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Working Out of One’s Office

September 09, 2020

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The pandemic this year has affected all of us in many ways. Two things that stand out in my mind: people definitely need people (to paraphrase the song “People” sung by Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl). The phone, email, computer, TV and all the other digital creations we use DO NOT take the place of human interaction. We all need to see and talk to each other. That said we have also learned that we can work at home very efficiently and handle our normal workload if necessary. Never commute again? I don’t think that will happen, but perhaps we’ll find a happy medium – time will tell.

I was mulling over all these thoughts when I received a copy of Columbia’s alumni magazine for Spring/Summer 2020 that had an article by Donald Rattner, an architect. He has written a book titled My Creative Space: How to Design Your Home to Stimulate Ideas and Spark Innovation. I thought he had some good ideas – here are five.

ONE: FOCUS ON SPACE AND COLOR

Here is what he has to say, “Our minds move between two styles known as “right brain and left brain” – but more accurate terms are “creative vs. analytic.” We tend to use our creative side when our surroundings feel open and expansive – a room with a high ceiling can make us more receptive to new ideas. Also, color can impact how we perceive space. Blue and other cool colors appear to move away from us. I totally agree with him. I’ve always lived with 9 ft. ceilings; anything lower feels strange.

TWO: ADD FLOWERS AND PLANTS

I believe that greenery in a room makes a great difference. “Nature plays a huge role in how we think, feel and act,” he writes. “When we’re deprived of natural stimuli, we’re less creative, happy and healthy. Have plants indoors, use natural materials such as wood or stone and let daylight in. Even hanging a landscape on the wall can be restorative.” Note: I have a thing about split leaf philodendrons – absolutely love them – and when I buy a couple people actually stop me on the street to admire them. You get a lot of bang for your buck with this striking plant. 

THREE: FACE OUT TO THE ROOM OR WINDOW

He also believes that one should “face into the room with a wall behind you.” I currently face a large window and when I look up from the computer I see a blue sky or later in the day – a terrific sunset. Even more interesting is watching the clouds go by. They have quite an act: they change their shape as they speed up or slow down – it’s an ever- evolving scene until it gets dark.

FOUR: DECORATE WITH PERSONAL MOMENTOS  

Personally, I’ve never really understood the bare wall treatment with one accent piece sitting forlornly by itself. And Rattner agrees, “Despite the trend toward minimalism, less isn’t necessarily more. Books, art and lamps have a greater potential to inspire innovative thinking than pared-down spaces.”

FIVE: KICK BACK AND RELAX 

I have never read this before but he says, “A lot of creative people – especially writers – recline while working. They say their ideas flow better this way. One study showed that people solve creative problems 10% faster in a recumbent, rather than an upright, position.” (If I did that I’d just fall asleep.) He adds that, “It certainly worked for Mark Twain and Marcel Proust, both of whom worked in bed. Sofas and recliners are also great additions to any creative space.” Comment: this idea is illustrated with the classic Eames chair – that was the only piece of furniture my husband requested after we married. He loved it – perfect for a guy over 6 ft.

All photos are courtesy of Columbia alumni magazine except for my split leaf philodendrons.



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