5 MINUTE READ
In some respects, our homes have suddenly become our ‘brand.’ In New York City, where space is at a premium, people often meet at restaurants or bars, and entertaining at home isn’t as common. Before quarantine, I had used this social construct to my advantage with an abundance of ‘pet’ projects on slow burn to bring our 95-year-old apartment back to life. With the onslaught of quarantine measures, my work-in-progress suddenly became the backdrop for video-conferences, and as a result, I’ve been dealing with paint strippers, heat guns, joint-compound and paint buckets in the mix.
Like me, you might be struggling to find a quiet corner in your home to focus and participate in the digital workforce. I've been freelancing for about seven years now, and my desk has always been in the dining room. It worked well for me when my spouse worked from an office all day, and my daughter was at school or swim practice. Now it's the breakfast, lunch, and dining room, as well as a break-out space for them to come and play with our giant dog whenever they emerge from their respective places in-between zoom meetings and online classes.
If necessity is the mother of all invention, then, to adapt, I started to define various break-out 'spots' to resort to in my apartment whenever my work-space gets disrupted.
On April 15th, 2020, The Wall Street Journal published an article called ‘7 Ways to Redecorate Without Buying a Thing’. The article made me think that it might be worth sharing some of my ‘spot-staging’ suggestions, or as Moira Rose from Schitt’s Creek would probably refer to them, ‘vignettes.’
Gif credit: Giphy
First things first: Not holding your phone up to your face all day is a luxury that you can afford.
The smartest and inexpensive purchases I made early on during quarantine include a tripod to stabilize my phone ($20) and a USB rechargeable light ring to absorb shadows on my face ($30) in case the 'spot' I rush to before picking up a video call is without ample lighting. Not having to hold my phone continually is a game-changer, you should try it.
Ring Binders are ugly.
Perhaps it was after a deep-dive into 'The Crown' on Netflix or 'Victoria' on Amazon Prime TV that spurred my inspiration to find a solution to the age-old problem: stationery, in particular, ring-binders, aren't very attractive. Perhaps that is why the British Royal Family has a tradition of keeping important papers in red pine' dispatch boxes' that retail at almost $1,063 per box. I decided to wing-it with a more affordable solution - red cardboard jumbo scrap-book storage boxes from Pioneer, retailing at just $15 apiece. Add a chair, and you've got a 'spot.'
Consider your desk as a backdrop.
The in-built camera on your device will format how you appear differently on the numerous video conference apps and interfaces, so take some time to see how you appear in each app to get a sense of the optimal device or camera placement needed. A lot of us tend to look down onto a camera on a laptop or a phone, which isn't always our best angle. I'm not suggesting that you put your camera 6 feet above your head so that you have to do the famous 'look-up' to get better cheekbones (save that for Instagram), but a slight elevation of the camera angle can make all of the difference. Also consider (if you can do so) using your desk as a backdrop during video calls, so that people can see your 'set-up', as it is now a part of your personal brand.
Be open to pairing furniture and art in ways you might not have considered before.
In October 2018, I attended an exhibit at New York's Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) called 'Pink: The History of a Punk, Pretty, Powerful Color.' It was interesting to learn that pink was a color for men's clothing at a certain point in history. I had never considered it as a part of the color palette for home before, but I decided to keep an eye out in case I could be swayed. A few months later, Lord & Taylor was emptying its retail store on Fifth Avenue, and somewhere on the 10th floor amongst furniture, lights and mannequins was a framed original sketch that looks like an abstract take on Peppa Pig. Overlooking its vague context, at $65, I just went with it. I paired it with a storage chaise I found on Wayfair, and it serves as another 'spot' (whenever I am allowed to use it!).
If you look hard enough, you might find a 'spot' in your home that you've never considered before.
We live on the 'parlor' floor (lobby level) of our apartment building on the Upper West Side. Until quarantine, our entry hall functioned as an extension of the living room. For many years, watching TV at night was accompanied by the dulcet tones of the main entry doors to our building slamming multiple times and chatter between arriving neighbors and delivery people with our doormen. We decided to close off the entry hall with a DIY pair of glass bi-fold doors. Now we have privacy, as well as another 'spot'.
The heart of every home is (usually) in the kitchen.
Your kitchen might not be the best place to have a zoom meeting with your new boss or a prospective client; however, it can give you a change of scenery to chat with relatives and close friends over a virtual happy hour or when prepping meals.
I encourage you to use this time to consider equally the form and the function of your homes, particularly now as it has become our calling card to the world as never before. Send photos of any 'vignettes' you create to firstname.lastname@example.org - I'd love to see them. Keep well!
The 'read more' edition of my social media accounts.
By Brendan Moffitt
Corporate Communications Leader