Monthly Archives: April 2020

Remote Learning, Home Offices & Social Distancing: Adapting to The New Normal & What it Means for the Future of Home

With the recent announcement that social distancing guidelines are to be practiced at least into the next month, we have to accept that things are going to be different. Not just now, not just for the next 30 days, but for the foreseeable future. Drastic changes have already taken place all around the world and we can’t help but wonder what’s still to come. As designers, we delved into the idea of how this is all going to affect our individual worlds on a smaller scale–small as our own homes. Our homes are where you are (should be) spending the vast majority of your time right now. A space that we’re used to spending significantly less amounts of our time is now where we spend days on end. So what does that mean for the future of home? What are some ways to enjoy spending so much extra time in your home? How can you create an effective work space that is functional and increases productivity? We may not have all the answers and of course situations vary from person to person or family to family, but I’m taking my best stab at offering some insight on how to accept this “new normal” in a time of so much uncertainty.

The future of home.

Working or not, the average person spends about 90% of their day indoors. Now that part of that indoor element of being inside an office is out of the picture, that’s 90% of the day that we’re spending inside our homes. This means a lot of extra bonding time with those squeaky old floors, the dusty curtains, the furniture that seems to be a little more uncomfortable than you remembered when you weren’t forced to spend so much extra time on it. Home is your safe place. You can control what and who comes in and out of it. You can control how often, or how deeply you clean it. Home has always been our comfort zone, but looking forward it will be even more so. Also, what was a place for families to come together and have dinner after the work day or sit down to watch their favorite show is now a school, a classroom, an office, a conference room and all other parts of the home all wrapped up in one. So, how do we adjust to that? For most, it’s quite a significant change to have to incorporate all of these new elements into the home. Remember that everyone is going through a major adjustment period and there is no exact formula on how to make this all work. How we spend time in our homes is changing and the most important thing we all have to learn is how to keep work, school, and home separate, all while under the same roof. Remember, safe at home, not stuck at home.

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How we’re going to be using our homes is changing. It’s no longer just a living room at our #MarlboroughStreet Project, it’s a living room, an office, and a conference room. 

What this also means moving forward is that homeowners are going to want to incorporate certain elements that they may not have thought as necessary before all of this came about. In prior home renovations, we never once thought of “how will this improve my situation during a pandemic?” but now that we’ve been through/are going through it, we know there are ways that your home could be better suited in case something like this were ever to happen again. Of course, the obvious are incorporating a home office, or carving out a nook in the kitchen to create a small desk space, or building desks and tables into your kids’ playroom for when they have to be home schooled. However, other elements to consider are the incorporation of a mudroom or an entry space to take everything off right at the door rather than having to bring everything across the house. We’ve seen plenty of cases of front line workers who have to strip down at the door, wash down their shoes, whatever it is, immediately upon entry to ensure that nothing gets brought further into the house. This transition would be easier and more convenient with a mudroom or small powder room to change in upon direct entry into the home, or even possibly transitioning laundry back to the downstairs mudroom to take care of clothes immediately. After all the back and forth of moving laundry machines upstairs to be closer to the bedrooms…

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One of our recently completed mudrooms at our #ChestnutStreetProject where we opened up and made better use of an awkwardly divided entryway. 

Another thing to consider is private space. Again, not just talking private office or your own personal work space, but having enough division within the home that everyone has their own space to stay confined to IF something were to ever happen. One of the suggestions we keep hearing from the CDC was that especially in the case that anyone in your home was affected or was showing symptoms, that they should try to use a separate bathroom if and whenever possible. The more bathrooms attached to/accessible by individual bedrooms, the better.

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Designated guest bathroom at our #ChestnutStreetProject. 

That being said, we understand that this is a challenging time for everyone and these are merely predictions and suggestions of what to incorporate in a future renovation based on what we are currently going through. We also understand that every home and every renovation project is different and has different spaces and different needs. If you are considering any future renovations to better accommodate a changing household, or if you’ve just spent too much time inside and are realizing that your home needs a face lift, we are always here and happy to help with any of that!

The importance of a home office or designated work space.

We get that not everyone has a separate built out home office or the perfect little room for homeschooling. We get that space is limited and so are means of performing any renovations to create a new designated work space. However, with no sight of anything changing in the nearest future, it is important to make some adjustments to how and where you work. Create or designate a space that is just for working or just for learning. This can be a challenge, but can be done effectively by making sure to refresh and reset the space as needed. For example, if your dining table serves as your desk or your kids’ classroom, call it just that until the end of the day, and then clear and reset it so it’s still the dining table when it comes time for dinner. For more thoughts on how to stay productive while working from home and creating a home office space that you are happy to work from, check out our last blog post.

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We love this cute little built in desk area by Cythia Hayes Interior Design.

Keep your routines

as best as possible, or create new ones that still serve to enhance your productivity on a day to day basis. For the first couple of weeks, this was a huge challenge for me personally (anyone else?) because nothing was normal. It was a cycle of what do we do this week? Where in my house am I going to be working from today? It was a huge adjustment period of figuring out what works and what doesn’t in terms of serving my daily routine. I’ve finally gotten into a groove of my morning routines to get my day going, and my evening routines to end it. Routines help provide a sense of normalcy and familiarity, and now that we’re all figuring out what our “new normals” are going to be, we can start sticking to a more consistent routine. I started making a to-do list of both work related and personal items for every day, even adding things like drink water and read just to try to force myself to stick to my routines until it becomes familiar and comfortable to be doing this all from home.

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Maybe your routines include picking your favorite chair & your favorite view and reading for a little while? This would be our choice spot at our #MarblehadReno project. 

Get out of your bed. 

There is nothing normal about working from your bed. Sure, we’ve all had those mornings that we roll out minutes before we’re supposed to start our day. Extra sleep is nice, but there are other parts of your home to spend your day in. Speaking of sticking to routines, try to keep the time you spend in your bed around the same as you would as if none of this ever happened.

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The bed in the master bedroom at our #MarbleheadReno project may look super pretty and comfy, but resist the urge to stay in your bed all day! 

New Co-Workers. 

Whether it’s a significant other, roommates, kids, or your entire family, we’re all sharing a work space now. An interior designer is space planning 6 feet apart from a social worker who is on phone calls with her clients. A teacher is doing lesson plans next to a businessman trying to make a sale. Nothing makes sense right now, and that’s ok. We’re learning how to work with new people that we aren’t used to working with. Ok, so it’s more of working in proximity of new people more so than with new people, but it’s another thing to adjust to still. We’re learning more about each other’s days than we may have ever wanted to.  We all have to be patient and understanding of each other that there’s going to be phone calls that we hear in the background, some have a different lunch time or a different work day schedule or hours all together. Setting rules and boundaries amongst your “new coworkers” will help to eliminate stressors and additional tensions. Know what everyone’s schedules are going to be for the day, and try to plan yours accordingly. We’re spending way more time with the people in our household, and it can be as challenging for families as much as it is for spouses or significant others.

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Sharing a home office can be done if everyone has plenty of their own space! Love this cute two-person office transformation. 

How to cope. 

Everyone is going through this experience right now. Remember that it’s ok to feel weird or sad or stressed or emotional on some days (or all days) about everything that’s going on. Things are so different right now both outside and inside of your home, and still changing every day, and it’s ok to be feeling strange about the changes taking place. Chatting with a friend, she made the point that it was “strangely comforting that everyone is struggling differently.” I liked this a lot and it made me think about it more in depth. We’re all in this together right now and there’s going to be days that are harder than others, but it affects everyone differently and at different times or in different waves. There is no formula to any of this, and the only thing we can do is focus on the positive whenever we can. Tomorrow is always a new day and a fresh start. While it is important to stay informed, I have also distanced myself from the news. I’m not trying to completely turn a blind eye, of course everything is all over social media and it’s frankly unavoidable. It’s all anyone talks about right now, but I’ve found my spirits to be lifted on a day to day basis when I’m not actively seeking out the information that I don’t want to hear.

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Fresh flowers and coffee table books like these at our #ShelterIslandHomeProject make for a good distraction! 

What to do with all of this extra time in your home. 

I don’t think there’s ever been a time before this that I actually never left the house for a week or two straight (with the exception of going outside for walks, for a drive, etc). With all this extra time at home, now is the time to be creative. Of course, there’s tons of articles and suggestions out there of ways to dissipate the quarantine blues. I don’t want to say the list is endless but there are tons of ways to change it up on a day to day basis, even by adding one small activity. An idea that I saw come up was to create a “home movie theater” with popcorn and snacks, or similarly creating a “restaurant” in your home with a menu and a table set a little fancier than normal. Remember all those days of playing house as a kid? Well, now we’re playing games of “non-essential businesses.” I took a stab at a DIY wine and paint night! Cook or bake together as a family and try a recipe that you haven’t tried yet. Do karaoke, plant seeds, plan your next home renovation, read a book, watch a movie, go for walks, paint your door, rearrange your furniture. Just enjoy it. How often before this have we ever just gotten to sit and enjoy the homes we live in? Take some time to just appreciate it, because we’re still going to be spending a lot of time in it.

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Get creative! We love how our clients at our #SouthEndReno created a menu board to have on display in their kitchen. 

So, what does the new normal mean? It’s going to be different for everyone. This is the first time that almost every living person has had to go through something like this. The new normal means accepting changes and being able to amend your lifestyle accordingly. It means that home is your safe space, your office, and your classroom all in one, and we have to learn to make the most of it and keep positive as much as we can.

As always, we hope that everyone is staying safe & healthy and remember that we’re all going to get through this together.

 

Making the Most out of Working From Home: Inspiration & Advice

I’m sure by now everyone’s gotten settled into their new working from home or home office set up, but it’s never too late to switch it up (or make it even better). Now more than ever, it’s super important to designate a working space to keep productivity up as much as possible. By now we’ve seen our fair share of everything from improvisations & make-shift desks, to luxurious and beautiful home office #goals, and we wanted to share some inspiration and input for creating a home office or work space that you are excited to work from.

Create a functional work space. 

When this all started, we were all thinking it would be a few days from home–it would be fine to work wherever. I was admittedly using a small end table pulled over in front of my sofa, but as we learned that this was how it was going to be for the foreseeable future, I decided it was going to be important to actually invest in a desk and a desk chair. My tiny end table was not going to appropriately serve me for the type of work I needed to do. Give yourself the space and functionality that you need to help you be productive.

Designate a space that isn’t your bed or sofa.

It’s probably no secret that there is a major decrease in productivity when working from a bed or a sofa. Psychology proves that we need to keep our beds for sleeping separate from our places of working, otherwise our brain starts to subconsciously confuse the two. A bed or sofa should be kept as a place for relaxation or sleeping. When you start doing work from your bed, you may have troubles sleeping because you’re brain is saying “hey, it’s time to work now” rather than relax. The opposite is also true– when trying to accomplish tasks your brain may be thinking “what are we doing, this is where we’re supposed to sleep?” Having a space separate from your bed is a key contributor for bringing levels of productivity back up. Whether it’s the counter or the dining table or some make-shift set up with whatever you have, let your bed be a place strictly for resting.

Add items that make you happy. 

Art, plants, candles, photos, your favorite books–anything that brings you joy that you can keep on or near your WFH surface will help to make you want to use that space.

 

Find the sunniest spot in the house. 

Again, kind of goes without saying but make sure you’re not locking yourself away in a cave to try to get your work done. Remember we’re all basically complicated houseplants–make sure to give yourself plenty of natural light and water.

Clean up, declutter, and reset. 

Before all of this came about, we would leave our office and desks behind at the end of the day and come back to it in the morning. Now that our homes and our offices are the same spaces, and our desk may be doubling as our dining table, take the time to clean up and de-clutter at the end of each work day so you can reset in the morning. It’s important to still try to keep work and home life separated so clean up your computer and papers out from the middle of the living room so you can watch your evening TV as normal. Plus, it feels good to get in the routine of starting fresh each morning.

Take breaks. 

As pretty and perfect as you can make your WFH space, it’s still important to walk away from it take breaks from time to time. Go outside and give yourself some sun or eat lunch out on the porch. We all should be doing it throughout the work day anyways, but it’s especially important to take a refresh/reset when in your own home.

There’s so much great home office inspiration out there right now. From kitchen nooks to full built out spaces, here are a few more of our faves!