A Design Expert’s Tips for Work (And Working Out) From Home

As COVID-19 remains a part of daily life, “home” has had to serve as office, classroom and even gym. Besides the challenge of repurposing the kitchen table or bedroom, new routines also have meant accumulating stuff that otherwise would have had its place elsewhere. So we asked James Stanley for his perspective on what “home” has lost and gained, and how to reclaim the meaning we want for our interior spaces.

Stanley is principle of JSNY, a boutique architectural design firm in New York, and his work has shaped interiors ranging from high-profile interiors such as The Plaza and Tiffany & Co. to private homes. He’s seen how the last two years have impacted spaces large and small—and regardless of clients’ resources—and has some advice for the struggle that’s still real.

24Life: We’ve been working from home—and even working out at home—for more than two years, and we’ve felt all the feelings about it. What have you observed about the changes and impact to our home spaces?

James Stanley (JS): We definitely learned that our success is not dependent on the daily hustle and bustle and the “go-go-go, do-do-do” mentality. For most of us, being in lockdown for a long period shined a spotlight on the importance of our home environment. Maybe for the first time, we really saw our home in a whole new way, and that meant seeing its shortcomings: We’d never really thought of our home as a living, breathing thing that needs constant attention.

We also learned that working from home full-time is possible, and with few adjustments, can be the “new normal.” A full-size home office isn’t necessary for most of us. We actually can work from just about every room in the house. Technologies such as WebEx and Zoom, and our smartphone, tablet, laptop and so on aid in converting our home environment into a satellite office.

Working from home in the presence of family made us more mindful of our personal privacy and privacy of others. We learned how to respect boundaries. It also taught us when and how to disconnect from work and connect with our loved ones and ourselves. Hopefully, we learned work/life integration and balance.

24Life: At one point or another, most of us probably felt like we gave up something in the process of moving outside activities into our home environment. Did we gain anything?

JS: It’s true, we lost privacy and freedom. The home became all-encompassing to all household members: office, gym, nursery, daycare, place of worship and more. Space became the most valuable commodity and top priority. As a result, we had to learn to maintain our home environment emotionally and spiritually.

Out of necessity, we gained the ability to think outside the box with regard to our living situation. It allowed us to gain a better understanding of space management and storage solutions in order to repurpose spaces in our home.

We gained a better emotional connection to our home, too. Most of us connected emotionally with our space/home without even realizing it. Spending considerable time at home gave us ample time to really notice the space and make it more “our own” than ever before.

24Life: What’s next, and what advice do you have for us?

JS: When the world is opening up and our lives are getting back to something like the old norm, we regain some of our privacy and freedom, and our home is less crowded. But the work-from-home thing is now a part of life, and that home office will be a permanent fixture in most homes.

Work/life balance was always a slippery slope for most—and we need that balance more than ever. If it’s still a struggle to manage a multipurpose environment, I have a few tips.

First, the importance of space planning and management has always been key in our home, and particularly nowadays. In order to maximize the space and storage of your home, keep all areas organized, from the smallest closet to the big living room. Create more options by adding small cabinetry and shelving on the walls.

Second, personalize your space with photos and personal items to keep you connected to the space and help you acclimate to using part of your home as a workspace.

Third, consider small changes that can transform the look and feeling of spaces in your home. Flowers are my all-time favorite way to accessorize a space. Everyone knows the expression “stop and smell the roses,” and it’s true! Just going to the flower mart to choose fresh flowers is an inspiring moment in time, and the smells and colors always gets my creativity flowing. You can change the feeling in any room by simply changing the flowers—also, think small accessories, like throws, pillows and tabletop items, too.

Photo credits: Dale May, dalemayphotography.com