Recently, one of my best friends visited Boston with her husband and kids. Since I was working late, we decided to meet up at the Proper Orange office. Their kids loved running around the space and playing with our little orange knickknacks. "This office looks like someone's house," they said. I took it as a compliment. Creating a work environment that feels inviting and comfortable was one of my goals in designing Proper Orange's office.
“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don't need to escape from.” -Seth Godin
My philosophy is pretty simple: If you're going to be spending a lot of time at the office, why not make it a place you enjoy? For my work life, warm lighting, comfortable furniture, and a good stereo are as essential as a high-speed internet connection.
I know I'm a workhorse--I'm happiest spending hours cranking away at a complex problem until it's solved. But I also know that it's easier to show up early and stay late when there's good coffee, good music, and interesting artwork to look at when I need a break from staring at screens.
Designing a welcoming office is a lot like cooking: it doesn't have to be complicated, but it always needs a little love. Objectively, most workplaces have very few needs. A place for meetings, a place to make phone calls, and a place to do your own work, all equipped with functioning tools and utilities. Subjectively, the list is also fairly short. Make the lighting warm, indirect, and adjustable. Make the furniture comfortable for people of all sizes. Make sure there's abundant, high-quality coffee and tea. Add some color, but not too much. Make sure some plants and artwork are visible from all work stations.
Think about where you feel creative and productive. It's probably not a place with blank walls and overhead fluorescent lighting.
“A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.” -François-René de Chateaubriand
My goal is to cultivate a joyful environment, without the foosball tables. I believe that it is possible to cultivate a comfortable, creative workplace by making simple choices instead of cluttering the space with additional "features" or "zones." Especially in shared work environments, it's important to give everyone room to breathe, roam, and not feel boxed-in by designated areas for specific actions like brainstorming or taking breaks.
I respect my clients, collaborators, and myself enough to design an office in which we all feel comfortable, whether we're there for a brief meeting or a lengthy workday. As a result, we get to experience increased productivity and creativity, and maybe even the possibility to change how we view our work entirely.