What Working From a Tiny 90-Square-Foot Spare Room Is Really Like

published May 27, 2018
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Philadelphia-based designer and illustrator Alisa Wismer lives with her parents and runs her business out of a teeny but bright 90-square-foot spare room. (Image credit: Renee Nicolo)

Philadelphia-based designer and illustrator Alisa Wismer has discovered the perfect living and working setup for where’s she’s at in her career. “I actually live at home (you’re thinking, ‘Typical millennial,’ right?), but it makes sense for where I’m at right now,” she says. “My parents have been super supportive in my decision to work for myself while I try to build my own business up.” She creates her illustration and stationery work—as well as graphic design, branding and web design for clients—from a teeny but bright 90-square-foot spare room. It’s the perfect example of how a small home office can be a motivating and inspiring space.

Alisa didn’t initially plan to be a designer. She actually studied to be a physician’s assistant, but “caught a glimpse of college-level calculus and ran to art school.” She says she spent years learning “bits and pieces” from both corporate and creative jobs, and it’s this experience that gave her the confidence to strike out on her own. It’s a move that’s paid off; she’s worked with clients like Minted, PaperCulture, Bel-Air Co., Poketo, The Craftery and more, and also sells her adorable and witty designs on her website. Her design style is uplifting, funny and colorful, a reflection of how much she’s enjoying running her own business.

(Image credit: Renee Nicolo)

“I too, have had the ‘working from home’ dream ever since it was ‘cool,’ and now that it’s actually my day-to-day, I’m going to say it’s awesome and challenging at the same time,” Alisa confesses. And though working from home can be a bit of a lonely experience, Alisa’s cat coworker, Mindy, keeps her company most of the day. “She’s the best, and the most distracting coworker, but she definitely talks less smack than Karen from finance, so I’ll keep her.”

I asked Alisa to share advice for those thinking about working from home:

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Apartment Therapy: What’s your “starting the day as the best you” morning routine?

Alisa Wismer: The typical routine begins with coffee. Wake up, run downstairs, boil the water, and brew the coffee. Anything after that can vary, but the coffee part is always the same.

AT: What’s a typical day’s schedule?

AW: After coffee and breakfast, I’ll try (sometimes I have to really try) to hit the gym before my motivation goes away. More coffee to follow, then I start slow by answering emails and finding the perfect work jams (cue the Spotify playlists!). I’ll break for a late lunch, then work a few more hours until around 4:30, 5:00 then I try to stay off the computer until the next day.

AT: What’s your favorite time of the day?

AW: Morning! Even though some days I’d rather stay in bed, I’m most productive in the mornings.

AT: How do you keep yourself from getting distracted?

AW: Hah, I’m still trying to figure that out myself… I think it’s inevitable to everyone’s workflow, whether you work at home or not. When I get distracted, I’ll entertain it for a few minutes, then get back to the task at hand.

AT: What’s your view like from your studio or desk?

AW: My little office is actually pretty small, so there’s not much to look at, I do have some natural light through my window which is a plus! I work upstairs, so when I need a coffee refill or a mid-day snack, I’ll run downstairs or out to grab the mail for a change of scenery.

AT: What’s your home office/workspace’s decor style?

AW: My decor style is a mix of vintage and modern. I like to mix clean design with elements of old and funky. I love thrifting, so I tend to fill my space with lots of different posters, signs, cat-shaped planters—really anything that catches my eye.

AT: Favorite decor elements in the space:

AW: Plants. They instantly add some UMPH to any space. I’m also pretty fond of my Hatch Show Print posters from Nashville!

AT: What visually inspires you most in your space?

AW: Decorating with things I’ve personally bought or gathered over the years adds a personal touch and it’s fun to remember where/when I got each item.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

AT: Which “team” are you on when it comes to the most productive and inspiring workspace: the “have to have it organized to work” side or the “clutter feeds my creative soul” team?

AW: I’d love to say I’m a healthy mix of both, but I’m pretty “creatively cluttered” when I’m actually working. Open inspiration books everywhere, papers scattered, a million different pens and pencils on the desk, and probably two – three half-filled coffee mugs. What can I say, it’s the artist in me.

AT: What’s the most envious part of working at home?

AW: Not having to actually fix your hair, put on decent clothes… I mean, I’m not opposed to looking like a presentable human being, it’s just nice to be 100% comfortable when I’m working, and some days that means cat hair-covered sweats and messy bed head. Most envious thing about my workspace? The natural light! It’s the tiniest room in the house, and can get cluttered, but the light is amazing for photos!

(Image credit: Renee Nicolo)

AT: How do you make time for relaxation/creative thinking/brainstorming?

AW: Brainstorming is crucial for any project I work on. I’ll spend anywhere from 30 minutes to five hours researching, pinning, listening to music, going for a walk—anything really to get the creative juices flowing and the design block out of the way.

AT: Will you ever be able to work in an office again? Is there anything that could convince you?

AW: Funny you ask that, that’s a fear of mine– I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum now, and both have their up’s and down’s, but I think I’d like to go back to an office one day maybe—it’s nice to have someone else to talk to besides #mindythecat (sorry girl).

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

AT: What do you miss most about working in an office? What don’t you miss at all?

AW: Human interaction! I’m a 150% total introvert, but I do miss the collaboration you get from working on a team of other people. It gets hard working on your own 24/7 with little to no feedback on projects. I really miss peer critiques that naturally happen in the office setting.

AT: Is there anything you wished you knew before working from home?

AW: That some days would be awesome, and some would suck, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Oh, and that there’s no right or wrong way to do it.

Thanks Alisa! Find her on the web and on Instagram.

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