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So what happens when an architect whose work is so imbued with those concepts must, like most of Austin, work in relative isolation due to the city’s stay-home order, issued in March due to the coronavirus pandemic?
It should be of little surprise that Hsu responded with typical aesthetic deftness, creating a home work space that functions equally well as a video-conference studio and an a representation of his finely honed design sensibilities. “Usually when I work at home, it’s on the couch or the bed, and I have a small desk,” Hsu said in a recent phone call. When the need for a full-on, all-day work space arose, however, “I ended up not using any of those spaces,” he said. “I ended up using my dining room table.” Hsu changed the orientation of the table so that the background looks different—and well-designed—from either side. He also bought a Loom Cube to control and enhance the lighting, which in a home space can change radically throughout the day. It doesn’t hurt that he has an unfussy, gorgeous dining room setup already, one that includes Patricia Urquioala chairs that happen to lend themselves to work without being task chairs.
Hsu has found some unexpected ways that working in his home allows for a different experience, such as proximity to his records and stereo. “Music has been a huge thing,” he said. “In my office, I don’t always get to choose the music. It elevates my mood and ups my productivity. I’m an introvert, and our office is a big, open space. I find it’s easier to concentrate at home.”
Indoor plants—he’s particularly enjoying his spear-leaf ficus and eight-foot-tall pencil cactus at the moment—as well as candles and nonfiction books he can pick up to take a brief break or while waiting for a meeting to start also enhance his home office experience (the Tartine Bread book and Beastie Boys autobiography are currently at hand).
“The other thing that’s really fantastic is to be able sit at home and open your windows,” he said, pointing to some more Austin-specific aspects of working at home that people can take advantage of right now. “My existing area of Austin feels so much like a small town,” he adds. “Areas around my home that I can bike or walk to are my world again.”
Everyone was so busy before the coronavirus slowed us down. This is a good moment to reevaluate now that we have been given the time and space to do so. Think about what kind of firm or company or person you want to be in the future. Ask yourself how this situation can improve your business or allow you to refocus on some of the things you’ve been struggling to find time to prioritize. This is an exceptional opportunity to examine, assess and rethink. — Michael Hsu
Working from home design tips:
- Create a dedicated workplace and define the space as such. This will allow you to better focus on work during work hours, and your personal life during off time. It’s best if it’s a space you can walk away from.
- Incorporate plants and greenery. Plants have proven to reduce stress and even increase productivity. They make an indoor space more comfortable and livable.
- Incorporate natural light – preferably set up your space by a window with something to look at other than a screen.
- Make sure it’s comfortable – you’ll be spending a lot of hours here, so make sure you are cozy and content in the space.
- Make sure it’s functional – in addition to ensuring you have the technology you need to get your work done, make sure you have all of the tools and resources around to do your work best. Invest in the items you have at your fingertips at the office so your productivity isn’t stifled.
- Incorporate homey accessories with a variety of textures and colors. This should be easy, since you’re at home. Grab some of your favorite accessories from around the house and enhance your space.
- Hang art that you love and that inspires you in a place you can see.
- Take advantage of the distractions: Cook a big breakfast for your kids, take the dog for a mid morning walk, call your mom over your lunch break. The current situation allows us to live and work a little differently, so explore what that means for you.
- Blend your inspirations: It’s impossible to completely separate your home and your work in this current environment, so see how you can use that to enhance your work. How does your family inspire you to design differently? How does working from home inspire you to design office spaces differently? Embrace the changes and see how it makes you a better designer.
As someone whose profession already dictates giving an enormous amount of attention to spaces public, private, and in-between, Hsu said, “I fit this sort of voyeuristic notion of seeing into people homes interesting. I’m curious to see how people think about their home places—do they want to invest more time and money in it, do they want to turn their lawns into gardens, into places you spend more time?”
“As architects, we work on all kinds of projects,” he added. “It’s so interesting to see how our world has shrunk to our homes. It’s a resting point.”
Originally posted on Curbed Austin