Subdivide and conquer: solving the big city space crunch – setting up a home office – Office Design
Anne E. Margruder
When you start to outgrow an apartment in New York City, slapping some wood paneling onto the basement walls and calling it a rec room isn’t usually an option. In this cramped and crowded megalopolis, real estate comes at such a premium that most personal space must accommodate mundane acts like sleeping and eating; loftier pursuits like improving your table-tennis serve or, say, working just don’t fit in.
Brooklynite Doreen Maddox knew it wouldn’t be easy to carve the space out of her apartment to house her communciations studio, Blue Inc. But with careful planning and a little sacrifice, Maddox subdivided and conquered–and created a small home office that’s a model of efficiency. “I can put my hands on everything without leaving my seat,” she says.
Maddox, 32, and her husband, Regis Canning, 33, have a large apartment by New York standards: a 1,500-square-foot loft in a former laxative factory. Maddox used to use the sunniest corner of their home as a painting studio. Four years ago, with a growing boy, a growing business, and a baby on the way, the couple realized they needed to add a bedroom and an office. Their solution as to divide the painting studio in half to make a master bedroom and a small office.
Maddox works chiefly in graphic design, and the tools of the trade–drafting tables, monster monitors, big hard drives–are space hogs. It was a challenge to find places for a Mac IIci with a 19-inch monitor, a removable hard drive, a CD-ROM drive, a modem, a fax machine, and a scanner, and still have enough surface area to spread out, especially since Maddox often works on three or four projects at a time. She found room for the equipment by stacking it. As for the projects, well, Maddox has become a lot ore organized. “In a space this small, you can’t just let things float around,” she says. And since improvements in graphic-design software allow her to do more and more of her design tasks on-screen, Maddox can often use her drafting table as a second desk.
High ceilings and lots of light keep the office from feeling small. Two eight-by-four-foot windows overlook a neighbor’s garden; paned-glass double doors open onto the living room. And the new walls rise only halfway to the 16-foot ceiling. all this openness does make for a few problems: There is no wall space to speak of. Instead of building shelves, Maddox installed tall, skinny bookcases. Having partial walls means that the agonies and ecstasies of her three boisterous boys–six-year-old Rex, three-year-old Liam, and two-year-old Shane–aren’t easily concealed from callers. “Sometimes I have to let the answering machine pick up,” she sighs. But the office is otherwise childproof. Maddox’s secret? “I have a great nanny who keeps them focused on things besides Mumsy.”
This compact space works well for Maddox, but it will always bea one-person office. As her husband, Regis, president of the Temporary Alternatives employment agency in Manhattan, gets more involved in the financial workings of Blue Inc., he spends more time working at home. When Maddox is in her office, Canning runs Quicken on his Mac Classic II on the dinning-room table. If Rex happens to be working on Math Rabbit or Cosmic Osmo, things can get a little tight. But the ever-resourceful Maddox already has a real New York solution for the latest space crisis. “We may have to buy the apartment next door.”
ANNE E. MAGRUDER is the assistant managing editor of HOME-OFFICE COMPUTING.
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