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COVID-19 Resources

The At-Home Front

A Q&A series to get you through living-, working-, and existing-in-place

It’s a new world out there—one where every individual and every industry is both affected and uniquely connected by the experience of this unchartered territory. At times of crisis, the design industry must stand together and stay strong and supportive of our families and our colleagues. We also need to adapt and forge ahead, find answers to new questions, and solutions to new challenges. In the coming weeks, this Q&A series will deliver wisdom from professionals who are successfully tackling newfound obstacles and who are learning how to thrive in our shared new normal.

As we step into the unknown, we’ll learn and grow together.

Be well,

Jennifer Quail
Editor-in-Chief, i+D Magazine

Week 10: The Future of Design

This week, as the world explored (and fretted over) phased re-openings, the safety of our buildings and daily practices, and a future that cannot yet be defined, one thing was abundantly clear: Design will play a primary role as we look ahead to a post-COVID world. Interior spaces, exterior spaces, city layouts, public transportation, materials, manufacturing, education, travel, and more will have to adapt to a new way of life. Design professionals of every ilk will be called upon to find the solutions that carry us into the future and make this world a better, healthier place. With that in mind, as we close out this 10-week Q&A series, we asked design professionals:

How do you see design’s role in our post-COVID existence? What will stand out as the necessary and important changes that will fall to design professionals?

 

Creativity is always better than rules. I believe that this very unusual period of our lives will raise a tremendous movement of creativity from designers, artists, and architects. I wish that every participant in the construction process has the same aim: Change the world to a more responsible one.

I was shocked by this period, and see that bad habits changed easily with fear. I believe that architects, designers, and artists are exactly at the right place to become ambassadors of those changes.

I believe that sustainable design is far away from “marketing” and should be respected seriously. Designers and architects will have to be more responsible about the materials they are using and where they come from.

I can’t wait to develop new ideas for the future with the notion that when we say a design is “beautiful,” we should say instead “it’s a design that is good for people.”

Franklin Azzi
Architect/Founder, Franklin Azzi Architecture; MAISON&OBJET Designer of the Year – September 2020 Edition
franklinazzi.fr/en | @franklinazzi


It’s very clear that, in some ways, the coming years will be design’s moment. Healthcare professionals, epidemiologists, and politicians will look at the design of environments as a critical tool in controlling COVID and other pandemics. This will happen at every level, from urban planning and transportation, to the design of individual rooms in which people work, play, and live, to the operation of single doors or the materials spec’d for counters or furnishings. Interior design education already incorporates much of this thinking but, now the answer to the question of “why interior design” is clear: Design impacts lives. It literally can mean the difference between life and death.

Interior designers are also keenly aware of the nuances of how well-designed spaces can impact people’s mental health. The stress of these times is unfathomable, and we see every day how strong the human drive is to create normalcy and balance, and to seek out natural environments. Design has a fundamental mission to create places that contribute to the overall wellness of human beings. All of this gives an immediacy and meaning to studying interior design, and aligns it with the desire of many designers to make the world a better place.

With the coming academic year, students will have a chance to see the impact of design thinking in their own institutions, as schools repurpose spaces and rearrange classroom furnishings for social distancing, delineate directional corridors, switch out HVAC systems, install touchless faucets and door handles, install shields at reception desks and other student services areas, and rethink student lounges, libraries, and centers. At New York School of Interior Design, we are thinking of our whole community, from students to faculty to staff, and how to keep everyone as safe as possible. Schools are workplaces, too, and these days, we are all learning by doing.

Ellen Fisher, CID, FASID, IDEC
Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean, New York School of Interior Design
nysid.edu | @nysid


Design now, more than ever, needs a vision, cohesion, and a program, otherwise it will not go anywhere. The role of design should be to imagine and design our futures in this new daily life. In a few weeks, the role of domestic interiors have changed a lot, they have interjected functions that did not belong to them before COVID-19—like work, study, shopping, fitness. We absolutely have to think about home—the project home—by reinventing it in a flexible and open way. Design has still a lot to do starting from today! It is important that creativity meets the new necessities and imagines a new world, starting from homes, cities, transportation, services, and materials. I’m sure that a lot of great innovation will stem out of this emergency. It is a new opportunity.

Design—despite the function it will serve—should not lose its emotional value because it has to give pleasure to the final user. An Italian piece of design is essentially a perfect mix between the creative mind of the designer and the industrial capacity of the manufacturer.

Claudio Luti
President, Salone del Mobile
salonemilano.it/en | @isaloniofficial


It’s amazing how our way of life has transformed in such a short time. Changes that might have taken decades have taken weeks. Innovation and creativity are happening in every aspect of life. It is challenging, but also exciting because it has the potential to open avenues we never dreamed of—especially for the design community.

COVID-19 has not only brought physical changes to our world but emotional changes, as well. Now more than ever, people are focused on health, wellbeing, and safety, whether at home, at work, or in the world at large. For the design community, it’s about creating spaces that meet those needs. This includes using more sustainable materials, creating serene and calming sanctuaries, and finding ways to bring nature-inspired colors inside to promote emotional health and wellbeing.

More great news for the design community is how much people will be using their homes—and for multiple purposes. They will need multifunctional spaces that can be workspaces, conference rooms, schools, and social spaces for families. Many homes are not currently set up for this, and a good way for people to make it happen is to work with an experienced designer.

More and more, people will also want to know where the products they’re buying are coming from. We have been manufacturing environmentally conscious upholstery here in North Carolina since 1989. Sustainable design has become more important for interior designers, builders, and the contract and hospitality sectors. Manufacturing in the USA has also allowed us to be nimble partners design-wise and provide timely delivery.

On the technology front, we should also expect new business opportunities. We’re finding consumers changing their buying habits, getting more comfortable meeting virtually, and doing virtual in-home visits. Look for 3-D planning and 360 visuals to play bigger parts in this.

Resilience is the ability to change with adversity. I know the design community is up to the challenge, as we are.

Allison O'Connor
President and CEO, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams
mgbwhome.com | @mgbwhome


Design is, at its heart, about solving complex, interconnected problems while having to arrive at tangible solutions. That foundation is why I love doing research for, and working in, the design profession. While not an interior designer or architect, I get to design data and research that makes a direct impact to the designers’ role post-COVID. And, post-pandemic our historic role to solve the world’s biggest challenges will be the same: Solutions will fall to our industry to both consider and conceptualize what should be next, then to actually design and build it.

First, we will be tasked with leading the charge on how the spaces that make up our cities and communities will have to evolve in light of the pandemic. Understanding how to make those changes is a big focus of our research right now. The COVID experience will lead to an even greater integration of research into the design process moving forward. We must gather input and listen directly to both end users and stakeholders, which is more important than ever in times of uncertainty and rapid change.

In addition, I think an even more complex challenge looms quickly on the heels of our post-COVID world: We don’t know how long changes will be needed or appropriate. Therefore, it’s critical we are planning for needed-right-now solutions that positively influence far-future challenges. After all, one-hit wonders are rarely successful long term.

As we continue to deliver projects and conduct research through our COVID-19 experience, we’re also cognizant that COVID is top of mind now, but it’s not the only major issue facing the world. Designers are already asked to not only address issues of public health in their work, but to reckon with the continued needs of climate change and the ongoing digital transformation—affecting every pocket of our lives and societies.

Changes and innovative solutions that stand the test of time are needed, always. We must go beyond simply addressing a post-COVID existence, but holistically consider all factors that make projects truly positive additions to our communities. Add the constraint of limited budgets, and a sustainable mandate to re-use materials and buildings whenever possible and our goal becomes: maximizing positive experiences while minimizing destructive adjustments to the cities and places that already exist and are already lived in and loved.

Small changes that make a big difference will be crucial—and understanding and delivering those changes is at the heart of great design, and great research.

Tim Pittman
Senior Associate, Research Strategy and Communications Director, Gensler
gensler.com  | @gensler_design


During the era of industrialization we saw people move from the farm to the city to work in factories, creating the urban city. Then we saw the automobile and introduction of the freeway bring us into the era of suburbanization. Now in the era of ‘Germaphobia’ we are moving to our homes, which no longer need to be close to the city or the suburb. These new fortresses will be our command centers and will need to facilitate the majority of our physical, psychological, and emotional needs.

‘Germaphobia’ has already built walls out of distrust, separating us physically from loved ones and strangers (potential loved ones). The result has been the disbanding of our gathering spaces, our workplaces, schools, churches, and sports arenas. Now we must experience these things virtually in our homes, which in turn will put new demands on their size, layout, and adjacencies: Wellness Rooms located remotely, where you can be examined virtually by your doctor, treated with new home medical equipment, or sent into isolation if found to be sick; a Sanitizing Chamber at entries and outside of sick rooms, and safe-germ rooms to maintain our immune systems; the expanded home office(s), homeschool room(s), and/or multi-use rooms where you can go from work to school in merely a few steps, as a mother juggles work and homeschooling. These are just a few examples of the changes that may occur in our new homes/worlds.

Now I must excuse myself from my new home office where I’m writing this, and call Dr. Spock for a virtual check-in.

Rocky Rochon
Founder, Rocky Rochon Design/Rocky Rochon Studio/The Paint Laboratory
rockyrochon.com | @rockyrochon_design


In our post COVID-19 world, part of the challenge for design professionals will be ensuring that our spaces are built from the ground up with occupant health and confidence in mind. So much of what we have been doing and talking about in green building for years, appear now to be obvious parts of future design. Readdressing ingress and egress, implementing enclosed vestibules, mats and grates to capture foot-borne contaminants, and more are all principles of green building design that will need to have more attention after everything we have just experienced. Better utilizing our outdoor space for retail (i.e. parklets, walking streets), implementing increased usage of passive cooling and outdoor air to reduce the load on mechanical systems, and increasing transparency around the materials used for construction will be necessary and desired. At a minimum, implementing broad industry understanding of the items that impact occupant health—from indoor air quality, to natural light, and the inclusion of biophilia and green spaces throughout our buildings—will be key in looking at how we can improve the long-term physical and mental health of our occupants, which reduces their susceptibility to other illnesses. It is a personal responsibility going forward for all design professionals to be part of that process and understand that what they create has a direct impact on our health.

Ben Stapleton
Executive Director, U.S. Green Building Council-Los Angeles chapter (USGBC-LA)
usgbc-la.org | @usgbcla


When we talk about post-COVID, are we thinking of resuming work and play with masks and all? Or do we talk about post-COVID after a potential vaccine? If we are talking about the former, I don’t think that is going to last very long. I imagine that, if we find a successful vaccine, then discussions around Plexi dividers, 6 foot markers, etc. will be a welcome thing of the past. I'd imagine the only lasting thing in an older office building like mine will be the hand sanitizer dispenser in every elevator lobby. That is not to say that the office design market won’t use this as an opportunity to re-invent a new configuration of cubicles, perhaps with anti-microbial materials.

In terms of sustainable design post-COVID, building according to Passive House standards may become more common and popular. These standards offer superior air quality and exceed the amount of air changes per code in commercial spaces and residences. The amount of sunlight is another health benefit of passive houses—they utilize passive heating and cooling by orienting the building to the South and incorporate shaded windows to limit overheating.

Wayne Turett, RA
Principal and Founder, The Turett Collaborative
turettarch.com | @turett_arch


As difficult as it has been, the COVID-19 pandemic has provided the world with an invaluable opportunity for research and learning in many fields. In the worlds of interior design as well as the social sciences, we have never been afforded such circumstances to better understand what we need out of our environments, not simply for functional or practical reasons, but also on emotional and psychological levels.

Over the past several years, the worlds of design and psychology have been learning from each other more and more. The recent pandemic has only provided more urgency to better understand how people connect with their environments psychologically. As such, design will need to continue finding ways to learn from and partner with the social sciences to ensure we are developing spaces and products which support us on all levels.

Eric Yorath
Principal, figure3
figure3.com | @figure3design

 

Week 9: Returning to the Workplace

This week, the combative sides of the COVID-19 case were stronger than ever. While the global death rate from the virus crossed the 300,000 mark, new coronavirus case counts showed promising decreases in almost half of U.S. states. Meanwhile, an eagerness to reopen the economy was met with an increasing collective anxiety as many states released plans for the staggered reopening of everything from restaurants to beaches. As companies of all sizes have begun to investigate how to safely bring employees back to the office, the design industry has turned its thoughts to what the future will hold for the workplace and just where and how work will be conducted in the months and years to come. With that in mind, we asked design professionals:

How will office design—corporate offices, home offices, and/or your own office—change as a result of COVID-19?

 

The work-from-home moment has introduced comfort as a factor to be considered in the design of office space. People are working in athleisure wear and pajamas, on their beds, curled up on the sofa, and in hammocks in the backyard. Creating office environments that recreate that comfort is important as we go forward.

Jerry Caldari
Partner, Bromley Caldari Architects
bromleycaldari.com | @bromleycaldari


In the short term, corporate office design will immediately incorporate the basics to offer employees a “safe” environment to return to.

  • Cleaning/Sanitation stations will be posted in multiple areas and cleaning “rituals” will be the norm.
  • Alternating schedules between stay at home and come to work, for those workers who must come to the office for specific projects.
  • Staggered times for eating in the cafeteria/break rooms.
  • Current workstations will be spread out, pending space available. If it is not possible to spread out the furniture, then alternating attendance by workers will solve the same problem.
  • Screens/panels/barriers of non-porous materials will be placed to separate workers. These will either be on work surfaces and/or free standing.

In the longer term:

  • Voice activated doors and tables, thus hands-free adjustments.
  • Existing furniture to be reupholstered with anti-microbial materials, i.e. silver-ion woven into the fabric that is bacteria resistant.
  • Hard surfaces to be specified that are easy to clean/disinfect, with built in bacteria resistance.
  • UV lighting systems to be installed that will be turned on after hours to kill bacteria built up during the work day.
  • Sensors to take temperature readings of workers prior to entering the offices.
  • Sensors to inform how many people are present in a specific area.
  • Work surfaces and collaborative lounge furniture with built-in front and side panels of non-porous materials that can be easily cleaned multiple times without scratching.
  • Chairs will have adjustments without having to touch knobs/handles.
  • One way direction hallways or paths.

In regard to home offices, when we sent our marketing, admin, and engineering staff to work from home, they immediately appreciated the ergonomic chairs they were accustomed to when working at our office, and we allowed our staff to take their office chairs home with them at their convenience.

Gary D. Chin
President, Dauphin North America
dauphin.com | @dauphinamericas


We believe that corporate office space will evolve in response to COVID-19 in four ways; through changes to physical space, a heightened focus on health and wellbeing, reevaluation of standard policies and procedures and expanded technology.

Physical office spaces will likely evolve to accommodate larger numbers of remote workers. Even long term, after the initial return to work transition phase, several Fortune 500 companies are already estimating that 30-35% of their staff will continue to work from home. This means some companies will move towards unassigned offices and workstations for employees that do not come into the office. The benefits of coming into the office will continue to be ease of collaboration with peers, mentorship opportunities and the strengthening of office culture. Naturally, there will be a renewed focus on spaces that support these vital activities, and how they can be flexible for rapid response in the future.

The human health component will focus on enhanced building systems that filter or treat air and water to eliminate pathogens and reduce opportunities for growth of mold and other microorganisms. The industry’s growing awareness of the importance of healthy building materials will evolve to include durability in response to regular and more rigorous cleaning protocols. Ensuring that protocols are in place for disinfection of high touch surfaces, like door handles and elevator call buttons, has become important in reducing exposure and the spread of microorganisms and pathogens. Additional protocols reinforcing new behaviors, like distancing and sanitation, will likely become the norm in public spaces.

We can also expect to see technology help us respond to these new protocols. Bluetooth enabled equipment like coffee makers in office pantries and coffee stations will allow us to order single serve beverages from our phone without requiring a hands-on approach, while offering an elevated employee experience. We could see the prevalence of touchless sensors increase in everything from restroom faucets and doors to thermostats and conference room lighting controls. Technology will also be critical in the support of expanded remote work conditions and the sophistication and quality of virtual meeting software will need to continue to improve.

The key to managing these changes is to think beyond the immediate six to eight months and plan for the interpandemic stage a year or more from now. Strategies offering long term benefits by supporting occupant health or providing for future flexibility in the next crisis will be the most successful.

David Cordell, ASID, LEED AP, WELL AP, Fitwel Ambassador
Associate Principal, Perkins&Will
perkinswill.com | @perkinswill


Office design is now more of a flexible term, one that has evolved into the concept of “design for work.” Many of us will be work nomads and, as this experience is showing us, work is not only about getting the actual work done. It’s also about social connection and meaning. At IA, we want to ensure that the cultural aspect of our team is maintained. It’s been crucial to share ideas about how to collaborate this new landscape with technology, and ensuring that we leverage those technologies to build social connections both with our team and our clients has been a critical part of this process.

We’ll be focused on keeping our staff healthy and safe when we return to the office, and also prioritizing a new way of working. We’ll be making sure that we’re set up to easily work as a team whether one is physically in the office or not. We will also review our collaboration spaces to ensure that they work for both physical distancing and working/socializing together.

And lastly, my “home office” will definitely receive more attention as we all get more accustomed to the work-from-home situation. No longer is it a laptop on a dining room table. Computer work will now become integrated into the home environment. I believe more products will be available to accommodate for this, and my flexible office may call for a new backpack!

Beverly Horii, OAA, ARIDO, LEED AP
Principal, IA Interior Architects Inc.
interiorarchitects.com | @iaarchitects


For our own offices and our clients’, we are exploring ways to restructure workspaces to aid in helping employees and visitors to intuitively partake in social distancing and/or create physical barriers. Certain measures such as alternating workstations, designated traffic flow down aisleways, furniture orientation, and focusing on cleanability can help achieve this.

(Together with Gunlocke, Allsteel also created the Inspired to Work from Home lookbook. The guide offers tips and solutions to promote a happy, healthy, and productive lifestyle while working from home, a cultural shift the company expects will continue.)

Lisa Miller
Director, Product Insights & Applications, Allsteel
allsteeloffice.com  | @allsteel


When we return to work, employee safety and wellbeing will be paramount. Organizations need to take action to ensure that people feel safe physically, mentally, and emotionally. At Steelcase, we’re looking to the post-COVID workplace in three phases, Now (reconfigure), Near (retrofit), and Far (reinvent).

This means retrofitting the workplace quickly to comply with governmental and global health guidelines in the immediate term. When organizations are ready to bring back most or all of their workforce, they can begin reconfiguring the workplace for longer-term solutions and enhanced safety. Solutions should be highly adaptable, science-based, and selected with cleanability in mind.

In the longer-term future, work environments will require reinvention as science-based evidence and emerging technologies offer new solutions. Going forward the workplace will need to be designed with a deep commitment to the wellbeing of people—adaptable to possible economic, climate, and health disruptions. The opportunity for the workplace is to move forward, not backward.

One thing is certain about the future workplace, it won’t be going away any time soon. Culture is rooted in community and the “social infrastructure”—places and protocols—that connect people and shape how we interact. The modern workplace provides the infrastructure needed to foster relationships, build communities at work and allow people to achieve more. We will all return to the workplace changed in some way, and companies must continue to strive to create a work experience that strengthens community, creativity, and productivity.

Katie Pace
Communications Director, Steelcase
steelcase.com | @steelcase


COVID-19 has forever changed the workplace. In the coming weeks and months, we'll be challenged to rethink how we behave, utilize and design traditional workspaces. Knowing this is an evolving situation, here is our forecast as to what's to come and how we can properly prepare for a safer workplace:

  • It's safe to say the open office approach will no longer be feasible. For most companies, a complete redesign won't be realistic. Instead, we recommend several modifications and safety measures that can transform an open office into a safer, healthier work environment.
  • For saturated desk areas, separation panels can help reduce airflow across individual workstations. Humanscale recently launched a new separation panel offering to meet this growing need. Also consider alternating occupancy or rearranging desks so they are not facing each other. Hot-desking may go away entirely in the short-term in favor of every employee having a dedicated space to avoid cross contamination.
  • For office seating, it will be important to choose chairs that don’t accumulate dust and are easy to clean. If the textile is porous, it will likely release a cloud of dust, which could hold bacteria and viruses. Select non-porous, wipeable upholstery and optionally anti-microbial. As a rule of thumb, non-porous coverings are the easiest surfaces to clean.
  • When it comes to behaviors in the workplace, it will be important to encourage employees to adopt healthy practices. For instance, use visual cues and signage to move traffic in one direction. This will help reduce individuals crossing paths and minimize air turbulence. PPE, such as masks and gloves, should be encouraged, especially when in communal areas like the kitchen, bathroom, or other shared spaces. Hand sanitizer, wipes or wash stations should be positioned throughout the office, especially in high touch areas, like near the copier/printer or coffee machine.
  • For individual workstations, it is important that employees keep their work surfaces clean and tidy so that they can be thoroughly cleaned overnight.
  • To reduce overall density, companies should consider limiting occupancy to ensure proper distancing.

In addition to a reimagined workplace, we believe that working from home is here to stay. No matter what the future holds, it will become paramount that employees are provided with safe and healthy solutions whether working at home or the office.

David Wong
Vice President, Product Development Design & Engineering, Humanscale
humanscale.com | @humanscalehq

 

Week 8: Skills Learned During WFH

This week, protests raged, unemployment claims hit unprecedented levels, and the dictate to wear a face mask was met with defiance and violence most would never have expected. One thing is certain: This has been an educational experience for all. Stress levels are high and keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe and balanced has become a priority of a whole new level. Be it adopting new technology to keep business and personal connections flowing, learning how to understand and educate staff and clients when body language is out of play, or devoting time to personal passions, the lessons and skills we’ve learned will carry us forward into our new world. With that in mind, we asked design professionals:

What skills or lessons have you learned — professional and/or personal — while working/sheltering at home that will benefit your career and life overall going forward?

 

Professionally—I recently discovered Zoom, just like everyone else in our industry. It has been super handy keeping in touch with clients and bringing their new collections directly to designers! We are doing dozens of presentations a week. We also just got started with Instagram Live and I am really enjoying that. And, my staff talked me into finally appearing on our Instagram account. I am now hosting almost daily “20 Seconds With Thomas” (in honor of our 20th anniversary) videos showcasing our vendor’s work. Also, I’m getting back into pulling samples! With everyone working remotely, sometimes I’m the only one in the showroom. And I have to say, I’m really enjoying this new/old part of my job.

Personally—I’ve been cooking quite a lot: making pesto by hand with a mortar & pestle, hand-rolling pasta. And I’m really digging into my piano practice, sitting at the bench every day. Right now, I’m working on two pieces: Schubert’s “Impromptu,” and an atonal piece by Carl Vine called “Red Blues.”

Thomas Lavin
Owner, Thomas Lavin showrooms
thomaslavin.com | @thomaslavinshowroom


As we have been unable to venture out or invite interior designers into our showrooms, we have looked at other mediums for staying connected with the design community. One we have very successfully adopted is weekly Instagram Live videos. Both myself and my colleague Annie Moir, who works with me in the Mokum studio here in Sydney, are comfortable with public speaking, especially in regards to presenting our latest collections or discussing our bespoke design process. However, once you turn on a live camera, it’s a different game, and for both for us it has been a bit nerve racking! We are used to presenting to an audience in person, where you get to feel people’s reactions and engage with them. With Instagram Live, the audience is one person with a camera, so initially it was very surreal. And, as the name suggests, it’s live, so there are no second chances or edits! As we are progressing, we are getting far more relaxed with the process and trying to shorten our content, making it succinct whilst still visually stimulating. We look forward to being able to once again present to our design community in person but we will continue to use this medium beyond the COVID restrictions, as the reach is so much broader.

Stephanie Moffitt
Design Director, Mokum/James Dunlop Textiles
jamesdunloptextiles.com | @we_love_fabric


Before this, we had team check-ins every two weeks for an hour and then [during stay-home orders] we started talking every day for an hour. We learned that talking every day was very taxing for some people and so now we do calls every other day. There has been strong research coming out about people having “Zoom fatigue.” We are so much on our computers now, just right in front of them all day long and you can’t go anywhere. The culture changes and the challenge is we’re looking for people’s reactions and [with video conferencing] the audio is not as good, there’s little pauses. I made a conscious choice to have about half my conversations on Zoom or a webinar and half by picking up the phone. What I’ve found is, not only can I get up and move around and multi-task a little bit more, but I can also hear the emotion much better over the phone. So, it’s understanding those dynamics and understanding you have to give yourself breaks and figure out the rhythm that gives you balance. It’s learning all those things as we go through this.

A.J. Paron-Wildes, Allied ASID, LEED AP ID+C, WELL AP*
National Sales Director, Design Public Group
designpublicgroup.com | @designpublicgroup


Well, like everyone, we have all learned how to use Zoom lately! Something I had never heard of before, but it is proving very useful in keeping in touch with clients, press, friends, and family. I’ve also been diving into Instagram and learning more about the algorithm and how it works, how timing can affect engagement, and the like. On the personal side, I’ve rediscovered my love for baking! Although it’s hard here in L.A. to get either flour or yeast, I have managed to perfect my cardamom buns and chocolate cookies. Next up: sourdough!

Karen Peterson
Co-founder, K+J Agency
kj-agency.com | @kjagency


We have clients all over the planet, so there’s already been a level of remote work inherent in what we do. The bigger difference now is we’re even remote from each other, including team members in different offices who usually have the camaraderie, the feedback loops, the nonverbal community aspect of feeding off each other’s energy, and it’s been very difficult to make that transition. There have been a lot of different conversations about the different ways to collaborate and stay plugged in and we’ve taken that very seriously. I honestly think I’ve had more meetings with my team now than I did before COVID. I see their faces across the country more now, and that’s because we need to be checking in on each other and having a much bigger level of visibility into everyone’s progress and supporting them. We’ve been using a lot of digital tools to do that but so much of communication is the vibe you get, the nonverbal cues that you’ve turned someone’s light bulb on. I find myself asking constantly to double-check: Do you want to repeat that back to me? What did that mean to you? What are you thinking about how to evolve your design?

We started out this whole experience by realizing if we don’t go into this with a plan for fun and connection, it’s going to get rough. So, we started out doing sketches together. It started off with exercises but very quickly morphed into sharing your own creative pursuits and that has been really special in a lot of ways. It opened up the opportunity for storytelling and for sharing a little bit of yourself. Some people have done weaving, some people have done stained glass, there’s lots of illustrations. It’s been a way for people to really have a creative outlet and to do a thing that doesn’t involve a client deliverable bullet point that we’re trying to check off.

Elizabeth Von Lehe, Allied ASID*
Design & Brand Strategy Principal, HDR
hdrinc.com  | @hdr_inc

 

*Hear more ideas from A.J. Paron-Wildes and Elizabeth Von Lehe, plus Susan Chang, ASID, AIA, Partner, Shimoda Design Group, and Laura Thurman, Principal Interior Designer, TDS – Thurman Design Studio, LLC, in the webinar Skills That Transfer: Lessons Learned Through Remote Work, available through the ASID Academy.

Week 7: The Challenges & Opportunities of WFH

As some states look to begin a gradual reopening next week, much of the nation is now reflecting on one full month of isolation at home—living, working, and existing in one place. While there is new hope in the form of experimental treatments for COVID-19, experts in the health field agree there is a long road ahead of us, with possible future WFH stints in the coming months. The design world adapted quickly to this new way of conducting business, but such a massive shift was bound to have hurdles. With that in mind, we asked design professionals:

From a business perspective, what has been the greatest challenge to conducting ALL of your work from the confines of your home? And, what (perhaps unexpected) opportunities has this new work routine provided?

 

We represent multiple manufacturers from healthcare and laboratory furniture, higher education and systems furniture, along with contract textiles. Our company focus is not just generating sales, it’s building strong relationships. The greatest challenge that we seem to be facing right now during this WFH mandate is creating a personal touch and face time with our customers to review or experience samples of our new product introductions. Social media, newsletters, and text messaging are all wonderful tools, however, I believe the best action that has been reintroduced during this time is actually picking up the phone and talking to another human again.

Jennifer Brock
Owner, VF Associates, LLC
vfreps.com | @VFreps


Initially, I had a few clients who put projects on hold, wanting to see how this crisis played out—two commercial and one residential. Since then, the residential client has decided to move forward immediately and the other two have expressed they still plan to move forward. All of my other projects were pretty easily transitioned to working remotely.

The greatest challenge has been getting product. I’ve had to substitute already specified and approved products for several projects with alternates because factories are closed and, understandably, lead times are very different. This has been particularly problematic with furniture originally selected from European sources. In addition, getting responses and connecting to sources does take a lot more time. But, that’s okay: we have plenty of that now!

The positives have been so many. First, the goodness, caring, and kindness that we’re seeing all around us is amazing! New heroes are emerging and rightfully being lauded and appreciated for everything they are doing. Another is that even though we are physically distancing, we are socially connecting even more and much better than before. In many ways, our connections are more personal and meaningful. We’re all in the same situation and all feeling a range of emotions.

Lastly, while I miss all the face-to-face, in-person meetings and greetings (and hugs), I do not miss all the time sitting in traffic! The gift of time, which could be as much as four hours a day for me, has afforded me a great opportunity to work on other things—mainly more product design, updating systems, and trying to hone my marketing skills (definitely not enough time for the latter). It’s also given me time to work on programs and outreach and to give back to some of the heroes that are working the frontlines so that I (we) are able to work from home.

Anna Maria Mannarino, Allied ASID
Designer & Owner, Mannarino Designs
mannarinodesigns.com | @mannarinoannamaria


The greatest challenge of working from home, personally, is balancing my children’s remote schooling—as a single parent in an open concept home—with my professional responsibilities. For example, today, as we’re discussing cash flow and financial projections during my virtual finance meeting, my daughter sings along with 30 other children in her Zoom music class and my son pleads with me for tech support to get into his online class. On the other hand, I do believe we will always remember fondly this time at home, having more family time together than ever before.

Also challenging is the inability to travel to our artisans as we develop new products. I love working closely with them in person on new designs, but we have to make do with today’s limitations. A clear bonus is that we are all becoming more and more comfortable with technology, which will no doubt benefit us going forward.

As a company, we have been happily surprised at how well we can function and communicate as a remote team. Everyone seems to appreciate each other more and makes a big effort to connect. We are also having great success with online trainings, for both showroom staff and the trade. We are able to connect with dozens of designers in a single day through our virtual presentations, and that has been very well received.

Naomi Neilson
CEO & Founder, Native Trails
nativetrailshome.com | @nativetrails


This is not business as usual — but, luckily, I have a team of resilient and dedicated people who are helping to make this new normal work. The greatest challenge from a business perspective was recreating the same human connection that we find in our office. Once we got into the groove of communicating via webcam and on the phone, we quickly fell back into the routine of constant communication. This presented the opportunity to also connect with our clients in a new, technologically advanced way. I will say, I miss being able to see our clients’ faces when they touch our fabrics — Fil Doux Textiles prides itself on evoking emotions just by experiencing its fabrics by touch, so it’s tough not seeing our clients' reactions in person, but we have been making do with what we have.

Leo Novik
Founder & CEO, Fil Doux Textiles
fildoux.com | @fildouxtextiles


One of the biggest challenges has been the cancellation of our industry events and trade shows. I work with a ton of incredible product manufacturers, and we have had to reimagine the timeline and strategy for launching products and collections this year. On the flip side of that, it has pressured us to be more creative and brainstorm new ways to get our products in front of target markets—and, better yet, rethink the types of products our society needs.

As a communications professional, the new work-from-home routine has ironically boosted interaction. What used to be phone calls have now become virtual meetings with video—more face time is great (even if it’s through a screen!). I've also noticed that people are more comfortable in their homes and are able to open up without the buttoned-up influence of an office environment. We ALL have this situation in common; it’s a unique opportunity to break the ice, get to know each other better, learn about our clients’ and colleagues’ families—and show one another understanding and compassion because, after all, these connections and relationships are what will be with us for years to come.

Cody Suher
Senior Communications Director, UpSpring PR
upspringpr.com | @upspringpr

Week 6: Art in the Home Office

This week, as Earth Day marked its 50th anniversary, the planet itself began to show signs of healing. Shuttered factories and diminished transportation have resulted in reduced air pollution and cleaner waterways around the globe, enhancing the beauty of the natural world. At the same time, the WFH workforce has gotten creative in how to enhance the beauty of home office spaces, paying attention not only to what they can see, but to what those on video calls can see as well. With that in mind, we asked design professionals:

How have you used art and decorative objects to enhance your WFH experience? And, is there a particular piece that has brought you joy and/or calm during this time?

 

I have several collections of art and vintage objects, and many items are placed throughout my home and studio workspaces. In my home office, there is a wall entirely dedicated to beautiful black and white photographs, all of them portraits of great artists, including Andy Warhol, Frida Kahlo, David Hockney, Roy Lichtenstein, and others. Spending time with and learning from other artists has always been important to me, so I suppose surrounding myself with portraits of great artists reminds me that I’m not alone in my work and encourages me to stay focused on creating.

Dale Chihuly
Artist, Chihuly Studio
chihuly.com​ | @chihulystudio


In quarantine, I chase the sun, moving from room to room with the cats as the sun sneaks into windows. Last week I rearranged my office, dragged my Louis XV Bureau Plat and moved my patinated period giltwood fauteuil into the sun. The chair and desk date to the 1760s. Sitting in history brings me comfort and reminds me this too shall pass. I've always loved the curves of Rococo but now, they feel like a firm embrace.

Toma Clark Haines
CEO, The Antiques Diva & Co; Founder/Designer, The Republic of Toma
antiquesdiva.com​, republicoftoma.com​ | @theantiquesdiva


My WFH aesthetic is all about "visual escapism." It has been comforting to have my little beach "wunderkammer" to remind me that there is life after quarantine and it involves the ocean—coral, silvered sea shells, sea glass, sand dollars with a backdrop of wild fresh flowers. These are things I’ve collected over years—some from highbrow sources and others from nature itself. For me, like so many, the ocean is a place of healing and renewal. Since we are stuck inside, our connection to nature is ever more important to ground us. Having a natural "tableau" of beauty to look at does improve your outlook and, of course, helps your blood pressure.

Magda Grigorian
Vice President, Account Director, Arts & Culture; Sharp Think
sharpthink.com​ | @sharpthink


If you are going to hang something on your walls, it should be something that elicits a response to you and/or the viewer. Try to avoid adding things to your walls that are not meaningful or inspiring to you in some way. This is especially important in a workspace or room that you find yourself in often. Add images and items that bring out the emotion you want or need to feel when in the space—whether that is joy, energy, jogging a memory of why you work (i.e. vacation photos, family, etc.), rest, or calm.

For example, in my home office I have a frame wall that is filled with photos and images of things I love. It is contained to just one wall in my office and is extensive in its size, texture, and content. Images range from an inspirational quote to photos of my kids when they were younger to images from vacations we have taken. Don’t be afraid to break any self-imposed rules about everything matching or that it has to be a landscape that matches the décor. This is simply not true when creating a space you love and that loves you back.

Stephanie Kennedy
National Retail Market Manager, Customer Care; Room & Board Business Interiors
roomandboard.com/business-interiors​ | @roomandboard


Art gives us all so much. It can be inspiring and comforting, yet challenging and mysterious and at times sometimes surreal. During a challenging time like this one, to glance over and catch a glimpse of the sun’s rays through the windowpane hitting a painting on the wall is truly magical.

Fortunately, I can work anywhere with my laptop and cell phone, so WFH has been easy for me. I am grateful for the art we’ve collected over the years as these pieces continue to give our family warmth and happy vibes! We live on the coast in Rowayton, CT, so reflected in our artwork are pieces that give off that beachside lifestyle. My prize possession is an original 60 x 60 oil on canvas painting by Michael Patterson called By the Sea, Yellow Towel. I’ll admit this purchase was inspired by that iconic Hamptons beach house in the movie Something’s Gotta Give. Since I couldn’t buy the house, I bought a painting to help me create the look! This piece brings a sense of that summer vacation feeling.

I have a small library/office space upstairs. I love being surrounded by books by all my favorite designers, and I have so many. I am a morning person so I start my day early here. The art in this room has clean simple lines: two large, white framed classic nautical charts—one of Block Island and one the Nantucket Sound. I also have a landscape oil on panel (22 x 28 by Michael Barber) called Beached on a Marsh, which showcases a blue sky and white clouds, a small sailboat in a marsh of tall green grasses and purple patches in the blue water. A crisp oil on canvas by Connecticut artist Linda Stone called Boathouse at Tod’s Point (coastline in Greenwich) leads into the next room. I like to make my daily phone calls in this room looking outside the window.

If I need to close my door for a Zoom meeting call, I often head to our master bedroom. The walls are a taupe/grey, there are four large scale black & white playful portraits of our son when he was young in simple white gallery frames. Another Zoom favorite is our TV/family room where we have one wall full of black and white family sailing photographs.

Jennifer Matthews
Vice President, Showroom and Trade Sales; Sotheby’s Home
sothebyshome.com​ | @sothebyshome


Mpix is a business that prints for professional photographers as well as consumers. We specialize in preserving memories with heirloom quality products. To spruce up my new workspace, I printed a couple of my favorite images from my wedding. These images have personalized our dining room and provide a more interesting backdrop for my Zoom meetings.

Brandon Tucker
Special Projects Director, Miller’s Professional Imaging I Mpix
millerslab.com​ | @millerslab


The first thing that comes to mind on the subject of personalizing spaces right now is how a couple months ago, my husband Francesco and I started working from home.

That meant we were videoconferencing a lot, and at first we didn’t pay much attention to what the background behind us looked like. Then, all of a sudden, we were able to virtually enter the homes of our coworkers and clients, and “spy” on the room they were calling us from. We were immediately fascinated by the things we could see around them, and we started imagining what the rest of their room or apartment looked like. People don’t pay much attention to which corner of their home they’re letting you into! That’s when we realized the background we were showing people through our own screens was just as important as the office where we would meet them during “regular” times.

Why would we pay such careful attention to every corner of our office conference room, making sure it always looks tidy and professional and communicates a message to anyone who walks in, and not do the same for our “virtual” workplace? We decided to set up our space in front of a nice piece of art hanging on the wall in our apartment. That way, we are still showing something that represents us and our style—something we handpicked for our apartment—without diverting attention too far away from us and the focus of our meeting. It’s better than a plain white wall, which wouldn’t communicate any emotions or ideas, or our bookcase full of books and design ideas that we love, but which would be too overwhelming as a background. So, we decided to go for art!

As for the piece we’ve most enjoyed while working from home, that’s definitely our Lounge Chair designed by Ray and Charles Eames. It’s the perfect place to sit and read, think or draw, and we never had enough time at home to do those things before. You sit down and a few minutes later, you find yourself lost in thought. And, every now and then, something interesting comes out of it!

Virginia Valentini
Architect/designer, LATOxLATO
latoxlato.com​ | @latoxlato

Week 5: Perfecting the Home Office

This week, countless Americans eagerly awaited stimulus checks and world leaders discussed the need for a global ceasefire and cooperation in battling the virus that has shaken the planet. Meanwhile, the WFH workforce found its groove. As we collectively adjusted to our current reality using myriad principles of design and wellness—from light and sound, to biophilia and pet therapy—we asked design professionals:

Now that you’ve settled into your WFH routine, what has proven the most important part of your at-home office life?

 

There are a few elements that have become essential to my work from home set-up that help me to remain calm, happy, and focused. I love my ​Sonos and typically listen to a playlist of relaxing music for working on Pandora. I also burn my ​LAFCO candle in the scent Sea and Dune, which reminds me of being by the ocean.

I'm fortunate to have an idyllic view from my home office, with flowers blooming in my backyard. It's really become a perfect, tranquil setting that allows me to work and reduces my stress during these difficult times.

Patty Dominguez
Vice President of Architecture & Design Sales, Cosentino North America
ASID National Board Member
cosentino.com​ | @cosentinousa


Screen fatigue is unavoidable when face-to-face meetings are done through technology, and while routine check-ins with my team have helped us stay connected to one another, we're losing our vital connection to nature. As you might expect from a lighting executive, light has been one of the most important parts of my remote set-up and has helped me regain some of this connection to nature. Specifically, I keep my Ketra lighting system on the Natural setting, which mimics the movement of the sun and helps me to stay productive under bright light during the day, and then transition from work mode to home mode as the light gets warmer and dimmer in the evening. I also keep my office door open, so my puppy reminds me when it's time to get outside for fresh air.

Liana Frey
Vice President of Marketing, Ketra
ketra.com​ | @ketralighting


Working from home has so many positives! If it’s been a difficult transition, focus on the silver linings: no commute, saving money on gas/ordering lunch, spending more time with family and pets, etc. I would say keeping a routine works for me. Getting up at the same time, getting outside as much as possible to walk during my lunch break, etc. Music is also a plus. Working from home can be quiet, maybe almost too quiet. It’s not a normal work environment! Give your teammates a call to check in and hear their voices or play some soft music for background noise.

My desk is near a window—natural light is wonderful. Facing a window gives your eyes a break from the computer and is a nice distraction sometimes when you forget to pause. Add plants and greenery if you don't have a window. Having a great chair really helps for long hours of sitting but, it is equally important to stand up and stretch from time to time. Also, I worried excessively when I started that my dog’s barking would upset a customer but every single time it has started a dog-lovers conversation. Keep your animals close—they are great during times of stress. I keep a dog bed in the room so she knows we're going to be in there for a while.

Jazz up your space—if it feels like the storage room, you won't feel as happy to spend time in there and the clutter will probably stress you out—clean, declutter, and make it feel special with fun art, family photos, or accessories. I love that I can be in an environment that is reflective of who I am and who I want to be. I have so much inspiration on my wall behind my computer and it allows my mind to wander in fascinating ways! (Wander constructively, of course.)

Finally, taking a lunch break and clocking out on time. It’s more important than ever to create clear boundaries between "work" and "home."

Nicole Gaynor
Retail Market Manager, Room & Board Business
Interiors roomandboard.com/business-interiors​ | @roomandboard


Here at 1stdibs, we’ve been working entirely from home for over a month at this point. I’ve been so impressed with how well our employees and partners—including designers and sellers—have adapted to such a fluid macro environment. Over the course of the past few weeks, I’ve found that there are five key factors that help me stay productive while working from home.

A quiet space​: Working from home with two toddlers can be challenging, but I have set up my office in a room that’s away from their play area. This separation allows me to stay focused on my work during business hours and my family when I leave the space.

Great lighting: I’m often in front of my computer, hopping between Zoom meetings, so it’s important to have lighting that doesn’t tire my eyes and is forgiving when I’m on camera. I’ve found that the natural light from the large window in my office and my ​Grasshopper table lamp offer the perfect balance.

A comfortable chair: ​Even though I try to take breaks throughout the day and stretch my legs while I’m on phone calls, I still spend far too much time sitting, so a comfortable chair is a must-have. I’m not sure what I would do without my ​Eames Task Chair​; it’s the perfect blend of comfort and style.

Paper and pen: While working from home I have found myself taking notes with pen and paper, as opposed to on my laptop. It’s helped me stay more engaged while on video calls, and there’s nothing quite like checking off an item on your to do list to stay inspired.

A serene view: I am very fortunate to have a view of a large blooming maple tree outside of my office window. Watching the tree bud and blossom gives me a sense of optimism and reminds me that everything is temporary.

Sarah Liebel
Executive Vice President, Trade, 1stdibs
1stdibs.com​ | @1stdibs


I have to admit that I have been loving this time. My designated working space is my home office. I have a door that shuts me off from the rest of the home. The rule is, if the door is shut, then it is my time and I do not want to be disturbed or distracted. I have found that this is key. I have been scheduling two to three 90-minute sessions with the door closed and then I show my face for a few minutes. I fortunately have an exterior glass door which opens to a side patio. Often, I walk outside when I am on the phone or reading. This gives me a break from my desk. Outside air and light turns my office into a sanctuary.

Jamie Stringham, ASID, NCIDQ
Founder/Designer, Interior Dynamics Interior Designs
President, ASID Central CA/NV chapter
interiordynamicslv.com


This whole not working thing turns out to be A LOT OF WORK! Of course, as a founder of more than one business, the amount of work to manage furloughing employees, filling orders, and trying to navigate the less than stellar roll-out of the supposed financial help for small businesses has been all consuming.

As I have always maintained a home office, I haven't changed much, but because my workdays are even longer than usual, the biggest change I have made is making sure that I have adequate lighting for anything that is not computer work. I am currently working on paintings for new textile designs for my own as well as some licensing projects. I brought home one of the ​light fixtures I make for my own desk. Since I am often working late, I wanted something to illuminate my desk, but not the entire room.

I think the most important thing for me has been making sure to take breaks. My husband is trying to get me to do yoga with him each day. We make sure to include breathing exercises. He knows how important this is (as a musician/singer, lead singer of the Crash Test Dummies, and a certified yoga instructor), in order to keep our lungs strong in case we end up with the virus.

Lastly, the highlight of our day has been our daily clapping of thanks on our fire escape [in New York]. It's been really heartwarming to see our neighbors—none of whom we've ever met—participating too. On Easter, we went whole hog and blasted “New York, New York.”

Michele Varian
Designer/Entrepreneur, Michele Varian
Chief Strategy Officer/Co-founder, Guesst
michelevarian.com​; ​guesst.co​ | @michelevarian; @guesstspace

Week 4: The Tech That Keeps Us Connected

This week, as political and health officials debated the merits of face masks, chief executives from multiple industries announced they would forfeit their salaries for the near future.  As society continues to monitor updates of a rising rate of contamination alongside a glimmer of hope we may soon see numbers begin to drop, people everywhere realized more than ever the importance of staying connected. In these uncertain times, seeing the faces of coworkers, clients, and family, not to mention the ability to easily share projects and keep design work moving forward, have proven the powerful effect technology has had on our careers and our lives in general. With this in mind, we asked professionals in the design field:

In our new WFH existence, what have been your favorite platforms/technologies for keeping in contact with staff, clients, & family as well?

 

At Frank Advertising, we were ahead of the WFH curve since many of our clients are scattered throughout the world. So, we were well-versed in our pro-version video conferencing resources that we use to present/share screens and teleconference with our clients. We also use DropBox/Google Docs to share files and documents. We are just going to plan B in terms of how we get the word out about new launches and news. For instance, videos that we would have shot at an upcoming trade show will now be shot “at home” and edited for distribution online.

We’ve held our weekly team meetings via video conference and we try to do things on calls/chats/texts vs. emails so as not to overload each other and also just to check-in with each other. Everyone’s at-home situation is unique. I have college-age kids while some folks are alone and others are home-schooling young children. So we have to be flexible to our new schedules and also create separation so people aren’t just on-call 24/7. We try to take time daily to really see how we are doing—and we did a happy hour virtually, which was fun.

My advice for businesses is to invest in pro-versions of GoToMeeting or Zoom and to make sure your team knows how to use the software. Do run-throughs and practice sessions for client presentations. Don’t just wing it. Be ready to answer IT questions when clients have slow internet or trouble accessing your call. Offer different ways to login through internet vs. cell phones, for example (or the opposite if internet is slow but data is moving). Set ground rules for meeting times to give employees separation and balance—being aware that being at home comes with a whole extra level of unplanned work (washing groceries, online shopping, teaching kids, and meal preparation).  Make sure your team and your customers are okay—mentally and physically.

Lori Dolnick
Senior Vice President, Frank Advertising
frankadvertisingus.com | @frankadvus


My school, NYSID, had to move to a complete online learning platform. I am in Zoom meetings with students, faculty, and administration. Some classes can be almost five hours at a time without any breaks, and I teach four classes a week.

But, that is just one aspect of what I do for a living. My interior design business has slowed down but not completely. I have been ordering everything online and so far that has been going well.

Pamela J. Durante, ASID, NYSCID
Atelier Durante Interior Design, PLLC
atelierduranteinteriordesign.com | @atelierdurante


I have run a hybrid virtual/live company for over 20 years and so the work with my team is not that different. We have added more Zoom and FaceTime calls. I have noticed that my work with clients has changed. I have had many more virtual meetings with them than I ever did in the past. I also use Wecora—an online platform that I beta tested many years ago and has been a staple in our arsenal. It allows our team to upload all specs for FF&E that we are considering and prepare boards for our clients to reference anywhere, at any time, in the cloud. It has been a lifesaver for my business, but especially now when we cannot meet live.

In my other role as a professor, I have begun teaching virtually, which is no easy feat. I have two classes a week, one for 5 hours and one for 4 hours. We had a week of hyper training prior to going online. There were many wins and learns during the process and now in week two, I am beginning to feel like I have a good grasp on the technology. Delivering the content is different but also so interesting. I love seeing my students faces on the Zoom conference and having that personal connection. We are doing breakout groups, individual “desk” critiques, and lectures. I still love the personal, in-class experience but, we are definitely grateful for the technology which allows us to continue our work together and give the students a positive learning experience.

Phyllis Harbinger, FASID, NCIDQ
Principal, DCI Studio
dcistudio.com | @phyllisharbinger


I am lucky, as my network is wonderful, helpful, and available for helping one another. This is all about seeking a need and filling it—from a humanitarian perspective. One thing I never would have done prior to this event is I posted a 30-minute collective consciousness (prayer, healing, Reiki, etc.) to happen individually, but at the same time, at 7:00 p.m. ET on Facebook. I just started this, but the last two days have been amazing. I think the momentary break has helped ground those who join in (including me) and allows us to collaboratively focus on something positive that can support the healing of humanity and our planet. We have had folks from as far away as California and the U.K. participate so far.

From a resource perspective, I have worked virtually for two decades—could not do it without GoToMeeting and all of the other types of similar platforms: BlueJeans, Zoom, Skype, WeChat, etc. I also think I have seen an uptick in the use of LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for both uplifting information, as well as professional sharing at a higher level than ever before. I feel like this is a time of reflection and am just as busy as before with all the traveling—but somehow it is different. I’m trying to accomplish something each day, take care of myself, and checking on others has become a daily practice with the 7:00 p.m. “Universal Connect.”

Jane Rohde, AIA, FIIDA, ASID, ACHA, CHID, LEED AP BD+C, GGA-EB
Principal, JSR Associates
jsrassociates.net | @jsrassociates


We are using Google Hangouts and meet a ton, with live video calls daily—sometimes six to 10 a day. This is a tool we had not used previously and it is awesome. And, of course, we are still using GoToMeeting for many of our client presentations. Wecora has also been a huge help. It is a cloud-based tool that enables our designers to place materials and specifications of furnishings in files that we can share with each other. We are also heavily using Google Chats as an Instant Messaging tool for communication.

Tim Schelfe, FASID, CID, CAPS
Vice President and Principal, Britt Design Group
brittdesigngroup.com | @brittdesign.group


Technology is so important to help us stay connected in such circumstances. I'd put my favorites into 3 different categories depending on the need:

Internal communications: Our entire company has adopted Microsoft Team and it's been great to communicate, connect, share info, and even screen share. It has so many tools to use. We've been able to integrate it into our business even faster and more seamlessly than we had anticipated since we all began to work from home. It's social but also very professional, and we saw the results immediately.

Communication with clients: For connecting and discussing sensitive information that needs to be secure, we've been using WebEx and GoToMeeting, and they're always very reliable.

For personal communication: When connecting with family, friends, and music teachers for my kids, I like to use FaceTime, or Zoom for those who don't use Apple products. Both are widely used and very convenient and easy to work with.

Suzanne Wilkinson
Principal, figure3
figure3.com | @figure3design

Week 3: Well-being While Working From Home

This week, as lockdowns and social distancing were extended and iconic locations like Central Park became makeshift care centers, the design industry stepped up in every way it could. At every turn, there were stories of architects producing protective face shields, textile companies donating materials for face masks, household product inventors developing new respirators, and the design industry in general asking again and again: How can we help? With the ever-developing news of the day, and our collective directive to STAY HOME & STAY SAFE, mental and physical health must remain a top priority for us all. With that in mind, we asked professionals in the design field:

How have you incorporated ideas of wellness and wellbeing into your work-from-home space and routine?
 

Over at Novità, the team has been making great strides to implement a balance in this new WFH lifestyle. With our daily routines ruptured and everyone at home, it’s been too easy to start work right after your morning cappuccino and not stop until 9pm. We’ve started to push each team member take a daily “happiness hour,” encouraging them to practice wellness—whatever that means to them. Whether it's streaming their Pilates class, going on a long walk or baking, it’s vital to find the space in your day to practice self-care in these uncertain and stressful times. We really believe, no matter how busy we get, our workspaces should encourage their employees to take a daily pause and follow this routine!

We are also about to launch a “Be Well” series on our @novitapr Instagram, which will feature quick 6-8 minute lessons on health and wellness—running the gamut from yoga, meditation, cooking, ergonomic tips, and more—all led by specialists from within our own network of friends, family, and communities! Our first one will be this Saturday at 11am EST, where we will be giving some tips on how to make an Apple pie from scratch. For us, wellness is about maintaining an all-around fulfilling lifestyle—and that must include eating well!

Chris Abbate
Founder and President, Novità Communications
novitapr.com | @chrisabbate @novitapr


I’m feeling particularly grateful to work for a company with incredible ergonomics expertise as my home office is seeing more use than I ever anticipated.

Used to being on the road and on the go, I find I get antsy if I don’t get some exercise each day so I’ve been heading out early with the dog for a run, or doing an online dance workout class with my 11-year-old daughter after dinner. I’ve also been making a really conscious effort to stand a part of each hour (our ergo team says 15 minutes!), to pace while on calls, and to use the video call function—even when my hair isn’t brushed! I am a truly social animal and seeing clients, partners, and colleagues, even virtually, really re-energizes me.

Meg Conway
Vice President of A&D, Humanscale
humanscale.com | @humanscalehq


Like many companies all over the world, our entire team at Daun Curry Design Studio is now working from home. While it’s no substitution for working side-by-side, we make use of the technologies available to communicate with each other and keep our projects moving. We are also mindful of the importance of the “watercooler element” of working in the same physical space. Even if it’s not entirely work related, a little bit of chit-chat and a shared joke is important for our mental wellbeing, so we make sure to keep this team camaraderie going via phone and video calls throughout the day. While productivity is key, so is our wellbeing–both mentally and physically. It’s important to create a dedicated workspace at home, and not just open a laptop at the dining table. Having a specific work area—even if it’s small—creates consistency and familiarity, which helps in drawing a line between working efficiently and when it’s time to switch off and spend time with your loved ones.

Daun Curry
Founder and Creative Director, Daun Curry Design Studio
dauncurry.com | @dauncurry


Youtube: I love having peaceful videos on in the background, the right video can set the tone of the room. There are scads of very long videos of waterfalls, gardens, campfires, many of them 8-hours-plus. Right now I have on the hilariously titled: TV for Dogs: Videos for Dogs to Watch – Birds and Squirrels for Separation Anxiety.

Plants and flowers at my desk: Even if I weren’t a plant marketer, I’d still extoll the virtues of having a living plant, especially a flowering plant, within view at all times. It makes a difference. I repeat, it makes a difference.

Music: Blues, Bach, and bluegrass. Also, metal to get the blood moving.

Breaks! Breaks are more important to productivity than many of us realize. Taking a short walk or run is one of the absolute best ways to reset your clogged up brain and get those creative juices flowing again. I have alarms on my phone to do sit-ups and pushups, drink water, and have a healthy snack. I am ridiculed for this and I don’t care, because it works.

Josh Fleischmann
Marketing Director, Blondies Treehouse Inc
blondiestreehouse.com | @blondiestreehouseinc


This is something I started thinking about after changing my address and my life a decade ago. In the midst of the Great Recession, I moved from Tampa to San Diego and went from a 233-pound couch potato to an active Boomer now planning a trek up Mt. Kilimanjaro before I turn 60 at the end of the year. I realized that sitting on a desk chair all day—no matter how ergonomic, or how many miles I ran or hiked after work—was no healthier for me than sitting on my sofa every night. Add stress from a divorce, economic concerns, or a pandemic and you increase the unhealthy factor by about a thousand.

I created a “dance between drafts” rule for myself where, whenever I hit a potential pause point in a project, I turn the music up and move for the four or so minutes of a danceable song on my computer’s speakers. I do this throughout the day. I also conduct most of my phone calls while walking around my office and hallway.

The Mayo Clinic, where I trained to become a certified wellness coach, calls this NEAT, or non-exercise activity thermogenesis. That’s a scientific way of saying the calories we burn not working out or eating. For a desk-bound designer working on a full-house project, adding NEAT to your workday can mean the difference between a healthy weight and obesity—even when you don’t have the opportunity to get away for a break.

(Jamie’s new book, Wellness by Design, will be available from Simon & Schuster/Tiller Press in September 2020.)

Jamie Gold, CKD, CAPS, MCCWC
Wellness Design Consultant and Author
jamiegold.net | @JGWellnessDesign (no i on Twitter)


For me, routine is everything.  I am a bit OCD and need to get up, work out, have breakfast, and then get to work. I do think keeping good habits in place is paramount to what happens when we come back to our “new normal.” I am grateful for the extra time in the day that would normally be spent commuting to NYC or to clients’ homes and showrooms. I have tried to use this time to catch up on reading my trade magazines, doing business development and taking more time to connect with my husband, family, and friends. Keeping those connections alive is more important than ever!

Phyllis Harbinger, FASID, CID, NCIDQ
Principal, DCI Studio

Founder, Phyllis Harbinger Design and Business Consulting
dcistudio.com | @phyllisharbinger


While the DIFFA team has all been working from home these past few weeks, I have found a few ways to keep my sanity and to counteract the current excess in my calorie intake! I bought a Simply Fit Board and have been standing and twisting on it while working on my laptop at the kitchen counter. It’s almost like having a stand up desk with a moving floor! I have also been doing some of the Equinox IG TV classes that they are now posting daily. It’s a good way to get my blood pumping in the morning and pretend I’m at the gym. I also like to take a moment in the morning to decide what my dinner menu will be for the evening. I’m in isolation with my husband and one of his coworkers, so it makes me feel like I’m taking good care of them when I plan a healthy or comforting meal.

Dawn Roberson
Executive Director, DIFFA (Design Industry Foundation Fighting AIDS)
diffa.org | @diffanational

Week 2: Balancing Personal & Professional Time

This week, as statewide lockdowns and confirmed COVID-19 cases amplified in number, unemployment claims surged, and an historic economic stimulus package worked its way through the halls of government, design staffs across the country endeavored to embrace the new WFH normal and keep business and life moving ahead to the best of ability. Balancing work and home in the same place is a learning curve for most but technology is helping, and everything from staff meetings to site visits to happy hours have gone virtual.

As design companies sink in to our new shared reality, we asked professionals:

In this new work-and-live-at-home world, how are you managing balancing personal time and professional time?
 

I am setting aside hours, just like I would for the office, but I am also finding that I have more time for myself. Meaning, I can prepare a nice breakfast, instead of frantically waking up and running off to the office, or to a job site. Also, I find that people are more efficient, maybe because they want to get back to their home space. I also love it when people use the free version of ZOOM—it limits the conversation to 40 minutes, so there is a rush to get to the content.

Dan Brunn, AIA
Principal, Dan Brunn Architecture
danbrunn.com | @dbarchitecture


The short answer is: I’m not. But I think that answer is equally as important because it’s realistic. For some, adapting to this new reality is made easier through strict routines and schedules, but for me (and I’m sure many others), it’s about learning to roll with the punches. Setting clear timelines and boundaries is not possible for some people in this new reality (especially for those with young kids at home) and isn’t necessarily always the most productive.

I find that the stress and sense of being overwhelmed by the pandemic comes in waves, so I’m letting myself react when that happens and trying to just monitor how I’m feeling as the day progresses. While personal time feels more minimal—I’m balancing work with family dinners with my adult children who thankfully live extremely close by, walks, and staying connected with family and friends through calls and virtual wine dates—I take it when I need it, even if that doesn’t fit into a regular 8:30-5:30 business schedule. And last weekend I cleaned and organized all day. In times of stress, re-organizing every closet, drawer, door, and shelf in my home gives me a sense of purpose, calm, and inner control.

Home is definitely where our lives are happening day-to-day and for the next few months. It is my hope that during this time relationships will strengthen, business will evolve and the industry (and all those of us that are in it) will succeed in ways not yet considered.

Susan Brunstrum, Associate ASID
Principal & Founder, Studio Brunstrum
studiobrunstrum.com | @studiobrunstrum


To manage personal and professional time, I am trying to follow my old "normal" routine of working out in the morning, getting ready for work, and working at my private office as I normally would. I am not doing in person meetings and am only going to sites when no one is there, as most of our projects are whole house remodels. It's easy to get demotivated or get distracted with household things, but the closer you can stick to a routine, the more productive you will be! I've also been journaling more in the morning, which seems to really calm my nerves down and puts me in a good mindset for the day.

Ariana Lovato, Allied ASID, AKBD
Owner & Principal Designer, Honeycomb Home Design
honeycombhomedesign.com | @honeycomb_homedesign


100% at work, 100% at home. Balancing routine, headspace, connectivity, distractions, and getting outside. In order to maintain focus and balance it’s important for me to get into the right headspace or frame of mind. I incorporate my usual morning routines: Maintaining my usual wakeup time, morning cup of coffee, morning shower, and putting on a nice outfit are all key for me. I keep a consistent start time and my home office is clean, well-organized, and professional. I’m aware of the viewers’ perspective while conducting a video conference—so my backdrop is professional and consistent, acoustics of the room are important, and lighting all must be taken into consideration.

Now more than ever I’m relying heavily on the many electronic tools that facilitate face-to-face interactions and group collaborations—like Microsoft Teams and GoToMeeting—as electronic face-to-face connectivity is critical for me. Our team has started a weekly (virtual) happy hour on Fridays; it’s a great way to come together and cap-off the week. I’m trying not to pay attention to the many new distractions found in the work-from-home environment. At the same time, I’m trying to be accessible and helpful to my family as we are all in this together. When possible, I stop working at a consistent time each day and get outside as much as possible to exercise and enjoy Michigan’s beautiful spring evenings.

Kirt Martin
Chief Creative Officer, Landscape Forms
landscapeforms.com | @landscapeforms


I am a big believer in structures and schedules. We share a family calendar on our iPhones and every business meeting, school morning meeting, piano lesson, playing in the garden, is scheduled and we adjust our schedules around each other. This gives everyone in the family time to take care of work, school, and personal time and avoids conflicts. My advice is create a schedule and stick to it!

Simone Vingerhoets-Ziesmann
Managing Director, Roset USA (Ligne Roset)
ligne-roset.com/us | @ligneroset

Week 1: Combatting Cabin Fever

This week, as the world shelters in place and moves even its biggest businesses into home offices, there are countless questions circulating. Working from home is a new experience for most—and an unwelcome one for some. It raises concerns for productivity, community, and general wellbeing, particularly among the creative classes that thrive in collaborative and vibrant work environments. Faced with this new reality, we asked professionals:

In this new live/work-in-isolation setting, how will you avoid cabin fever and stay creative?
 

In this live/work isolation environment, I am not too worried about cabin fever. I look at it as a time when I can actually get a lot done and recharge. I recently started an interior design wellbeing consulting business and am also a full-time interior design professor. I will be working from home, teaching and ensuring our students have a smooth transition (as much as possible) to online learning.

For my business, I will continue with projects, create content, and work on back-end administration tasks. My business was set up to be completely online, so I am not worried about having to make any major changes there. In addition, this gives me much needed time to go inward and focus on me and on my family's health and wellbeing. I am looking forward to spending real quality time with them at home, while maintaining a somewhat structured schedule.

I would tell people to keep exposure to nature, fresh air, and some kind of physical activity at top of mind. Nature as we know, is one of the key factors of wellbeing, by way of reducing stress and increasing happiness, and has other positive impacts on our mental and physical state. I think we all need that right now!

Angie Scott, PhD, Allied ASID, IDEC
Founder + Principal, Angie Scott Design
angiescottdesign.com | @angiescottdesign


In this new normal, we'll be on screen often, engaging virtually and utilizing technology through flat, glass screens. It is essential to remember that immersive experiences in nature are intrinsic to humans. Spring is blossoming here in Atlanta and taking a walk to the local park or in the greenspace surrounding my neighborhood reminds me of what is real and tangible, as I explore color and textures, and listen to the sounds in ecology. I return to my desk refreshed and revitalized.

Carolyn Ames Noble, ASID, WELL AP
Founder, Ames Design Studio
amesdesignstudio.me


When working from home, be sure to limit working from your bed; shower and get dressed each day and take calls from your front porch or at least near a window to take in views and enjoy fresh air. 

Now is the time to take good care of those things that linger on our “someday” to-do list and to make strides to keep us on top of our personal and professional responsibilities. With mandatory lockdown on the calendar, our team definitely wanted to create safe ways to continue to engage with our valued clients—e-meetings, zoom calls and online information shares—but we also wanted to fill the gaps while working at home and during nights and weekends. Here are a few of our most rewarding activities that we chose to dip into:

  • GET FAMILIAR WITH YOUR FITNESS APP: Blowing off steam in a physical way keeps all of the chaos in perspective.

  • ORGANIZE YOUR PHOTOS + FILES: Duplicate photos, bad photos, misplaced files and unnecessary documents. [It’s] fun to reminisce about travels and family photos… while getting organized at the same time.

  • REVIEW YOUR RECIPES: The food we make at home is so satisfying and the light focus it takes to follow a recipe (or make one by heart) takes our minds off the world for just a moment, not to mention benefits us in an elevated, healthy way.

  • UPDATE YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA, WEBSITE + MEDIA KITS: Scroll your own online presence and see how up-to-date (or out-of-date) yours truly is.

  • CATCH UP ON YOUR AUDIBLE LIBRARY + POSTCAST EPISODES: With operation lockdown in full effect, we can now really listen to the information being delivered without multi-tasking. 

  • ENROLL IN MASTER CLASS: I am an advocate for lifelong learning and think this a great, not to mention safe, way to learn and remain engaged today. 

  • WRITE A THANK YOU NOTE: We all are reeling during this uncertain time. What’s next? How long will this last? What am I to expect of my career and community in the coming days? Take a minute to sit down and write a thank you note. To anyone. There is never an expiration date on writing a thank you note to lift someone’s spirits and share your gratitude. You thoughtfulness will be appreciated.*

Kerrie Kelly, FASID, NKBA, CAPS
Creative Director, Kerrie Kelly Design Lab
kerriekelly.com | @kerriekelly

*(Excerpted with permission from the Kerrie Kelly Design Lab Blog. Read the full post—“Coronavirus: Your Uplift While on Lockdown”—at https://kerriekelly.com/2020/03/coronavirus-your-uplift-while-on-lockdown/.)>