope so. Erin edits Unclutterer, a cleanly-designed blog that doles out organizing advice with a good dose of humor. And as she says in her bio “she believes in buying quality over quantity, and experience has taught her that a clean, uncluttered home is an essential component of a less stressful life.” We couldn’t agree more.
How long have you worked from home…and where is ‘home’? I’ve been working from home since June 2006. My husband has been working from home since 2000. We share an office, and our desks are just seven feet apart. It’s an arrangement that works extremely well for us, but we are quite aware that it wouldn’t work for all couples. Home is in Fairfax County, Virginia — right outside Washington, D.C. [Decor8 has a tour of their home].
What does an average work day involve? If it’s a work day at home: Wake up at 7:00, and I’m at my desk writing by 7:30. I’ll write straight through until 10:00 a.m. At 10:00, I take on Dash Detail (my son’s name is Dashiell, and he’s 7 months old) and hang out with him until 12:30. Lunch is from 12:30 until 1:30 with the family. At 1:30 I’m back at my desk working, which is typically full of administrative duties — responding to e-mail, patrolling comments on the site, checking in with the Unclutterer staff, returning phone calls, answering media inquiries, etc. If I have time left, I’ll do some more writing. At 3:30 I’m on Dash Detail again for two hours. At 5:30 we fix and eat dinner. By 6:30 p.m. I’m at my desk again finishing up any projects that didn’t get completed for the day. I usually call it quits for the work day by 7:00 or 7:30 p.m.
Is there any form of technology that really inspires you? I have some tech I enjoy using, though — my MacBook, my Fujitsu ScanSnap S1500M, my Thermaltake BlacX storage that I use for easy laptop backups, and my 26″ Dell monitor.
How do you organize your space? My home was designed in the late 1950s by a regionally-famous architect named Charles Goodman. Goodman apparently didn’t believe in built-in storage. Our house only has two small drawers (which are in the kitchen) and our entire house has two closets (one of those closets is in the bedroom for clothing — there isn’t a single built-in cabinet or drawer in the bathrooms). As a result, a good amount of our furnishings serve as design and storage elements.
My desk is a series of Elfa shelves that I purchased at The Container Store. I needed the vertical space to hold office supplies and items necessary for me to do my work, so I chose function over form. My office is 100 percent utilitarian. I’ll admit that I could greatly benefit from having an interior designer come in and help me make it look more attractive, but since no one sees it but my family and myself that’s a pretty low priority for me. The things I need most often are within an arm’s reach, and things I need less often are stored on higher shelves. I have a Cramer Kik-Step to help me access the higher shelves. And I use DevonTHINK Pro Office to organize my documents on my laptop.
Can you list three office pieces that are essential to keeping some kind of order? 1. Our Fujitsu scanner is essential for keeping paper clutter under control. I don’t need to keep most pieces of paper that come into my life, so I scan anything that is important and shred and/or recycle the physical item. The software with the scanner has optical character recognition (OCR), so I can easily search the content of all of the documents on my computer using Google Desktop.
2. The papers I have to keep for legal reasons are organized in my filing cabinet thanks to the FreedomFiler system. Seth, the owner of the company, e-mailed me three years ago and asked if I would like to try his product. When it arrived, it was an envelope full of filing tabs and a small instruction pamphlet. I actually thought it was a joke. After I read the pamphlet, though, I decided to give it a try. These goofy little filing tabs transformed my filing cabinet from a mess into a work of art. It’s a perfect system for people like me who don’t know how long to hold onto documents and which ones I need to keep and which ones I don’t. I’m a big fan.
3. Comfortable and ergonomic desk chairs. I have a Humanscale Freedom Task Chair and my husband has a Herman Miller Aeron. When designing our offices, we calculated how many hours we sit at our desks a day, and immediately went out shopping for quality chairs. No other pieces of furniture [including the couch pictured below] in our house are used more often.
What item from your desktop can you not do without? My laptop. It’s an extension of my brain — anything I can’t retain in my head is stored on my computer. I have an online and onsite backup system in place because I wouldn’t be able to function if I lost the data on my computer.
What’s the one area in your life where you’re not organized? I’m really bad about keeping in touch with people outside my immediate family. Beyond family, I have three friends who hear from me regularly. Thankfully, one of my closest friends is truly gifted at bringing people together and so I have some semblance of a social life. I’m also grateful for services like Twitter and Facebook where I can log on and learn who has had babies and who is getting married, etc. My social life is in complete disarray.
What inspires you? Every where I look and every thing I encounter inspires me. It sounds like such a fake answer, but it’s true for me. I look at a stack of books on my nightstand and think, “I could write about ways to get rid of clutter on your bookshelf.” My cat bit my foot once and it inspired me to write about taming pet fur tumbleweeds. Life is amazing and I find inspiration in every aspect of it.
February 4, 2010
One of the joys of this job – and this blog – is getting to look at other people’s homes. It satisfies the inner voyeur in all of us and gives us a bit of visual sustenance. I’m reading Alain de Botton’s Architecture of Happiness and I really like the idea of beautiful spaces and good design being sustaining. As Botton writes ‘An ugly room can coagulate any loose suspicions as to the incompleteness of life, while a sun-lit one set with honey-coloured limestone tiles can lend support to whatever is most hopeful within us.’
With that in mind I came across Jennifer Ramos’ Made by Girl’s home office – which looked perfectly great to me (I’ve also got the Obama ‘Hope’ poster that got artist Shepard Fairey into so much trouble. Although it’s not framed yet…but that’s another story). Jennifer is making the space over. I’ve emailed her to see if we can include the new office in our ‘Inspiration’ series but I couldn’t resist posting the ‘old’ office. (The walls are done in ‘Mercer’ by Ralph Lauren Paints)
Balance, Design, Products, Technology
February 3, 2010
Amy Feezor is the copy director at Real Simple magazine, she is also a freelance writer and blogs at M-Dashing about home design and decor and her obsessions with photography, artisan foods, travel, art, local restaurants, etsy.com, and organizing. This freelance life happens from her Brooklyn headquarters – a corner of her studio apartment. I thought this was a particularly appropriate ‘Inspriation’ after the last post about small spaces.
How long I’ve worked from home…and where is “home”? I have two offices: one at work-work, and one nestled in a nook within my small studio apartment. This is where I blog and work on freelance projects. I’ve been writing professionally for about ten years now, and my home office expands well beyond my desk and my Mac. It’s by my bedside within notebooks I keep handy in case I think of something while I am falling asleep (a common occurrence). It’s on my couch and my coffee table [an Eames molded plywood coffee table that was a recent purchase]. It’s in my kitchen. It’s even on the subway—I find that I do a lot of writing there (it feels strangely private…I even wrote much of this stuff on the F-train). I grew up all over the South, and don’t have an official hometown, per se. So that means that home is wherever I am at the time. Home as has been Birmingham, Nashville, London, Charlotte, Austin, and now home is Brooklyn. But it’s probably not my last home; we’ll see where the next few years take me.
What an average workday involves: Thinking quickly, writing quickly, eating quickly. Quick check-ins on email, Twitter, and my daily blog. Eating quickly again. Taking three to four meetings, in person or on conference call. Trying to find quiet moments to actually think a concept through. And reminders to myself to get up and stretch every once in a while.
Technology that inspires me? My new SLR digital camera. I can’t stop taking pictures right now, and I am really interested in how photography tells a story. As a writer, it’s a new way to adjust my eyes—to challenge myself to look beyond words and learn to rely more on the visual. It’s definitely starting to influence my work. I learned film photography back in college and have a cool metal-bodied Minolta that used to be my dad’s, but this is a whole new ballgame. I am learning more about how to control it and how it controls me. And for the record, I love my little machine so much that I’d probably make out with it if I could.
How I organize my space: My physical space is pretty organized and painfully neat. There’s not much clutter (what a disappointment; aren’t creative types supposed to be messy?). But I just can’t deal. Everything has its place with me, mostly because I’m very forgetful. Being organized helps me be less so. Also, there are folders. Many, many folders. And sometimes, they’re color-coded. My digital space largely mirrors my physical space (read: lots of colorful folders). I have a big to-do list I’ve created in Excel. I deal with bills in Quicken. And I also tend to have a bit of post-it note/Internet bookmarking problem, so I’ve been trying out Evernote.
Item on my desktop that I cannot do without: My red pen. It’s my magic editing wand. My notebook (can’t go anywhere without it). And the calendar…I’m always juggling deadlines and timelines, and need to constantly reference it. I’m still a bit old-fashioned about it, though—I like to have a paper one within reach by the desk.
What inspires me: Great storytelling, whether it’s from a book, a film, a TV series, a song, or a spot-on comedy routine. How my words look in different fonts. The designers I work with. Graffiti. Independent artists and people who post their art anonymously on the street just so it will be seen. Powerful small businesses. My camera in my hands. A big blank wall. Beautiful everyday objects. The Pacific Ocean. Other writers. Prospect Park in Brooklyn. Hampstead Heath in London. People who do things instead of just talk about them. Olive oil. Anything with butter in or on it.
Most important piece of furniture in my workspace? And what I would change about my office if I could? My desk in my workspace and my coffee table in my living space—they’ve become interchangeable, in a way. Since my studio is small, I move back and forth between the two areas to brainstorm, write, and think. They work together as my writing table, my computer holder, my place-to-find-a-pen, my library, and my dinner table. If I could change something it would be more space! A place to have a printer (mine currently lives under the bed). And a cute assistant who smells nice and has large bicep muscles (does that count?).
Balance, Design, Products, Technology
February 1, 2010
Morgan Satterfield is many things – a teacher, artist, gallery manager, blogger, thrifty shopper and the owner of a house – she is also very funny. Her blog The Brick House chronicles the renovation of the Hemet, CA home she and her husband share with their dog Iggy. (Hemet is near Palm Springs…as Morgan says, Google it).
What sort of work do you do and how does that impact the space you work in? My day job is teaching fine art and managing a gallery at a private high school for the arts. I’ve been working in contemporary art galleries for the last five years and those big white walls have rubbed their magic into my design sensibilities, especially when it comes to my work space. I’ve got to have my obligatory iMac, white walls, sculptural objects, art (of course) and clean open white space. When I’m not at school or painting I also run a blog called The Brick House that’s all about buying our first home and it’s slow and budget friendly renovation in a sleepy retirement community in Southern California. Most of my blogging for The Brick House is done at home in our office. I don’t need much equipment to run the blog, just a home, a camera and a computer. Also, the balls to put it all on the internet.
How long have you been in your current work space and what size is it? I’ve been in this space for about two years. The desk is an original built-in constructed in the 1950′s and is almost twelve feet long when you add together the two sections of the L-shape. It has tons of storage and is a spacial beast that takes up about half of the room.
Do you have any tips on how to organize a work space? Oh no, I just stick everything in drawers and hope nobody opens them. I like everything in view to be beautiful or functional while all the other crap needs to be hidden away. Built-in storage is great for this, if you opened the doors you’d be horrified at the mess but a casual glance gives the impression that I’m super clean and very organized. It’s all an illusion.
What are some of the pitfalls of blogging from home? It sucks up a lot of time. Time I could be using to organizing my drawers.
What do you most enjoy about working from home? All my content and material are right here. All I have to do is look around and go “hey that’s ugly, lets fix it” and bam – blog content. Plus my dog [that's Iggy below] and the fridge are here, so that makes it awesome. Oh, and I can wear my pajamas. I’m doing it right now.
Do you have a desk accessory you can’t work without? My iMac. It’s amazing.
How big a role does technology play in your work? Huge. HUGE. Super huge. Without technology there would be no blog. The Brick House wouldn’t have every frivilous detail documented and posted on the internet for international perusal and judgement without my digital camera, computer and Photoshop. I use technology for my classes and in the gallery constantly. Computers, cameras, projectors and the internet are indespensible when it comes to almost everything we do. Super dependancy, even in something as analog as a painting class. Digital technology is a tool that is increasingly embedded in the structure of working and education.
I just got a new Mac mouse and it’s incredible – is there anything you’re loving right now? I want a new Mac mouse desperately, the scrolling ball on my old Mac mouse sucks. Just so awful. I recently got my first iPhone and I think we are in a romantic relationship. Now I finally know what all the fuss was about.
January 29, 2010
Rob Hopkins is a a young designer and blogger living in San Diego. What inspires him? You’ll need to read all the way to the bottom of the interview to find out.
How long have you worked from home…and where is ‘home’? I started working right out of college which was 3 years ago, so I’m still relatively new to the experience. I live in San Diego, but home will always be Buffalo, NY. I’m extremely proud of where I’m from, which is the inspiration behind The Queen City Studio, right now it’s just my blog, but someday it will be a legit design studio! My apartment now is two blocks from San Diego’s Mission Bay which sports a great view of downtown, and it’s about a mile from the Pacific Ocean. Being in a place with almost perfect weather year round definitely has its perks.
What does an average work day involve? I’ve actually been working full time at an interactive agency for the past year. But, I work from home every Friday and I do all of my freelance work at night or on the weekends, so I’m still working from home quite a bit. My typical work-at-home day is wake up mid-morning, eat some breakfast and go through all of my favorite design related blogs to get my mind going. After a couple of hours of work, I’d head out to my patio to read and/or take a nap in the sun. Wake up, do some more work, hit the gym, eat dinner, and then get the bulk of my work done in the evening/night. I’m definitely a night person. There’s something extremely calming about working at night with the windows open and some music playing. It allows me to get into my own little world and whatever I’m working on becomes a part of that world and doesn’t feel like work.
Is there any form of technology that really inspires you, helps you work more efficiently? I would have to say the iPhone is pretty inspiring. At work we’re in the final stages of development of an iPhone app for a big action sports brand, which I designed, and the experience has been really rewarding. In terms of design, it’s still a very new medium and so much can be done in what seems to be such a small space. The same thing happened with web design. In the beginning, developers (or “web designers”) were the only people designing websites – which made for some pretty visually painful websites. But once graphic designers learned the medium, websites became a lot more sophisticated. Don’t get me wrong, there are still a lot of bad sites out there, but there are also tons of beautiful ones. Anyways, the same thing is happening with the iPhone. A lot of apps are still very shiny and tacky; they use tons of gradients and big rounded corners, bulky bevels—because most are done by the developers that work on them. But that’s changing. I’d bet that most designers own iPhones by now, and we can’t help but look at these apps and want to clean them up. It’s just how we think, and we’re learning the medium to try and establish better aesthetic standards.
How do you organize your space? As far as physical space goes, I tend to like ‘organized clutter’ meaning I like having a lot of ‘stuff’ but I keep it all pretty organized. Whether it’s something large or a tiny knick-knack everything is neatly placed, so I can still easily function. I’m also the exact opposite of a pack-rat—if something isn’t needed or wanted, it’s in the trash. To some, the wall above my desk or the stickers on my MacBook might seem random, but there’s a very meticulous and planned approach when anything is added. In terms of software and programs, I tend to just use my own system. I keep things separated by project, a place for active and inactive projects, source files, copy, etc. I’m the same with files as I am with physical stuff—if I don’t need it, I trash it. We use Basecamp at work, and it’s a really great tool for organizing projects, corresponding with other team members, keeping track of deadlines, and documenting conversations.
What item from your desktop can you not do without? My MacBook Pro. I think it may be the best purchase I’ve ever made. If there’s a fire, there’s no way it’s not coming with me. Oh, this isn’t a tangible item, but my music – I’d be useless with out my music. [Below is a piece from Rob's personal portfolio]
What inspires you? It might be cliché, but honestly, everything around me can be inspiring. It seems like I notice things that most people might not, whether I like them or not I think I take something away from everything I see. More specifically, I think it’s the work of my peers that inspires me the most. There are so many talented people out there doing great work, and at the end of the day I want to be right there with them. Not because I want to “be a famous designer” or anything, but because, simply put, design is one of the most powerful tools in the world—who wouldn’t want to contribute to that? [Below is another piece from his personal portfolio]
Balance, Design, Products, Technology
January 27, 2010
Jaime Derringer is the editor of Design Milk, an online magazine devoted to modern design. But that is just one of her many hats. She also edits Art Milk, collaborates with Erin Loechner on Bakery (they ‘bake’ businesses) and contributes to AOL’s blogs on home and design. I checked in with this busy woman and found out it takes a good dose of organization to get all that work done – and a lot of energy.
How long have you worked from home…and where is ‘home’? I have been working from home since July 2009. It is like a dream come true and I wake up every day thankful that my boss is so nice. Actually, I’m lying – she’s kind of hard on me. I’ve never worked harder in my life than I have now that I quit my day job but I couldn’t be happier. I live in Southern NJ right outside of Philadelphia, PA with my husband Jordan and my two dogs, Beans and Lulu. We spent a few years in San Diego, CA but moved back about a year ago. We’re trying to figure out how to live in both places at once.
What does an average work day involve? I usually get up and get going immediately. I can’t just lay around. I need to be moving because as soon as I wake up my mind just starts to go. I spend the first part of my day reading and answering emails, reading my RSS feeds, checking on my blogs, looking at stats, and checking Facebook and Twitter. Much of the rest of the day is spent writing and editing posts for Design Milk, Art Milk, BAKERY and also my AOL blogs, ShelterPop and DIY Life. It depends on the day which blogs I focus on. I do work in the office, rather than on the couch because it helps me work harder and helps separate my living space from my work space. But I won’t lie — I do have a Macbook and spend a lot of time on the couch after regular work hours, but often I’m also watching TV or house-hunting rather than really working.
I just got the new Apple mouse and it’s amazing. It has definitely changed the way I work. Is there any form of technology that really inspires you? All Apple products inspire me, from their design to their functionality. I own just about the whole catalogue. I’m really into the idea of community, in other words, manufacturers who create devices that can be added on to by just about anyone. For example, the iPhone and other phones’ applications and Facebook’s platform, where users can create what they want and need. I love the idea of technology being a foundation or vehicle for further advancement.
How do you organize your space? I’m thinking here of your physical space but also your virtual space. Any particular software that helps keep things under control? I can get messy when I’m engrossed in projects or super busy, but I am one of those people who washes the dishes while the dinner party is still underway. I like to keep things clean and put all my toys away when I’m finished playing with them. Basically, I like a clean, simple desktop. [The IKEA drawer unit above nestles next to Jaime's desk and acts as excellent storage].
On my computer, I also apply the same logic – file it away when you’re done. My current favorite virtual programs are Google docs and iCal. I can’t function during the day without iCal. The Stendig calendar [on the wall above her desk] I get every year from Unica Home. I use it every day despite my obsession with iCal. My chair is the Cobi from Smart Furniture (Smartfurniture.com). When I finally find that perfect house and it’s time for an office upgrade, I’ve got the Aeron and Eames Aluminum on my short list. (The Philadelphia poster is from Ork Posters.)
What item from your desktop can you not do without? Besides my computer? Probably my printed blogging schedule. I’m old school so I like to print it out each week and check off the posts as I schedule them. My current favorite accessory is my WTF snowglobe that my mom got me for Christmas after I posted about it on my blog. It just makes me laugh and keeps me from taking anything too seriously.
What inspires you? I recently attended a blogger conference called Altitude Design Summit and I have to say nothing inspires me more than my peers. More inspiration comes from blogs, other motivated and determined people, mountains, Apple products, and my brother who is legally blind but just got a master’s degree in interactive entertainment (gaming).
Balance, Design, Products
January 26, 2010
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.
Balance, Design, Products
January 22, 2010
Stephanie Congdon Barnes is the other half of 3191 Miles Apart. We ran an interview with her friend and blogging partner MAV on Wednesday. Interestingly, Stephanie recently moved out of her home office to a space down the street which she shares with her husband. We talked about the transition and how work still spills into her home.
How long have you worked from home? Can you tell us a bit about your work? I have worked from home off and on since the birth of my daughter ten years ago in different capacities. About four years ago I opened an online shop of my handmade goods and set up a studio workspace in a spare bedroom. Eventually, I gave up that space so my son could have his own room, and then, this past fall, I moved full-time to sharing a workspace out of the home with my husband, who is an architect. I still do quite a bit of work from home, but no longer have a dedicated workspace there.
I start my workday after I cook breakfast, pack lunches and get my kids to school. Sometimes, my husband Jack and I walk together up to our workspace (it’s about seven blocks from our home), sometimes we arrive separately. I spend part of my workday working with Jack on architecture projects and the rest of the time working on items for my shop and other projects like 3191 or our blog Shelter. I also use this time to make post office runs, look for supplies and source materials, take photos, volunteer at school and take care of household errands like grocery shopping.
We usually walk home for lunch together each day. I leave in the early afternoon to collect my kids from school and take them to activities or relax with them at home. After dinner and family time, my kids go to bed, and most nights I will work for anywhere from 2-5 more hours either catching up on email or doing the hand-sewing on my shop items. I bring home both my laptop and a basket of handwork each day.
How big is your work space? Our workspace is about 200 square feet and is housed in a great old historic building that used to be the telephone exchange. We each have a large work table, and we share some plywood cubicle shelves that my husband built. There’s a vintage round Herman Miller table for working together or meeting with clients.
Is there any form of technology that really inspires you? Oh, I am not very tech-savvy. I do love my ipod and having all my music available to me digitally on my computer. Listening to music is a constant in my day.
What desk accessory can’t you do without? Well, as an artist I don’t have the typical office-workers desk! I love my Clover leather thimble more than anything.
Do you have any tips for organizing a home work space? From my experience, I would recommend having a space with a door that closes, so you can leave your work behind. Keeping my home and work lives separate was very difficult for me. It is much easier for my family when I can leave (most) of my work behind.
Other than that, I rely on baskets to keep stuff somewhat organized and uncluttered. I also store away everything that I am not currently using (excess fabric, books and supplies) completely out of site. Having a clear space to work in really helps me keep calm and less frazzled.
What do you wish you could change about the space? And what do you most love about it? We could use a little more space to stretch out in our office as well as more shelving for storage. I love the high ceilings, huge windows and natural light. I also love my neighborhood and the connections I am able to make with the people that live and work nearby.
January 20, 2010
Maria Alexandra Vettese (know as MAV) is a stylist and art director. Along with her friend Stephanie Congdon Barnes, she writes one of my favorite blogs – 3191 Miles Apart. They live in Portland – one in Oregon and the other in Maine. And they both have an excpetional eye for beauty. They also recently had two books published – collections of images from their blog – 3191: A Year of Morning and 3191: A Year of Evenings. I talked to MAV about her workspace.
How long have you worked from home? Can you tell us a bit about your work? What does a ‘normal’ day involve for you? I have shifted my workplace a few times in the last few years. I worked out of my apartment from ’04–early ’08 and then I moved to a street-level space. I was there until early ’09 when the water leaks were so bad we were forced out! Sad but true. So then it was back into a small apartment on the West End which my boyfriend and I turned into our workspace. We are still there now. A normal day for me involves getting up around 6am and taking the first two hours of the day to do my thing — shower, feed the cats, stretch, make a hot breakfast, drink coffee, straighten up around the apartment — that sort of thing. I like my days to start out as un-rushed as possible which is why I’m an early riser. Then I’m to work by 8am or 8:30 and stay at work till around 6pm. In the evening I am either home cooking and going to bed early with a book or sketchbook or I’m out with friends for dinner or drinks. I don’t work in the evenings anymore. I just refuse. It’s very easy when you work from home to see lines blurred with work/life. I’m really staunch about this and don’t even have internet at home. In ’06 and ’07 I worked non-stop and it really made a mess of me. Now I strive for balance even if it means I have to say “no” to a project I might want to do. There is only so much time in the day and I need to make sure I can spend a good bit of it giving love … to myself or to those in my life.
How big is your work space? It’s an 800 square foot apartment right now (250 of that is a bedroom and 200 a kitchen). We have two large rooms and a shipping area. It’s very indulgent to have so much space. This coming March that will change once again and we will go back to just a 250 square foot office room in the apartment.
I am loving my new Mac mouse right now. Is there any form of technology that really inspires you? I admit to not being very forward when it comes to technology. I’ve been pretty impressed with the iPhone but that is pretty old news. I guess I’m in the dark ages most of the time!
What desk accessory can’t you do without? A few … my old calculator, a can full of pens & pencils, an external hard-drive (since my laptop crash I am fervent about backing up my files) and old scissors that can cut through ribbon (love these old guys).
Do you have any tips for organizing a home work space? Get rid of clutter. Use baskets, bins, shelves, crates … whatever it takes. I keep my tables as empty as possible and as organized as possible even if it means putting stacks of things I’m working on on the floor. I think it’s a trick to your brain to have things cleaned off … makes the start of the day feel that much more together.
What do you wish you could change about the space? And what do you most love about it? I would much rather be working on the street-level again. I miss seeing friends on any random day and meeting new people who might just stumble into the studio. That said I get a ton of work done each and every day because I am working in an apartment without interruption. I love that my space is very changeable and on one day I can have up a wall of inspirational tear-sheets for a client and the next day I can throw up a seamless and be shooting photographs in that same space for another client. I love that it’s a space I share with another very talented and inspiring artist (who is not around very often so I get it mostly to myself). I love that it’s in a part of town that is quiet and yet I can walk to the PO, to a coffee shop and to get a slice of pizza.