Social distancing due to Covid-19 has created a culture of indoor living like we have never seen before. Quarantine has forced us to go back to a simpler life of spending more time with our families, cooking from scratch, and getting creative with our surroundings. Re-decorating has become a popular activity and suddenly we all need a home office.
Freelance writers and editors are well acquainted with working from home. Some might call us at-home office gurus. Allow us to show you a set-up that is both aesthetically pleasing, functional and good for your wellbeing, plus some stylish furniture. For help, we inquired with New York City architect, Francine Monaco, and organization expert, Marty Basher.
Francine Monaco is the co-founder and principal architect of D’Aquino Monaco, an award-winning architectural and interior design firm in New York City.
Hobnob: Working from home poses obvious challenges. Any thoughts on working from home during the covid-19 pandemic?
Francine Monaco: In our first Instagram post on working remotely, we posed the questions that these weeks of working from home would bring forward. We focused on “Home as a Refuge”, that is, creating the necessary boundaries between our private and public lives. Collapsing all of this into our homes today can be challenging, especially for those who live in small city apartments or share their home with a partner or roommate. We applied these principles when designing this New York City penthouse studio (seen in the photo at the top of this post and above) whose separate areas define the three important parts of your indoor life.
Hobnob: What do you recommend?
FM: In considering an approach to any design opportunity, we at D’Aquino Monaco believe in identifying a sense of place, ideally, one that celebrates the rituals or activities of your day: sleeping, eating, bathing, work, exercise, etc for each room. However, if your bedroom is the only option for working, avoid using the bed as your desk—the bed is for rest. Carve out a separate area for work; re-frame what “bedroom” is so that you can shift your mindset from relaxation and sleep to work mode.
If the dining table is also the desk, then set the table for each meal even with candles or flowers to celebrate the meal. In between meals, clear the table — change your seat and set up for work.
Living room: Remember the TV tray? That tray could now serve as the sofa work table which will allow for a defined boundary that can be cleared away when work is not the focus.
Near a window is a great spot to set your favorite chair to soak up the light, which has the added benefit of providing necessary intervals of distraction of gazing outside.
Hobnob: Any thoughts on creating a positive and productive home while in quarantine and beyond?
FM: One thing changing in our lives these days is routine – the ritual of waking, dressing and going to work or some threshold that marks the beginning of our day. These transitions are important for creating awareness of quotidian changes. Find ways to create similar thresholds in your day – go for a walk between waking and work – work and refuge. Good design does not always live in the objects or composition of the space but in the attitude or respect we bring to the moments of the day.
Marty Basher is a design and organization expert with Modular Closets. He has over 20 years of experience.
Hobnob: How can we create an organized at-home office that will be stress-free and still useful after the covid19 crisis is over?
Marty Basher: Depending on how much space you have, the key to a stress-free home office is having it in a quiet location that is somewhat cut off from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the house. Ideally, that means that there is a door that can be closed. Some ways to accomplish that:
• A spare bedroom can easily double as an office by moving the bed to the side and turning it into a seating area / daybed. Then add a desk, lighting, a chair and some shelving and you have the makings of a wonderful home office, with a door!
• If you don’t have a spare room, look at the parts of your home that aren’t used a lot. Perhaps the unfinished basement has a well lit corner that could be improved? Add wall hangings, assuming hanging drywall isn’t in your skillset, and plenty of extra lighting to avoid the appearance of working in a dungeon. A landing in a loft space or an area below the stairs can also be re-purposed for work, though if that space is located in prime busy areas of the home, it won’t be very quiet.
• If your master bedroom is a decent size, you can split off a corner there and set up a desk. It’s not ideal to work and sleep in the same space, but these aren’t normal times!
• Make sure, wherever you set up, that you have storage. Bins, baskets, shelves… You don’t want to add clutter to your workspace.
• Depending on the work you need to accomplish and if your space isn’t separate or quiet—like the kitchen table—noise cancelling headphones can be a great investment. You can get use from them at other times too, such as when we’re back to traveling again.
Hobnob: Many New Yorkers live in small spaces. How can we organize our space when feeling crowded?
MB: That depends on how many people live in the space with you. Avoiding using the master bedroom is best but if there are kids in the apartment and no extra rooms with a door, it might be better than sitting in the living room while life continues on around you!
• A living room space can work if you have a nook or alcove that is somewhat distanced from the main space. If you can’t carve out a semi-permanent space, get yourself a set of rolling drawers or a rolling filing cabinet. You can store all of your ‘office’ elements in it when you’re not working and move it around to the most convenient space at that moment, when you are. This gives you maximum flexibility without adding a lot of clutter.
Hobnob: Any recommendations for incorporating special elements into office decor for productivity?
MB: An aura of calm helps most people be productive. To achieve calm in your office space, consider the following:
• Adequate lighting: there is nothing worse than squinting at the screens in front of you; a lack of light also gives a feeling of sleepiness, not active work.
• A comfortable chair that is at the right height relative to your desk. Your wrists, neck, and back will thank you if your body is aligned correctly to be sitting at a computer.
• Green is a healthy color that exudes calm. Plants, pillows, a throw blanket, a piece of wall art commission from your 10 year old (which has the added bonus of keeping them busy for a while!)… add some green to your decor to help with that feeling.
• Storage solutions to avoid clutter are vital. Whether your ‘office’ is a corner of the den, or you’re taking over the spare bedroom, adding clutter doesn’t boost productivity. Have containers to file papers, put away materials and in general, leave your work space free and clear, so your mind can work!
Hobnob recommendations for some stylish items for your home office:
Tät-tat’s Sacco adds fun color and soft touch to your work space. From your glasses to your pens, keeping everything in its place will make you a lot more productive.
Chad Dorsey Design is quarantine ready. They can provide you with an immediate shipment of refined options for all your needs. Whether you need a larger table for two people or a single multi-functional desk, they assured us of quick shipment right to your door.
When it comes to the 9 to 5 grind, experts agree that sitting for long periods of time is no way to live. This is when a portable standing desk comes in handy. Humanscale Quick Stand Eco is designed to be more than just a functional way to work. The sleek design is easy on the eyes and makes it a pleasure to work from home.
Ready to set-up your home office like a pro? Room & Board provides the expertise of complimentary project coordinators with every purchase. The Plimode Office Chair is an investment for those with a designer eye and comfort in mind.