Vanessa's Small and Smart "World Shedquarters" Backyard Office Shed

Lifework

San Antonio, Texas, is home to organizer Vanessa Hayes -- as well as the newly-built backyard office shed she now shares with her husband Dan, a technology/marketing/media consultant. See the space they customized for their work lives and get some tips on how to make working from home with your spouse easier in this interview and tour of their office...

Tell us about your work: what you're passionate about, what inspires you, and where you're going. I'm a professional organizer and I love to help clients go from chaos to calm. My business's tagline is "Life; Simplified, Organized." That's what inspires me and that's how we strive to live our lives, too. Dan's passion is simplified design and technology that makes people's lives better. He also has a gift for breaking down complex tasks and explaining them in a way that people just get it. For us, life is better simple. We like to help people who want "more simple," not "simply more."

How long have you worked from home? What do you like or dislike about it? We've worked from home for the last two years. We actually had two different home offices that were separated from one another by only a few feet: one was the dining room table and the other was a glider we bought in anticipation of the birth of our now five-year-old daughter. As comfortable as the glider is, it didn't make for much of an office. We both run our businesses from home: I have my Get Simplifized! business and Dan does technology/marketing/media consulting. Together, we're on a quest to simplify all aspects of our lives, from family lives to digital lives to our business lives.

I spent much of my work time on site at clients' homes, businesses, or schools and Dan has no desire to have a traditional away-from-home office. Further, we both wanted to be more available to our kids, family, each other, and even ourselves after nearly three decades of structure. Working from home allows that. Typically, Dan wakes without an alarm, takes the kids to school, prepares for the day, and then hits the office after his short commute (about 19 steps from the back door to the office door). I still commute to serve clients, but the major change for me is the burst of creativity I get when I get back to our office. I can really focus on writing blog posts and planning out videos. There used to be many distractions when I worked in our home; those don't happen anymore when I'm in the office.

What inspired the building of your office shed? How has it changed your workday? We both got pretty tired of our temporary offices and the clutter that inevitably takes over. We decided that an actual office was not only necessary to keep the peace, but also to keep our sanity. So, we built our own. Thankfully, Dan has a passion for design, and after looking around the Internet for some inspiration, he designed one for us. The biggest change with having the office shed is the options we now have with clients. With a separate office, I'm able to coach/consult with organizing clients virtually no matter where they are in the world. I couldn't do this as effectively without a dedicated space. Dan can now have clients in for training sessions without having to disrupt the rest of the family or find an off-site facility.

Tell me about your new space. Any special considerations that influenced its set up? We mapped out our goals before we started, so the things we needed were designed into the office. We think that is what good design is all about. We absolutely love the modern aesthetic but form must equal function -- for us they are mutually supportive attributes of good design. The result certainly achieved our goals of having a space large enough for two separate work spaces, that can host three or four clients comfortably, and is tech-infused, meaning Dan could have all his gear integrated in (and as cord-free as possible). It needed to be comfortable in the hot San Antonio summer and cool winter and look great in the back yard. Finally, if we had the choice, we would choose sustainable options over non-sustainable. We love the result. We get lots of light from the clerestory windows and the glass double doors. But, the one "wish" we have is that the design would have allowed for one tall casement window on a wall to help with circulation on those mild Central Texas winter days. That's it...we feel we nailed everything else we wanted.

You have a pair of SAYL chairs. Why did you choose them? We absolutely LOVE our SAYL chairs. These were a splurge for us -- but it really makes sense that, if you're going to spend a lot of time sitting, you really need to invest in a good chair. We were well aware of Herman Miller's commitment to design. With a bend toward the contemporary aesthetic, the SAYL chair line caused a Pavlovian response in Dan the moment he saw it. To us, it was the embodiment of the same function-meets-form test we applied to the whole project. A former paratrooper, Dan has some back issues, and since we both were previously in the military, we each still feel the effects of years carrying around a rucksack. We knew it made perfect sense to invest in solid ergonomic design. After using the chairs for over a year, I am still amazed how comfortable they are and how much better we feel at the end of a long day sitting when compared to other chairs we've tried. Dan says sometimes he gets jealous when showing off our "world shed quarters" and the first thing people notice is the SAYL chairs before his design and DIY skills! Jealousy aside, we enthusiastically recommend the SAYL...it just doesn't make sense to skimp on yourself, your back, or your productivity.

Any tips for couples who share a home office? First tip: Make your space "yours." I have a few things on display that to me represent peace: a little tea pot I bought in China, some little boxes I got in Korea, and a small plant. Dan doesn't have decorations, but has his gadgets -- podcast equipment, an iPad, etc. -- and these things make his space his own. Together we love to listen to music via Pandora or radio stations on AppleTV. We didn't have those options in traditional offices. And when it's time to take a break, we like to take it together and spend a few minutes enjoying the day on the deck. So, I guess my first tip would be make your space individual but take time for togetherness, too.

Second tip: Headphones work great! And third: It can be easy to fall into the trap of chit-chat and letting conversation rob your productivity. So, let your partner know if you need to completely focus on a task -- and commit to respect each others' efforts during those focused times.

Check out more photos of the complete backyard office shed project at Get Simplified.

(Images: Vanessa Hayes)

lifework2012-02-22 at 2.10.00 PM.jpgRepublished in partnership with Herman Miller Lifework. Originally posted by Amy Feezor.