Sarah Reid in her home office for her online print company Mammoth. Don Denton photography

Another Day at the Home Office

Creating beauty and balance working from home

  • Aug. 27, 2018 12:45 p.m.

Ask anyone who works out of a home office and they’ll tell you the same thing: they can get a lot accomplished, but they have to be disciplined. And creating a great space to work within can help with both.

For some, a home-work environment is the only way to make any kind of work possible. Sarah Reid, runs her online art print gallery, Mammoth, out of her home office in the Gorge Tillicum area and loves the fact that she can roll out of bed, make a cup of coffee and be at work right away. She recently renovated the second bedroom in her house to convert it into an office with great lighting and large desks where she can cut and frame her art.

“I bought my house three years ago and loved the room that’s now my office because it has great light,” she recalled. “But it also had forest green carpet and a horrible lighting fixture.”

Newly remodelled, the home office works well for her now that it’s been repainted, outfitted with new flooring and baseboards and had a new light fixture installed. The challenge now is making sure she gets out of the house enough.

“I can spend all day in my office which can be a disadvantage,” she admitted. “My office is right next to the bedroom and I can work 12 hours straight without even thinking about it. I have to consciously build healthy patterns into my day to make sure I have breakfast, go to yoga, take a walk and have social time with friends. If I didn’t it would be easy to put my head down and spend all day by myself.”

Because Sarah prints, frames, packages and ships right from her office, the space needs to be functional. But she’s added a few touches to make its environment more approachable.

“The studio is full of records,” she says. “Music is a huge part of my life. There is nothing more perfect than printing art late at night with wine and records. Plus, flipping records is a great excuse to get up from the computer.”

Working from home can make it challenging to separate work life from home life because the two become so closely intertwined. But it’s a luxury to work from the comfort of your home, says Larry Myers, an interior and exterior designer with Alfresco Living Design.

“I started working out of a home office 15 years ago for practicality, lifestyle and convenience,” he said. “I don’t have any staff and I don’t need a commercial space. So it made sense to work out of my home in Esquimalt.”

Recently he renovated his home and opened up his living spaces. These days he’s working out of the great room, a main living area that includes the kitchen, dining room and living area. It contains a workstation with a desk and chair which is all Myers needs, since he works in a CAD computer environment with no need for paper or supportive materials.

Designer Larry Myers in his home office tucked into an alcove off of his kitchen (Don Denton photograph)

“There’s a lovely convenience and luxury to working from home,” he admitted. “From my home office I look out to a beautiful exterior landscape and love gazing outside. I’m not tied down to specific hours or a specific office station and I can work when I’m inspired to do so. But you have to be disciplined, organized and efficient to manage a transition from a commercial office space to a residential one. If you succeed, working from home can be a more efficient use of your time … and allow you the flexibility to have a more balanced lifestyle.”

Samantha Dickie, a professional ceramics artist and single mom of children ages 10 and 14, built her entire home around her second floor ceramics studio when she moved to the Victoria neighbourhood of Fairfield eight years ago.

“I need to have my work space at home so I can accommodate parenting and control drying times for my art,” she reflected. “At this stage in my life, it’s perfect.”

Samantha’s 750-square-foot studio was designed to capture maximum light and engineered to withstand the weight of two large kilns and heavy clay.

“We added concrete floors, drainage and extraction ventilation specifically so I could have a healthy, safe home with the kind of work space I need,” she explained. “It’s such an inspiring space and I love working there. My studio has bog windows through which I get a lot of sunshine and a view of the trees. In between my domestic responsibilities I’m able to get a lot done in there.”

There are drawbacks to working from home as an artist and Samantha is the first to admit it.

“My work life is very interrupted by my responsibilities to drop my kids off at school or at dance. Also, I’m very isolated by spending so much time at home. If I worked artistically in an environment where there were multiple studios and lots of different artists I’d be surrounded by a community of people who mutually influence each other’s work and provide each other with creative touchstones. That would be ideal, but it’s not always practical, particularly if you’re parenting.”

Ceramic artist Samatha Dickie in her office on a landing outside her studio (Don Denton photograph)

For now she finds a compromise to the isolation by making an effort to be involved in creative endeavours outside the home. Samantha does creative workshops at her children’s elementary school, participates in residency programs and shows her work in exhibitions.

“Whenever possible I try to work collaboratively and balance my year between doing residential design work, teaching and my own studio work.”

Lawrie Keogh, a registered designer with Gabriel Rosslawrie keo in Victoria worked with freelance writer Claudia de Veaux on designing her home office. (See tips below).

“I’ve worked in a variety of spaces … from a cramped laundry room to a vast warehouse,” says Claudia. “I discovered it didn’t matter what the environment, if I had a big desk with lots of surface, I was happy and productive. So once I figured out how to maximize the desk size for this space, everything else fell into place.”

She added: “Working at home can be distracting, so I made sure my office was fun and inviting. Lots of art, memorabilia, and the garden view keep me in my seat even when I’m feeling restless!”

Writer Claudia de Veaux with her dog Rody in her Oak Bay home office (Don Denton photograph)

Outfitting Your Home Office

If you’re thinking about transitioning to a work-from-home environment, give yourself the best shot at it by approaching it strategically and methodically. Lawrie Keogh, with Gabriel Ross, offers these tips to setting up the ultimate home office:

 Ensure your office is a comfortable space where you’ll want to spend long periods of time.

 Add art, a comfortable chair in the corner and something that makes the space personally and distinctly yours.

 If you’ll be at a computer all day long, invest in an ergonomically comfortable desk and a chair that’s height adjustable.

 Pay attention to the quality of light in your home office so you will have visual relief from a computer screen and no glare. Invest in window coverings if necessary and ensure you have good ambient lighting.

 Ensure there’s good shelving or storage if you need to access resource documents in binders or boxes.

 Examine your workflow needs so you can consider what kind of furniture you’ll need.

– Story Lauren Kramer

Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication

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