Back in the century of 9 to 5, there was Home, there was the Commute and there was the Office.
In the age of the sovereign professional, the Commute often disappears. Home and Office become one.
According to the UK’s Office of National Statistics, 4.3 million people now work from home. That’s 13.6% of the total workforce (both employed and self-employed). However, the data suggests that half (50.3%) of all self-employed people work from home, either wholly or using home as a base from which to visit clients.
That’s a lot of home-offices.
But, where do you start? You’ve shrugged off the shackles and the corporate comfort blanket. You’ve broken free from the gilded cage. How do you carve a place to work from your place to live? Here are a few considerations and inspirations.
- How much space do you need? Maybe, just a quiet desk will do, but will clients visit you? Do you need a separate work-space (studio, treatment room, consulting room, recording studio, etc.)? And a waiting room,too? Some rooms may have a dual business/domestic purpose, but will your partner welcome the 50″ screen in the new dining/meeting room?
- Seasons and services. Separate garden rooms and garage conversions are popular, with the advantage of still maintaining a degree of separation between work-life and life-life. But, consider if they will work in all seasons: from the dead of winter to the heat of summer. Do you have adequate power (including the need for heating) and internet access?
- Legals, tax and admin. How will working from home affect the following:
- Does your mortgage or tenancy agreement allow working from your home?
- What about property tax? If you work alone from a home-office, this may be allowable under domestic “poll tax”, but if you have a studio or treatment room etc, you might yourself liable for business rates. Check before you begin.
- Insurances. How does your business affect your building and contents insurances? Do you need public liability insurance? What about a risk-assessment of your home if you will have clients visiting?
- This government web page gives an overview, here.
- Peace and privacy. Can you work uninterrupted? Even during the school holidays? Kids, dogs and washing machines all lose their charm when they are a regular soundtrack to your conference calls. And, even the best prepared television interviews can be derailed, as Professor Robert Kelly discovered in this BBC News interview:
The home office is hardly new. Every working farmhouse is a head office. Therapists and tutors have always worked from home to some degree. All have adapted to the business needs of their owners.
Try these famous locations for inspiration:
Take a punt, or a putt-putt down the Grand Canal. Those elegant palazzos were built, business-first, by the wealthy merchants of the city-state as home and office.
On the water-level was the impressive canal-side entrance and a ground floor of storerooms and offices for transacting daily business. The next floor up (first floor for Brits, second for Americans) was the piano nobile or grand floor, lavishly decorated and used for entertaining. The floor above was the family’s private apartments.
Sir John Soane’s House / Museum
During his life, the architect Sir John Soane (Bank of England, Dulwich Picture Gallery) turned his house into a museum and source of inspiration for his draftsmen and clients. It was home, office and collection.
Soane moved to 12 Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1792 and, as his collection grew, he acquired numbers 13 and 14 , remodelling the houses and stables to accommodate an innovative, hinged Picture Gallery (that houses Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress) and more space for the collection. He negotiated an act of parliament for the house to be preserved as it was when he died.
If you’re in London it’s worth a visit – for research purposes, obviously. It is a glorious clutter, muddle and inspiration.
In the basement is the sarcophagus of Seti I, of which Wikipedia says:
After the Seti sarcophagus arrived at his house in March 1825, Soane held a three-day party, to which 890 people were invited, the basement where the sarcophagus was housed was lit by over one hundred lamps and candelabra, refreshments were laid on and the exterior of the house was hung with lamps. Among the guests were the then Prime Minister Robert Jenkinson, 2nd Earl of Liverpool and his wife, Robert Peel, Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, J.M.W. Turner, Sir Thomas Lawrence, Charles Long, 1st Baron Farnborough, Benjamin Haydon as well as many foreign dignitaries.
Image: Sir John Soane’s Museum
Sigmund Freud Museum, Vienna
By contrast, the apartments where Freud lived and worked from 1891 to 1938 are more modest. Freud moved there with his family when it was a new-build. As his practice grew, he took on the second apartment on the floor as his practice. Today, the living space is a museum and exhibition, with little furniture, but his consulting room and waiting room are furnished much as they would have been in his time. The famous couch, however, is in London.
The apartment next door, perfect for separating work and domestic life.
Winston Churchill purchased his beloved Chartwell in 1922 and lived there until shortly before his death in 1965. As Wikipedia has it:
In the 1930s, when Churchill was excluded from political office, Chartwell became the centre of his world. At his dining table, he gathered those who could assist his campaign against German re-armament and the British government’s response of appeasement; in his study, he composed speeches and wrote books; in his garden, he built walls, constructed lakes and painted.
When the Churchill’s purchased the property, they had it remodelled adding a three-storey wing with views over the Kent Weald. The property sits on a steep slope, so the entrance level, ground floor room of the extension is the middle floor and a large drawing room. Downstairs is the dining room, while upstairs, is Churchill’s large study. There is also a small library in the original house and, of course, books everywhere else.
Chartwell is a beautiful retreat that still feels like a home. It’s not enormous like stately homes of previous centuries, but it has space to live … and to work.
Dickens London Home
Forty-eight Doughty Street was Charles Dickens’ Bloomsbury home for just 2 1/2 years, but it is beautifully preserved as a Victorian Home. It’s where he wrote Oliver Twist, Pickwick Papers and Nicholas Nickleby.
If you’re a writer, you need only a quiet, well-lit study.
And, possibly space to entertain.
From the merchant palazzos of a city-state to the modest study of a great writer, these homes were all designed to provide a place to work and a place to live.
How will you (re-)model yours?