Our bedroom-turned-office has worked reasonably well over the last couple years for a single person. Cassie has predominantly used that space since returning to Mozilla from maternity leave to work remotely full-time. As our daughter has gotten older and more independent, Mark has been able to increase his workload as well, but he has found himself slumped over his laptop in various places throughout the house – the kitchen bar, the coffee table, the couch. His suboptimal working conditions have lent themselves to a constantly disrupted workflow, which is doubly painful when you have so little time between toddler naps or in the evenings to get things done.
We enlisted the help of our friends Kim and Steve at Studio50 to help us design a space that would work harder for us. While this is still a work in progress, it is our first renovation project ever, and we wanted to share how excited we are to have a finished design studio within our own home.
Since we are both designers and sit at computers all day, a shared space would mean we could potentially share a desk, could certainly share DJ duties, collaborate more easily, and lessen the loneliness that sometimes accompanies remote working arrangements. To our never-ending glee a dedicated space that was beyond earshot of Moo’s bedroom would also would mean we could permanently leave our computers nowhere near the kitchen table. This may actually be our highest criteria for success: Kitchen = eating, visiting and reflecting on our day together as a family. Kitchen ≠ working!
From the beginning we knew that our walk-out basement would serve us well. Our home’s previous owners had used the basement as a wood shop while they renovated, building the kitchen addition and re-trimming baseboards. Initially we fantasized about learning woodworking tools, amassing our own collection of power tools and building handmade toys, but realistically we knew that was one dream we wouldn’t get to for many years. Why not use it today for what we already spend our time doing and make that activity more enjoyable through thoughtful design?
The old wood shop in our basement is attached to a spare room which always felt a bit disjointed from the rest of the house. The floors were different (dark laminate wood instead of old authentic hardwood), the walls were painted a weird green, and it simply felt like a room that had been practiced on for renovations. What if we could use those differences to our advantage? We decided we could let even more light in by installing French doors between the rooms, repaint the walls with a cleaner shade (and possibly a mural later on), furnish it with slightly more modern office furniture, and then this old bedroom could serve as an additional meeting or quiet space still attached to the studio for when each of us needs privacy.
After countless trips to antiques stores trying to find unique desks that still worked with modern laptop setups, and finding nothing, we also got super jazzed about the idea of Kim and Steve building us custom desks. We’ve never had custom furniture built and it feels like a rite of passage to true adulthood. These are pieces we know we’ll keep and cherish forever and we will probably spend a significant portion of our lives at them, so the investment seemed well worth it. Kim and Steve talked vision with us, measured our heights, discussed how we like to sit with our feet while we work, and considered arrangements for how two desks might fit together. They measured our rooms as well and sent us a 3D rendering. We’ve settled on Cherry as a shade of natural wood to tie together the antiquity of our upstairs with the planned modernity of our basement. We’re so excited to see our desks come to life!
The first stage of renovation work found us installing plenty of ceiling lights and insulating the walls. Our first insight into renovation process happened when we took down the wall between the room and the hallway, where we currently keep our cat’s food and litter, and realized we loved the light pouring into the house from those outer well windows. Sometimes you don’t know what the right decision is until you see it. We wondered if we could keep that space open somehow and Steve suggested we install windows. We knew we had some old windows that were original to our house, but there were only two and the space could really stand to have three in order to maximize the opening. When talking with a friend, we discovered she had a collection of six antique windows, all with that beautiful original glass, and she offered to let us use those. How lucky we are. (Thank you Jill!)
We decided to stick with our concrete floors, which we will etch, stain and seal, and lay in rugs for warmth. If it’s not warm enough come next winter, we may consider the expense of installing our wood burning stove (which is currently just for display). At Mark’s insistence we are also installing overhead speakers and a wireless amp so we expect many a midday dance party to happen.
Finally, with the door space opened between the two rooms and the old bedroom half painted, we are beginning to get a sense of the flow of air and energy throughout the office and studio. And damn does it feel good. It’s so reassuring to feel like you are on the right track after taking a risk to remove walls or make any change at all to a house that has been standing for over 150 years. We’ll certainly post again in coming months to show our final studio once it’s all done, at which point we will be like two kids on Christmas Day.