Custom HOME OFFICE
Connections of and to a home office space need to be carefully considered. Connection to the things that encourage focus, energy, and productivity should be strong. Connection to unnecessary distractions should be minimized. Connections to other things should be purposefully filtered by the design. We usually do not wish to completely disconnect ourselves from our family when working from home; however, we cannot maintain productivity and focus if we are connected to every conversation - that becomes distraction. There is a careful balance that needs to be created and maintained in that connection.
The ideal workspace looks something like this: You get together your things from your house - water bottle, work bag, an apple, let your partner and kids know you’re stepping out of the house and will be in your office working. You open the door and walk out into the fresh air and sunlight. The office is only a few feet from the house, but the path to its door takes you around a couple of bushes, along the path that arcs around a corner of the yard to the little stone patio under the roof that shades your office door. You step inside, slip off your shoes, and set your work bag and other things down while looking out the still-open door. The view is across the yard, and to the neighbour’s massive shade tree with the bird feeder hanging in it. The things in the view are not completely new to you, but not particularly familiar, either. You know the tree, the feeder, the wooden fence, the lawn. But it is all viewed from a different angle than ever presented to your home or its deck. It is a completely different view, in fact, a wholly different presentation of the landscape. It’s your work view. You know, subconsciously, that you’ve moved from your home sphere to your workplace. Your attention has turned from domestic activities to your work. Though it’s very near, you cannot actually see your house. The normal goings on inside are completely unseen and unheard, but the occasional louder activity - a squeal of laughter from the kids, an excited shout for fresh cookies, the housedog’s bark - would still be heard in a distant, gentle, poignant sort of way.
The office itself is light and airy. There’s only your desk with its chair, a lamp, and a small collection of books in your immediate workspace. In an opposite corner, a comfortable armchair sits, inviting one to grab a steaming cup and temporarily escape the details on the desk in order to recapture the grander theme of the project. The ceiling rises up on its way to a massive supporting beam. Your thoughts naturally rise with it.
Gentle, indirect light pours in from the north and east walls, giving the room a freshness and zest. The west and south walls have glass, as well, but are carefully configured such that a harsh, direct beam of light never enters the office. The midday sun’s intensity is broken and filtered by overhead leaves, the generous, embracing overhang of the office’s low roof eaves, and by textured window glass. There is no direct view to the house, unless one steps out onto the edge of the stone porch. The views from inside are controlled in each direction, but full of greenery and natural light. Though the office sits very near the privacy fence on one side, a Japanese style garden fills the view from that window. It’s simple and calming, but has an energy to it. The backdrop is greenery covering the fence. In the foreground there is a couple of sleek-leaved plants rising from a single point in the mulch-covered ground, and gracefully splaying out, their leaves like fountain streams in some upscale park lake. One has a blossom just about to open into a deep purple flower. There is a latticework framing one side of the little garden scene, and greenery similar to that along the backdrop curves around completing the view on the other. Just in view, on the left, is a birdbath. That eye of water completes the landscape with the basic necessity of life and instinctively we see the view as a microcosm of the wider landscape and ecosystem - sunlight, plants, animals, and water. Viewing an ecosystem with each of its parts intact and functioning to provide for the others gives a subconscious but powerful sense of calm clarity. Immediate needs are met, our instincts tell us. On a more practical level, a water dispenser and kettle in the corner next to the turned wooden fruit bowl mean our needs for the workday are met by the space we’re in. Thoughts are free to rise to higher considerations than meeting basic needs.
We also know, instinctively, that we can hear should some emergency arise with our family. They are not out of our earshot. Our protective instincts are satisfied, increasing that calm clarity that lets us focus. An important message from your spouse can be delivered as simply as him or her opening the house door and calling out. And it can be answered as simply as you standing in your office doorway and speaking back. Not with a shout to an invisible speaker, but simply an outdoor voice and a gesture. Then, when the exchange ends, two steps back to the desk and you have re-entered your work zone and productivity can easily resume.
Sitting at your desk, the warmth of the wood grain under your hands gives you a grounded sense. The massive wood posts rising to support the ceiling provide a sense of investedness, of long-sightedness and security. Working within the arc of the beams gently coaxes one to do things worth doing right. To work with a legacy in mind. While you work away at emails and editing documents on the laptop at your desk, the greenery of a small plant in your peripheral, and the gentle, balance light around you gives you the sense you are exactly where you should be, doing just the work that needs to be done. There is nothing confined about the small space. The raised ceiling, minimalist decor, and intentional layout give a sense of airy lightness, as if there is room for all sorts of grand thoughts and designs to come to fruition there. Between calls or during a moment's pause, your eyes naturally wander to the craftsmanship of each exposed connection in the building. Mortised joints, carefully notched rafters, strong oak pegs do not distract, but they provide a nudge of inspiration, of encouragement, as they stand in silent witness to the inherent, captivating, understated beauty of a job done well and right. And they are the absolutely ideal backdrop for video calls. Once a source of anxiety, you can now revel in the experience of connecting with colleagues in realtime. Your background is a model to others of productivity in design. It is a quiet statement of the reward of intentionally created environments, and immediately raised the quality of the exchange in intangible but powerful ways.
You are connected to the right things in the right dose. Your surroundings are working with you, rather than against you. The things around you are not competing for your attention, but supporting your concentration and energy level. Your mood is naturally positive, because on a primal level, you are not fighting the space around you. You are not in hostile territory; you are not in a hazardous place to your life and basic needs. Instinctively, you are overlooking the peaceful valley meadow that gave your ancestors a sense of calm and led them to the higher level of thinking. That plane of thinking is what drove long-term planning and investment to bring them into a more comfortable and productive lifestyle. Our space should promote the same plane of thinking for us.