Home is where the office is
Whether it's the surge in work-at-home technology, the tricky economy, or the I-want-to-be-my-own-boss movement, home offices are on the rise, and more New Yorkers are finding that they like working just steps from their beds.
"People looking for apartments have become obsessed with finding one with another space that they can use as an office," says Clifford Finn, president of new development for Citi Habitats. Finn says home office spaces are high on New Yorkers' list of add-ons in new buildings.
Brenda MacLeish, a sales manager at California Closets, reports that over the past few years her company is busier than ever building "real" home office spaces for clients, "where they have access to everything they need for full-time work."
Here's a look at seven New Yorkers, all with very different professions, who have figured out how to combine their living and working space so that they can enjoy a 10-step commute:
Kim Sherman, composer
Sherman, who is currently working on an opera, used to write music in the living room of her one-bedroom Washington Heights apartment, but it always felt "cluttered. I felt trapped."
She asked a friend for a solution: He built her a unit that runs the whole length of her living room wall. She has her computer, her piano keyboard, books - everything she needs in one spot.
"And when I'm finished working, I push the keyboard under the desk, slide the opaque panels over it and leave only the bookcases showing. My goal was to be able to put my work away and have a life."
Harry Houck Jr., private investigator
Houck owns his own brownstone in Carroll Gardens and uses a 15-by-19-foot space on the second floor of his house as an office. It's big enough for a couch, a television, a computer with two screens, a fax machine, professional handbooks, a shredder, printer/ scanner and a "humidifier for my cigars."
Kate Moira Ryan, playwright
Although she has a big office space in her downtown Brooklyn condo with 18-foot ceilings, room for a big desk, two chairs, a couch, and two huge bookcases, Ryan actually prefers to do her writing in bed. But she likes to use her architect-designed office space when she meets with her writing partners.
Carolyn D., massage therapist
Carolyn converts the bedroom in her one-bedroom Upper West Side apartment into a spa during the day and at night, closes up her massage table, opens up her futon and converts it back. She's been doing that for six years and sees about 10 to 12 clients a week. She's painted the room in colors that "came to me in a vision" - sage green, cherub pink and a creamy color called Victorian lace. If clients don't mind, her beloved dog Chance is allowed to sleep on the futon during the massage session - "most people seem to love a sleeping dog in the room, it adds to the peacefulness."
Richard R., artist
Not all that many New Yorkers need to find room for a kiln, but that's exactly what Richard was looking for when he went apartment shopping 16 years ago. His 2,000-square-foot loft is divided in half-1,000 feet for living, 1,000 feet for working.
In the studio half, he has created sculptures that are in the Metropolitan Museum collection, among many other works.
'Linda' and 'George,' personal assistant and voice-over professional
Two people who have created a truly unusual working/living arrangement are Upper West side couple, Linda and George (not their real names). Their apartment is a 540-square-foot one-bedroom. Linda is an executive and personal assistant to high-profile clients. She gave up having a dining table in the living room and uses that space for a desk, two computers, a phone and lots of file cabinets.
George is a voice-over professional who has done hundreds of documentaries and commercials.
Years ago, he spent his day going to auditions and recording studios. New technologies and the economy have changed all that. "Now if you can't record at home, you can't compete."
So George built a soundproof recording studio in the couple's bedroom. "I can record at home, edit it myself, and e-mail it right to the client."
With George's desk in the bedroom, where does the bed go? Into the wall they built a Murphy bed that they stash away by day and lower at night.