When My Bedroom is an Office was published in March 2019, we had no idea it would be so relevant over a year later. Now, Joanna Thornhill reminds us that even if your office is just an outdoor table at the end of your bed, it’s still worth making it a space you are happy to spend the day in.
No one wants to stare at a messy workspace at the best of times, least of all when dozing off in bed at the end of the day. But if the bedroom is your only viable space to set up shop, however small the available area, if you’re savvy and organised you can create a spot that functions as a place of productivity without causing nightmares.
For the workspace itself, think about repurposing a piece of furniture that will fit the aesthetic of your bedroom. A bureau or secretaire can work brilliantly, and you can just shut the hatch when you’re not using it. A simple writing desk, console or even small dining table can be a good option, but try to make a raised platform for your monitor (perhaps just a shelf resting on two wooden battens) to ensure that it sits at the correct eye level; you can tuck your keyboard under this when it’s not being used. If your table has no drawers, a basic fabric skirt fixed around the top can hide a multitude of sins, from printers to power cables.
Since space will no doubt be limited, think laterally to make the most of your work nook. If your desk is in an alcove, this can offer the ideal spot to add shelves for storage, but otherwise a ladder-style leaning desk unit may be most efficient, or even a modular shelving system incorporating a desk. Soften the appearance of work paraphernalia such as box files or ring binders by covering them with fabric or wallpaper swatches that tie in with your room decor, and be creative with storage – why not keep archived paperwork in a small vintage suitcase, for example, or stack your printer paper in an old wooden fruit crate?
An ugly office chair will never enhance any bedroom, so consider working from a more visually pleasing dining chair or even a padded stool. If this is your full-time workspace, however, a proper computer chair is best for your body, so shop around for an aesthetically pleasing one (they may be few and far between, but they’re out there). If you’ve already got a bog-standard one, try covering it with a chunky throw when it’s not in use, or make fitted covers in a charming fabric to give it a more homely feel.
If you’re up for a DIY challenge, try converting a cupboard or wardrobe into a bijou office. Add a deep shelf across the whole space at desk height, place additional shelving above for storage, tuck your printer underneath and simply shut the door when you’re done.
Like so many throughout the world, our team is working from home. Some of us are surrounded by plants, some by arts and crafts, all of us by books. We love seeing the ways people are making new workspaces at home and we wanted to share some of ours with you.
Michelle Brasington | Publicity Manager
Here is my workspace. I have a lot of light streaming in through the kitchen window in the mornings and it prompts me to get the dishes done before I start work!
This ode to plants reconnects me to nature making me feel relaxed and comforted. I am working my way through Erin’s recipes for teas and my favourite so far is the ‘daily multi’ which ispacked with nutritional goodies.
This is definitely an aspirational book for me! I find it fascinating how these bespoke pieces of furniture and lighting have found their home and fit so well in these stunning architecturally designed houses.
My co-worker, Charlie the whippet, is probably the most stylish part of my home! I love all dogs, but there’s a special place in my heart for whippets. She’s a good listener and never argues when I talk to her. All she wants is a pat and a dog biscuit!
Jackie Money | Marketing Manager
Firstly, these pictures of my house are entirely misleading, because I could never keep it so clean. Thank you to this content piece for making me tidy up. Secondly, welcome to my (working from) home.
My desk gets some lovely afternoon sunshine, making a great natural filter for video meetings. I keep that pile of work books on the chair next to me for easy reference, and art supplies at the ready for my lunch break.
When the sun gets a bit much, I can retreat to my bedroom where the bookshelves live. The books which don’t fit there have to live in piles stashed around the apartment. That doesn’t mean I love them any less than the bookshelf ones, but it does mean I have more books than I have proper places to put them.
Lately, I’ve been pouring over The Flower Expert by Fleur McHarg. The only flower I could identify before reading this book was a sunflower, and now I can tell you what a rose looks like. Maybe even a daisy. It has so many brilliant tips on arranging flowers, like what colours to put together and how much green stuff (ie. foliage) to use. If you’re a flower novice like me, or a master like Fleur, this book will bring you pure, colourful joy.
Lisa Schuurman | Editorial Assistant
Here is my work from home desk. I’ve retreated to my parents’ house on the Mornington Peninsula for some fresh air and space while self-isolating. Currently half my desk is my mum’s sewing area and the other half is taken up by my computer, books, flowers from the garden and quite often Pepper, my dog. She has a habit of sitting in my chair but most of the time she’s under the desk trying to nibble my toes.
I am one of those messy people who will tell you everything is organised, which is half true, but I definitely try to squish everything in wherever I can. The bookcase includes: some of my favourite THA books, a lot of YA from when I ran an online book club, a yellow duck, a fifteen-year-old lucky horse shoe with my name stamped into it, my favourite vinyl records, a small snow globe of a sheep from NZ and one of my favourite postcards that says ‘de wereld is mooier met jou’ which translates from Dutch to ‘the world is more beautiful with you’.
To match my slightly chaotic shelves, I am also a messy reader. I start multiple books and never finish them, don’t read for many months and then I’ll end up reading multiple books at a time. One book I haven’t put down is Portraits Destroyed by Julie Cotter. I started at THA just when we were beginning to work on the book but I never got a chance to read it until now. Julie Cotter has such great insight into the fascinating world of portraits and the role they play in history. You also can’t deny the power of a great pic section in bringing the words to life.
Sydney-based editor, writer and curator Penny Craswell has built a career doing what she loves: showcasing exceptional Australian architecture and interiors and writing about why they really matter. Now, Penny has released her first book, Design Lives Here, a compelling look at the connection between spaces and objects that puts the spotlight on local makers. We spoke to Penny about the inspiration behind the book, her favourite project featured, and her predictions for the future of Australian contemporary design.
Where did your love for design, architecture and interiors stem from?
It all started in Amsterdam, where I had originally planned to do an internship for a photography magazine (my first degree was Art History and Curatorship).The photography magazine didn’t have enough desks, so I went to Frame magazine, which happens to be the world’s biggest (and best) design magazine. I fell in love with design there, and when I moved back to Australia, I decided to pursue a career in design magazines and writing.
How does this translate into your blog, The Design Writer?
My blog features amazing design happening in Australia – from architectural and interiors projects like houses, restaurants and retail, to the best design objects, furniture and lighting. I also promote ethical design – design that is doing good for the environment and society.
Design Lives Here goes a step further by paying homage to local designers and makers who have crafted bespoke pieces of furniture and lighting for stunning Australian residential architecture and interiors. What led you to this project and how did it take shape?
I have a real love of interiors stemming from my time as Deputy Editor of Indesign magazine and Editor of Artichoke magazine. Far more than just colours and patterns, it is an incredible skill of understanding how spaces are used and how they should be proportioned – a too-large room is just as badly designed as a too-small room. But I also love design objects – my masters thesis was about objects and products, and how people attach stories to them – how they are made, how they are used. This book combines the two – it’s about the stories attached to both interior and object.
The idea for the book was to show the beauty of Australian design – I wanted to pair each house or apartment with one piece of Australian furniture or lighting design. In some cases, I found the pairing through the architect or interior designer and in some cases I found it through the furniture or lighting designer.
For those who haven’t read Design Lives Here, can you tell us a bit more about the importance of spaces and objects being connected by the design process?
Every designer, whether they’re an architect, interior designer, object designer or fashion designer, starts with an idea and then works this through various iterations – sketching by hand or on a computer or both – and then works with materials to make that idea come to life. Through exploring how something was made, we can peel back the layers and truly understand its meaning and value.
Is there a takeaway for our readers on how they can bring this ethos into their own homes?
I would say that the first solution is not necessarily the best solution – sometimes you need to go through a process to find the right answer. Obviously, professional designers are the experts, so hire them if you can to help you, especially on larger projects. I would recommend that everyone consider buying Australian design – the quality and originality of the design is there, often without the huge price tag.
Do you have a favourite project from Design Lives Here?
I tried to choose a range of projects – large and small, urban to remote, for small families and large. But for me, my favourite has to be Indigo Slam by Smart Design Studio – it is a truly monumental house that is also intimate in places, and the furniture, designed and made by Khai Liew in Adelaide, is exquisite.
What would you say is the most unique object featured, and is there more to its story than revealed in the book?
I really love the Black Sambuca Chandelier by Ruth Allen – she is a glass artist and she recycles used Black Sambuca bottles – those long elegant glass shapes – into pendant lights. I didn’t mention it in the book, but Ruth told me that black glass is quite rare so working this way offers the designer/maker the chance to recycle something that would otherwise be post-consumer waste, while also working with a rare material.
In the book, you say that ‘the Australian dream of owning a quarter-acre block with a picket fence and a garage is no longer relevant – or at least no longer so simple.’ Can you explain why this is?
It is partly because property prices are so high these days that many young people can’t afford a mortgage on one salary the way our parents could – and sometimes they can’t afford it with two salaries. These days, we may not need a garage as many people prefer bicycles and/or public transport. Also, for financial reasons, apartments are becoming more popular in Australia, as is inter-generational living.
Where do you think Australian contemporary design is headed?
All signs show that Australian design is continuing to grow. I think we need to work on educating the general public about the value of design – there is a burgeoning design industry in Australia and people need to know they can choose to buy Australian design. As long as this continues to happen, the future looks bright for designers, makers, manufacturers and brands looking to grow their business.
What other projects are you working on, and what’s next for you?
I’m working on my blog right now and doing some preliminary research for my next book!
Design Lives Here is available now. Text by Penny Craswell and cover design by Claire Orrell.
Words by Nina Karnikowski, author of Make a Living Living, introduction by Bianca Jafari
Nina Karnikowski is one of Australia’s most loved travel writers. Her career has seen her journeying through Mongolia in ex-Russian military vehicles, exploring the Namibian desert in open-sided safari trucks and dodging icebergs in Antarctica in an icebreaker ship. But, for Nina, travel is more than just a job.
Our adventures (imagined, planned or taken) shape a unique part of who we are. They help form our beliefs, expand our way of thinking and provide endless inspiration. With many of the world’s international borders now closed, there’s no obvious replacement to fill the void. Now, Nina brings us one step closer, taking us on a journey that defies physical boundaries.
Last week, I learned a new word. My mum taught it to me, sending me a BBC article she’d read about something called ‘fernweh’. Call it motherly intuition, but it was the exact word I had been searching for. It means, literally, ‘distance sickening’, and nods to that deep craving we all occasionally have to see far-flung places.
‘What if our lust for travel causes us a deep yearning pain, an ache that reminds us we have to get out and see the world?’ asked the BBC article. ‘What if we’re trapped inside our homes because a virus has taken the Earth and its inhabitants hostage, and we feel despair that we simply cannot travel at all?’
The story was a comfort. Having been a travel writer for the past seven years, visiting a dozen countries a year on assignments covering destinations as diverse as Antarctica, India and Zambia, to Japan, Nepal and Peru, the sudden end to this constant wandering has left me feeling stagnant and uninspired.
Reading about ‘fernweh’, though, reminded me how many other travel-hungry humans are stuck in their homes feeling this very same thing – this growing restlessness, this deep thirst for the exotic and the strange and the extraordinary, that seems increasingly far away with every passing day. Maybe, I’ve been thinking, in the absence of real travel and in the face of this very real crisis, we might need to start escaping for some mind travel occasionally, taking inner journeys in the absence of outer ones.
But how do we plan these inner journeys? Well, I think we start by appealing to our senses. This past week, for example, when an intense craving to visit India crept up on me, I brewed pots of sweet masala chai and listened to my favourite Bollywood music and burned nag champa incense and dreamt of the wild adventures I’ll eventually have in the Indian Himalayas when this life pause is over. And yes, I also spent time leafing through the pages of Make a Living Living to find the India tales tucked away in there. It helped.
Films, books and podcasts are other things we can ‘pack’ for these mental journeys around the globe. Over the past week I’ve escaped to 18th-century Qing dynasty China while watching Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, northern India via Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited, and Greenland, Iceland and Afghanistan during The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Diving into transportive travel podcasts like Conde Nast Traveller’s Women Who Travel and Travel With Rick Steves has also proven to be a wonderful escape portal. I’ve spent time ‘travelling’ via forgotten coffee table books, to Africa via Peter Beard’s stunning photographs, and India through Steve McCurry’s. I’ve also been dipping into Paul Bowles’s Travels, Collected Writing, 1950-93, covering tales from Morocco to Kenya, Thailand to Sri Lanka and beyond, and Leigh Ann Henion’s Phenomenal, a Hesitant Adventurer’s Search for Wonder in the Natural World, which whisks the reader away to Mexico to witness the great monarch butterfly migration, to Venezuela to see their notorious lightning storms, and Hawai’i to climb active volcanoes.
Mood boarding is another fun way I’ve found to mind travel, grabbing a stack of old magazines, some scissors and glue and a bunch of coloured pencils, as well as found objects like coins, flowers and feathers, and cutting and pasting my way to a faraway land. It’s a way of immersing yourself with a place in a tactile way (I explain in further in one of the eight creativity-stoking exercises peppered throughout Make a Living Living), and could even prove a useful starting point for organising your next journey when we’re all ready to take flight again.
Some of the best ‘adventures’ I’ve taken since this all started, though, have been while sitting still. Simply sitting and listening to the sound of my breath in my body has allowed me to not only accept the situation just as it is, and to transform fear into curiosity and creative thinking, but also to cut through the noise and find fresh time and energy to share with those closest to me.
Home meditations and yoga classes via YogaGlo.com have been pulling me out of catastrophic thinking, as have listening to podcasts like Ten Percent Happier by Dan Harris, a practical deep-dive into mindfulness and Buddhism aimed at ambitious modern listeners, and those by Buddhist teacher Tara Brach. These tools have opened up potent periods of stillness and clarity in my days that have made me realise that the greatest adventure any of us might hope to take right now, or perhaps ever, is that of going nowhere at all.
Classic bingo with a jungle twist! Play along with the blue Ulysses butterfly and the inedible tomato frog, along with many other exotic jungle creatures. Easy to play and simply delightful, for all animal-loving children and adults.
Jungle Bingo, illustrated by Caroline Selmes. Published by Laurence King Publishing.
Build Your Own Mars Colony is a pop-out assembly set, no scissors or glue necessary. Set up your own rockets, astronauts, robots and hover craft. Heck, name your space cat Major Tom and enjoy hours of extraterrestrial fun.
300 sea creatures are hiding on this game board – can you be the first to spot the clown fish or the killer whale? The rules are simple: take a creature token from the box and show it to the group. The first to spot the creature on the big board, wins the token. The one with the most tokens, wins!
All you need to know to become the ultimate superhero! Featuring 20 activities and a sticker sheet, this colourful activity book reveals superhero secrets like how to make yourself invisible, and handy tips from finding your superhero name to designing your costume.
The Superhero Handbook, text and illustrations by James Doyle and Jason Ford. Published by Laurence King Publishing.
This book is packed with more stickers you can shake a tail feather at (over 200!) and glorious activities to stick them on. Design a hoopoe’s crown, stick the right egg in its nest and play blackbird bingo in this beautifully designed sticker activity book.
The Art of Cake is illustrator, designer and artist Alice Oehr’s playful ode to cake for its devotees everywhere. Through her distinctive, quirky style, she captures cake as an art form that satisfies not only our taste buds but also our eyes and imagination.
Learning about the history of fifty cakes adored across the globe is like the sweet escape you didn’t know you needed. We’ll take a bet here and guess that you don’t know the story of the Cannoli, the origin of the Éclair, or the scandal behind the Sachertorte. Alice covers them all with a sense of nostalgia and whimsy. The Art of Cake also features six of Alice’s own homespun recipes to keep you busy and baking.
Take a look through our gallery of six of our favourite cakes from the book: the humble carrot cake, the controversial pavlova, the dainty strawberry shortcake, the strikingly layered red velvet cake, the elegant éclair and finally the alluring black forest gâteau.
The Art of Cake is available now. Text and illustrations by Alice Oehr and design by Ashlea O’Neill