What would be the point in having a home office, if it didn’t feel like a home? If the first part of this two-part article was about the office in home office, or perhaps a simple introduction to the needs of a freelancer, then this second one is about the home. A home should feel comfortable and inviting. A place of refuge, inspiration and relaxation, a place worth spending your time and a place that should be yours—a true reflection of who you are. It goes without saying that this is especially true of the home office. It should be a space that you can be in for long hours and never feel uncomfortable or out of place. A space that lets your creative juices flow, without stifling or restricting your imagination. I was lucky enough to speak to the editor of Design*Sponge, Grace Bonney, as well as Amsterdam based creative, talented and all round good guy, Martin Pyper about these types of places.
We all know the feeling of coming home after a rough day. Our homes give us safety and warmth and love. We feel comfortable in our homes. We put that which will make us smile on the walls and the books that make us think on the shelves. Our collections are scattered everywhere and, more often than not, we somehow turn our mountain of possessions into the foundations of our home. Brick and timber may build our houses, but it’s the heart and soul that strengthen our homes. So if you were to have an office that is a part of your home, why not pour your heart and soul into it? Make it yours as best you can and make it an inspiring and beautiful place and your well of inspiration shall never run dry.
For the editor of Design*Sponge, the name Grace is rather fitting. She and the other writers she works with on D*S manage to bring their audience beauty several times a day. Design*Sponge is one of the sites that make me smile when it pops up in my RSS reader. From the work of illustrators and product and interior designers to beautiful furniture, lovely textiles and all the bits and pieces you’d need to make your home feel like home. The content they provide gives so much inspiration that you’ll want to start making additions to your own home as soon as you load the homepage up. Go and visit it, visit it often, I gurantee you won’t be disapointed.
It is such a thrill for me to have had my questions answered by Grace, as I’ve been following D*S for quite a while and always wanted to reach out and have a quick chat. She was kind enough to make time in her busy schedule to give us a few tips on how to make an office a home.
What do you think is one of the easiest ways someone can make a home office more comfortable, especially on a tight budget? Are there any must haves?
Absolutely – the easiest things to change out are lighting, floors (with the addition of rugs or carpet tiles) and desk accessories. I always suggest to readers that they soften things up by adding interior lamps rather than ‘office’ lamps, or try something dramatic and adding in a chandelier or bold pendant lamp above their desk. If you don’t have a home office or permission to change hardwired lighting stick to colorful table lamps found at inexpensive stores like cb2.com and Target (Target AU).
Soften things up by adding interior lamps rather than ‘office’ lamps, or try something dramatic and add in a chandelier or bold pendant lamp
For flooring I always suggest adding an area rug, which really brings a room to life. Ikea has a great selection as does cb2. InterfaceFLOR makes great carpet tiles that you can use for a more streamlined look.
Clearing up your desk always makes a big difference, too. I’d suggest a site like seejanework.com to find coordinated desk accessories.
Would you say the way we decorate our offices changes the way we work, act and feel in a major way?
Definitely. If you work in a cluttered environment that doesn’t reflect your personal style your attitude and work will reflect that. If your office is organized well and pleasing to look at, you’re going to be more productive and feel more at home.
Should a home office feel more like a home, or more like an office? Should it be a very minimal and modern space, or a very relaxed one?
An office should never be so comfortable that you want to curl up and take a nap, but I think a few home touches like table lamps instead of task lamps and adding a rug make things more comfortable. So many of us spend the majority of our time in an office so that space should be as inviting as possible.
So many of us spend the majority of our time in an office
so that space should be as inviting as possible
Do you have any advice or comments for those who are about to setup their home office?
Take advantage of three (well, maybe four) great resources: thrift stores, Ikea and your own two hands. Thrift stores are great places to find lighting and small furniture that you can use to accessorize and dress up your office. Ikea is also great for office basics and decorating basics. But because you don’t want your office to look like everyone elses – use your own two hands and a little DIY—know how to update or add to existing pieces to make them feel more like you.
And finally, why do you think we have such an interesting in seeing the homes and offices of others?
I think homes are a special place for everyone and we thrive on seeing how other people have reinterepreted such a classic and recognizable space.
I think homes are a special place for everyone
Thank you for your time, Grace! Be sure to head on over to Design*Sponge for daily inspiration, I gurantee it’ll become a favorite of yours.
Whenever a European office or home is shown on TV or in a film, I always sigh and mutter ‘ahh, one day’ to myself. The beautiful views, old buildings full of character and huge bookshelves just seem too good to be true. For Martin Pyper, it is a reality. He has the kind of space you dream of—in the middle of one of the worlds most beautiful cities, Amsterdam, hardwood floors, ceiling-high bookshelves and a garden on the roof which you get to by climbing a ladder on the bookshelf. Unbelievable, isn’t it? Martin was kind enough to let us into his world.
How would you describe your space and the kind of work you do?
My office is on the top floor (5th) of an old warehouse building right in the centre of Amsterdam, on one side looking out onto the most central canal in Amsterdam, the ‘singel’, and on the other side looking out onto a narrow alleyway with a church and ‘red light’ prostitute windows … a good mix of high and low life, it’s one minute walk from central station and always busy on the streets, most of my clients are situated in the centre of town too so I am lucky enough to be able to travel everywhere by bicycle, the luxury of not having to own a car.
I am a graphic designer, working mainly on books, posters and corporate identities (logos and housestyles) a lot of my work is photography based and I tens to spend a fair amount of time on location in photo studios in Amsterdam.
The office is a large open space with wooden floors, old wooden beams, it has a large skylight window that opens out onto the roof and two very old bow windows looking out onto an old church with stained-glass windows and beautiful old stone work. The church is still in use so the windows are often lit up in the evenings and I often here choirs singing which all makes it a very inspiring environment.
Two of the walls are slanted which means that some of the space is limited and the furniture is placed to fit under the slanted walls to save space. The other two walls are completely covered in a large floor to ceiling bookcase which I had custom-made to fit the room, with a sliding ladder which also acts as the exit route to the roof—you climb up on top of the bookcase to go onto the roof through a door in the skylight.
There is also a large open window on the south side looking out across town, towards the clock tower of the ‘westerkerk’ a famous landmark in town.
You have a lot of great distractions – a great collection of books, comfortable chairs, a lounge with a view and a drum kit right next to your desk – do you find all of this makes it harder to work? Or is it comforting knowing that you can drop whatever you’re doing and just relax?
I do indeed have a lot of distractions but I don’t see them as such – rather as part of my work. The books are all design related and I often refer to them, the drums – I’m still trying to start taking lessons but that’s meant to be a way of getting away from the computer for a while … I am very passionate about music and always, always work with music on (mainly techno). The drum kit I rigged up to the Mac so that I can play along.
I have always lived surrounded by books, so I feel comfortable being around books. My work is also my hobby, so when I am in the office I am also doing what I enjoy the most – having a job that is also a hobby is great but also difficult because you are always working.
Does your office feel like it’s a part of your home, or is it a different type of space, especially setup so you can get into the ‘work’ mode? ie. different furnishings, walls painted a different colour, different types of things on the wall?
The office and my home are interconnected and everything is decorated the same, simple and natural. As I said my work is my life so it all feels part of the same thing to me, I often take the laptop into the house and watch TV while working, for example!
Could you tell me about your book collection? What kind of topics do they cover and do you refer to them for often, for the work you do? Do they help make your office feel like it’s home?
My book collection is pretty large and all design & photography related. I also have many typography books and there are several pretty rare books in there too. I also read a lot of novels and there is a large bookcase in the livingroom in the house full of novels. Again, I feel very comfortable around books and have always spent a lot of cash on books and music.
What do you love most about your space?
The thing I love the most about my space is that it’s so full of all my stuff but also feels very empty and tidy. I need to be organised in the house to be able to work properly in my head. I have a large poster case with sliding drawers where I keep my poster collection—my own designs and the ones I have acquired, and once a month I change the poster hanging in the office. Basically I am surrounded by all the things I have seen and made in my life so far, which is a very comforting idea.
Thanks Martin! You can find Martin’s impressive folio of work at mestudio, so give it a look and know that his work comes from a great place, both mentally and physically.
Two articles and four interviews. Heed the words spoken and you can’t go wrong. It doesn’t take much to turn a house into a home, nor is much effort needed to turn a spare-room-cum-office into a home office, a place where you are comfortable and nurtured, yet motivated and provides a drive for you to work. While what surrounds you doesn’t necessarily define who you are as a creative, it would definitely help fuel the right fires. So make sure that when you walk into your room you can’t help but feel excitement and a surge of energy, rather than a need to tidy up that pile of papers and neaten up the bookshelf, or worse still, a sense of dread.
If you are spending hours upon hours in any single room, the room should be a space worth spending your minutes—do everything you can, so that you walk into a room with music that dances in the air; artwork on the walls that enlightens; and books on your shelves that ignite and inspire.
REFERENCES & LINKS
Part one of this two part series, in which I speak to the fantastic Skellie of Skelliewag, Freelanceswitch and Anywired fame, as well as the talented graphic designer Traci Yau
Wherewedowhatwedo is one of the best sites on the net when it comes to getting peeks into the offices of others. It’s updated frequently and has some great photos.
On my desk
On my desk is one of the most established sites for showing the offices of illustrators, designers, web developers and many, many creatives. It isn’t updated as much as it use to be, but still a great site to lose some time.
Aint No Disco
Mostly showing corporate studios, there is still much to be inspired by, for your home office.
Apartment Therapy is a great well of inspiration for all of us who have a space we call our own. From homey homes, to elegant modern apartments, there is so much here that you’ll find something that’ll work for the look and feel you’re after.
Design Sponge is a great site dedicated to showing you how to beautify your home! It’ll quickly become a daily visit once you’ve been there once.