Take the Stress Out of Working from Home

Take the Stress Out of Working from Home

Fifty percent of all businesses in the United States are home-based businesses, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. Forty-three percent of American employees work remotely (telecommute) at least some of the time. Whether operating a full-time startup, working from home three days a week, or simply bringing work home there wasn’t time to finish at the office, creating the perfect area for working from home can help alleviate some of the stress of that job.

The location of your home office affects stress levels. If you work alone, views and a connection to the outdoors may be important for relaxing, concentration, and even inspiration. We see creatives turning attics into wonderful studios, but if clients or colleagues will be dropping by, you may want a home office with its own exterior entrance, or one that’s located just off the entry foyer. Especially if a visitor would find stairs to be an obstacle, a no-step front entry welcoming everyone regardless of their mobility shows great consideration for your visitors. A third option is creating an entry vestibule, reducing the stress of having your visitors traipsing through your home. And if there will be frequent meetings, do you want them to take place in your home work space?

Privacy vs. Accessibility. Are other people home when you’re working? If so, balancing your privacy and accessibility are paramount. Older kids won’t need your attention like toddlers will. If you moved a parent in with you, realistically, what are the demands on your time as a caregiver?

Bath accommodations are also an aspect of location. It may be a mild inconvenience or even a welcome break to walk across the house to the bathroom, but the convenience of an adjoining or nearby bathroom can’t be overstated. And is that bathroom mostly dedicated to your home office? It can be quite stressful to keep your hall bathroom that’s used by your kids always tidy and presentable for business guests.

Design your work space with you at the center. It’s stressful when your back is to others. If your room layout dictates such an arrangement, consider having a mirror in front of you to see what’s going on behind you. Ergonomic seating, especially for longer tasks, can help alleviate body tension; while another, more comfortable seating option will be a welcome break and studies suggest may spur creativity.

Then there’s the question of how much space you really need? Running a successful home-based business may require storage for inventory or specialized equipment, or perhaps a dedicated meeting space, while a modest Pocket Office might be perfect if you occasionally bring work home to complete.

Lighting is surprisingly important, starting with sunlight. People who’ve worked from basement home offices without daylight report their biorhythms get messed up and that they feel less productive. Sunlight’s health benefits are well documented – including improved concentration, and reduced irritability and headaches. Still, too many windows can actually be a distraction, and may dictate where computers must be placed to avoid washing out those screens. Careful consideration of both indirect and direct/task lighting can help prevent eye fatigue; avoid fluorescent lighting in general.

Functional and fashionable task lighting for your home office. (Photos courtesy of Kichler®. Shown: Ellerbeck™ 1 Light Wall Sconce.)

Kichler Wall Sconce
Kichler Wall Sconce over Desk

Clutter sucks energy. The best types of storage will be dictated by your personal preferences. Open shelves, cubbies, and baskets can make finding specific items easier, while cabinets, drawers, and closets can provide discreet storage and organization. Visual organization and communication might also be aided through large wall calendars, bulletin boards, white boards, etc. A walk-in closet is a viable option if you need to keep a lot of supplies or product on hand, giving you a place to store and keep items organized.

Work area. You may be surprised to learn that the majority of people we’ve spoken with, and especially women, do not want a traditional desk as their work area. Modular units, storage amenities on casters for easy movement, and counter-top work surfaces (adjustable height if possible!) all garner more interest. Some people need lots of work surface to spread things out, while others find that the more work surface they have, the more that clutter is a problem. Items that inspire, from photos and artwork to trophies and memorabilia, can spur creative approaches and problem-solving – obvious stress reducers. Even the paint colors used can foster calm or add energy. A task chair on casters may not move freely on carpet, adding frustration, so flooring choice is often a trade-off between the warmth and sound-deadening attributes of carpet versus the vibe and feel of hard surface flooring options.

Leinart floor plan - shipping vestibuleShipping and Receiving. Hooray! Twelve online sales over the weekend – closing out your record-setting week. But you have to put your life somewhat on “hold” waiting for your shipper to pick up those items. Working around that driver’s timetable can be a thing of the past with a secure shipping vestibule, often located within your home office. Imagine opening a door and placing your shipments and shipping documents in a “closet.” Now you have the freedom to leave if you want. When the shipper arrives at your house, he/she unlocks the exterior door of that closet, retrieves those items/drops off the supplies you had ordered, and locks that exterior door. You come back home, unlock the interior door, and fetch the supplies. No longer are you bound by your shipping and receiving schedule.

The Leinart's (plan #29336) shipping vestibule at the front entrance provides a secure location for shipping and receiving packages. In addition, the home-based business configuration presents a separate entrance for clients, dedicated bathroom, and a conference or waiting room.

Coming next week: Storing solutions for all areas of your home!

Download our Home Office Planner to aid in the design of your home office space. 

Livability at a Glance™ is our proprietary color-coded floor plan system that highlights four different lenses especially important to women: Entertaining, De-stressing, Storing, and Flexible Living. Discover your Lifestyle Profile by taking our Livability at a Glance Quiz.

For more resources on thoughtful design and products:

Cover photo: <a href="https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/business">Business photo created by yanalya - www.freepik.com</a>
Your Laundry Room – Entryway Amenity?

Your Laundry Room – Entryway Amenity?

You’re unloading bags of mulch in the garage as your daughter and some of the neighbor kids are playing basketball in the driveway. Britany, one of the other moms, walks over and wants to talk. Recognizing this isn’t going to be a quick chat, you invite her inside. And it isn’t until you open the door in from the garage that it hits you – wet underwear hanging above the dryer and two overflowing baskets of laundry awaiting their turn, including sweaty workout clothes. What a multi-sensory experience!

A Recon Analytics study found that 92% of the time we go in and out of our homes through the garage. Yet, as compared with the front entry foyer, which gets so much attention in home design, that commonplace “laundry mudroom” is so often just an afterthought…someplace for the washer and dryer – check off that box.

Demand better! Who wants to be reminded of laundry to be put away or piling up yet to be washed every time they come home? Now that’s stressful! Laundry rooms are important, but surely there’s a better place for the laundry than your rear entry foyer. After all, would you display your washer and dryer openly in your front entry foyer?

The original Sinclair II (plan #1748-II) has a laundry/mudroom off the garage entry.

The new Sinclair Spring (plan #42375) presents a rear foyer entry with a seat and drop zone, plus a separate laundry room.

Rear Foyer - Elise, Maggie

Rear Entry Foyer with Drop Zone Design Concept

In fact, who came up with the term “mudroom” anyway. So inviting! Re-imagining that as our primary entry elevated its importance in terms of design, warranting a new descriptor – the “rear foyer.” Could it be more inviting? Could such a space be designed to actually reduce stress?

Many households have a family rule: no shoes worn in the home. A simple bench in the rear foyer provides a place to sit and untie shoes as well as an out-of-the-way place to perhaps store those shoes – right under the bench. You were carrying your bag and mail. A drop zone is handy for placing items as you take off your coat and can help keep clutter out of your kitchen, which is another stress reliever. The jury is out on whether traditional coat closets or a bank of coat hooks in the rear foyer are preferable, but a focus group we conducted of elementary age school kids’ moms taught us nothing was more stressful than getting the entire family out the door on time in the morning with everything. Their kids knew how to use hooks and cubbies at school, so adding “lockers” in the rear foyer was a natural solution. From science projects to gym clothes, everything can be staged in those lockers, eliminating morning stress of getting on the school bus with all they need.

So…where to put the washer and dryer? Ninety-one percent of home buyers want a laundry room (2019 National Association of Home Builders survey). Multi-tasking home buyers often prefer the laundry room near the kitchen, easing time pressures. Yet the trend today is having the laundry room near the bedrooms for convenience and minimizing steps lugging around laundry baskets, especially if all the bedrooms are upstairs. Homeowners report poor lighting to be a stressful aspect in laundry rooms, so a window, when possible, and attention to lighting is important. The noise common to washers and dryers can be a real source of stress particularly when the laundry room is near bedrooms. Choosing quieter appliances is money well-spent, and laundry machine pads placed underneath the feet of your washer and dryer can cut noise and vibration by 30% ($19 for a set of 4, Amazon). A solid-core door and door sweep that’s flush to the floor also have a significant noise dampening effect.

Zirkel Gables - #35092FB laundry​The Zirkel Gables (plan #35092FB) has a convenient dual-access laundry room, so that you’re just steps out of the dryer and hanging clothes in your closet. With natural light, folding counter, and storage, this well-appointed laundry room helps manage stress, as does its location, buffered from the bedroom by closet and bathroom!

When size allows, laundry room amenities can also dramatically reduce stress. A laundry room sink for delicates; storage for detergents, fabric softener, and dryer sheets; a folding counter; a place to hang clothes, laundry basket storage, even space for a chest freezer can all help lower stress levels. Even your laundry room’s appearance matters. From family photos, paint colors, and other wall art to your choice of flooring, attention to décor can help transform a mundane laundry room to a place that actually inspires!

For more on laundry room design, check out our article, Laundry Room - Dream or Nightmare?

Next week we'll present ideas for De-stressing for working from home arrangements.

Livability at a Glance™ is our proprietary color-coded floor plan system that highlights four different lenses especially important to women: Entertaining, De-stressing, Storing, and Flexible Living. Discover your Lifestyle Profile by taking our Livability at a Glance Quiz.

For more resources on thoughtful design and products:

I Need My Space!

I Need My Space!

Where do you like to go in your home to de-stress? An easy question, right? Except for the fact that the word “de-stress” means different things to different people. Many interpret de-stressing to mean relaxing, or “chilling-out” perhaps watching TV; others seek serenity, needing calm, peace, and quiet; some de-stress best doing something – exercising or hobbies; and, others think of recharging and rejuvenation when they hear de-stressing. For our emotional, mental, and physical health, de-stressing is essential and should be a priority in our homes. Among the most common de-stressing areas in the home are:

DiMarco - #50014 Owner's Retreat

DiMarco - #50014

The Owner’s Suite. Last week we discussed the many de-stressing attributes associated with the owner’s suite bathroom. But it’s the owner’s bedroom that is the go-to spot for a lot of homeowners. The location of that bedroom is an important consideration, particularly if privacy and quiet are important to you. Specifically, what rooms adjoin the owner’s bedroom? If the great room, is its big-screen TV on your shared wall? If the kitchen, is normal conversation going to disrupt your meditation? If the laundry room, will the washer and dryer noise and vibration ruin your otherwise perfect get-away? A sitting area in the owner’s suite can be a beautiful thing, especially if you like to curl up with a good book to relax. The right chair or daybed along with windows there make daytime reading more enjoyable.

Yes, that’s a see-thru fireplace, mini-fridge and wet bar in the Owner’s suite’s retreat/sitting area in the DiMarco (plan #50014)!

Tucker Terrace - #50039 ML

Tucker Terrace - #50039

Outdoor living areas, including porches, courtyards, verandas, decks, and patios, can offer both the solitude and connection to nature you’re after. The home’s design can make a huge difference, with recessed areas providing degrees of privacy from neighbors on either side. Roofs that cover some or all of an outdoor living area allow you to enjoy being outside, even when it’s raining. Even the homesite you choose can make a significant difference – do you prefer to watch sunrises or sunsets? South-facing homes with a nice rear patio may be more enjoyable than if that home faced east on hot summer afternoons/evenings. The right furniture, along with amenities such as added lights and ceiling fans, help create the perfect place.

The Tucker Terrace (plan #50039) provides privacy from neighbors on both sides on its 16’ x 7’ covered rear patio as well as a sunroom.

Sunrooms. Our bodies are wired to seek out daylight, and sunrooms, which in addition to having multiple windows on two or three sides and oftentimes skylights, are a fabulous alternative to outdoor living spaces in colder climates as they can be used year-round. Many colorful and fragrant plants and flowers thrive in sunroom environments, and those sensory inputs can also help alleviate stress. Akin to outdoor living space, sunrooms allow you to bathe in sunlight’s Vitamin D, and that sunlight also triggers the brain's release of serotonin, which can both improve our overall mood as well as helping to calm us.

Crocket - #50032 Hobby Room

Crocket - #50032

Flex rooms. Prayer. Yoga. Reading. Crafts and hobbies. Exercise. Flex rooms are meant to be tailored for how you want your home to live and make natural de-stressing areas. They may be dedicated to de-stressing (e.g., an inspiration room) or dual purpose, such as a larger laundry room with an area for hobbies and crafts.

The Crocket (plan #50032) offers a generous hobby space in the laundry room where creations can be crafted yet need not be cleaned up from the dining room table or cleared away when guests arrive.

Personal space(s) for De-stressing is an important aspect of your home's design. Not only the location, but also the design and livability of that space are equally important. When you choose a plan from Design Basics, our Plan Specialists can assist you with identifying, or customizing, a personal space in the home's design.

Next week we'll present ideas for De-stressing in laundry room and rear entry foyer design.

Livability at a Glance™ is our proprietary color-coded floor plan system that highlights four different lenses especially important to women: Entertaining, De-stressing, Storing, and Flexible Living. Discover your Lifestyle Profile by taking our Livability at a Glance Quiz.

For more resources on thoughtful design and products:

De-stressing Concepts in Bathroom Design

De-stressing Concepts in Bathroom Design

78% of American adults don’t take baths. In an online survey of thousands of adults on our website, when asked If you have a tub in the owner’s bathroom, how often do you take a bath in that tub? Seventy-eight percent responded “Never.” In fact, bathtubs were stress-inducing, with comments such as, “I’m tired of dusting the tub,” “I feel guilty about all the water a tub bath takes,” and “I don’t like the thought of soaking in my own dead skin cells!” Tearing out bathtubs and installing oversize showers is the most popular remodeling project in America. And when it comes to resale, Realtors® tell us that regardless of the presence of a tub in the owner’s bathroom, if there isn’t a nice shower, many of today’s prospective home buyers are simply going on to the next home. Still, there’s a significant number of home buyers who dream of a long, hot soak melting stress away. So, whether you want a tub in the bathroom is one of the first questions to answer. Know that most men won’t bathe in a standard five-foot tub, due to its size; a six-foot tub is more acceptable. 

The Giles Farm (plan #42403) features a 6-foot shower plus 3-foot linen closet as the standard owner’s bath configuration, with the option of a 5-foot tub and 4-foot shower shown in the alternate master bath (requires 10-inch bump-out).

Bathing amenities make a big difference. Among the most frequently mentioned regrets was overlooking storage, whether in-wall or integral shelving, for shampoos, conditioner, soap, sponge, etc. Their big, beautiful shower has multiple shower heads including a handheld shower head, seat or toehold for shaving, and perhaps individualized temperature presets. But their shampoo and conditioner sit on the floor and sponge hangs from the handle set. In-wall recesses or thoughtfully planned shelves are essential. Additionally, if there is a dedicated shower, how is it accessed? Doorless showers are very popular but they can also be cold once you’ve turned the water off as there’s nothing to hold in the steam. In-wall or ceiling heaters, in-floor heating, or towel warmer/radiators are all great solutions to keep you from shivering, whether you have a doorless shower or perhaps the bathroom is situated over an unheated garage.

The Hepburn Terrace (plan #42421) features a doorless walk-in shower. With no door to clean, what would you do with the extra time? Note also that bathroom’s private toilet area, privacy…or claustrophobia?

No matter how long you’ve been married, there are just times you need your privacy. For some, that means the toilet must be in its own little “room.” But there are just as many people who don’t like the claustrophobic feeling nor cleaning challenges presented by those toilet rooms.

ClearMirror Classic

Photo courtesy: ClearMirror

Two sinks can be a marriage-saver, when couples both need to get ready at the same time. In contrast to a single long vanity, dual vanities allow one of the sinks to be at different height, truly appreciated by taller individuals. Separate vanities also provide “me space” so that one person’s clutter around the sink doesn’t have to stress out the other person. Raised make-up ledges at the back of the vanity are an expected amenity in some new home markets. Mirrors should not be an afterthought. If hot, steamy showers are routine, you may want to spend a few dollars more to have fogless mirrors. Lighting at the vanity is also a critical issue. The quantity of light bulbs and their color temperature can have a significant effect on applying makeup and how it looks.

Cleaning in general is a stress issue, and in the bathroom, cleaning concerns may dictate flooring choices, shower enclosure materials, and discreet storage for the ever-present toilet plunger and toilet bowl cleaner. Serenity is another issue – ultra-quiet bathroom fans to the rescue! Smell is the sense linked most strongly with memory – floral scents may have the power to transport you to your favorite getaway spot. Lighting is yet another priority. We often hear complaints regarding a lack of daylight in bathrooms, and one light switch, where (all) lights are on or (all) lights are off does little to help de-stress.

Shared hall bathrooms have many of the same issues. Compartmented designs, wherein the toilet and tub/shower are separated from the sink(s) eases schedule conflicts. When the shared bathroom has private access from the bedrooms it serves, sinks or even sinks + toilets can be separated from the bathing area. A powder bath (half-bath) means your dinner party guests need not admire all of the kids’ bathtub toys. But note, pedestal lavs, popular because of their size and style, provide no storage for extra toilet tissue, etc.

Vermillion - #43041 Bath

Vermillion - #43041

The Vermillion (plan #43041) provides a private bathroom for Bedroom 2 upstairs, and a compartmented shared bathroom for Bedrooms 3 and 4. The plan also shows an option to turn that shared bathroom into more of a Jack-and-Jill bath, replacing the original design’s linen closet with a private sink area serving Bedroom 3. Would that help de-stress your home?

Ultimately, a well-thought-out bathroom design, and included amenities, will not only help you de-stress, but also add value to your home.

Livability at a Glance™ is our proprietary color-coded floor plan system that highlights four different lenses especially important to women: Entertaining, De-stressing, Storing, and Flexible Living. Discover your Lifestyle Profile by taking our Livability at a Glance Quiz.

For more resources on thoughtful design and products:

Image Courtesy: ClearMirror
(Product spotlights are for informational purposes only.)

Expensive Lesson Learned

Expensive Lesson Learned

In another of the “it happened to me” all-too-real stories, when we moved into our new 2-story home, we were disappointed in how the second floor rooms were uncomfortably cold heading into our first winter. The main floor was just right—perhaps even a bit on the warm side when we enjoyed the new see-through fireplace (which we did a lot!). As we rounded New Year’s, it finally occurred to me what the problem was—the thermostat.

Not that the thermostat wasn’t working right—it was operating exactly as designed. The problem was its location. The thermostat had been installed approximately 8 feet from the fireplace, in the great room. With the fireplace on, the room warmed up, telling the thermostat there was no need for the furnace to turn on.

We hired a contractor to relocate the thermostat to a more “neutral” location away from the great room and the fireplace. Problem solved. Expensive lesson learned.

Also, keep in mind thermostat placement in the following scenarios as these can sometimes "trick" the thermostat into thinking the house isn't warm or cool enough, thus triggering extended run times for your heating and/or cooling:

  • A large, open area that also includes a vaulted ceiling
  • A drafty area, such as in line with your front door/entry hall

Be sure to discuss thermostat placement with your builder or remodeler to determine the ideal placement. 

For more resources on thoughtful design and products:

Cover Image: <a href="https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/coffee">Coffee photo created by pressfoto - www.freepik.com</a>

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