We are lucky enough to have a spare room to work from but Damien and I kept gravitating towards the dining table when we started working from home. The room has better light and just feels more comfortable somehow, so we decided to go with it. We upgraded our shabby old dining table for the Frieda table from Schots Home Emporium.
It’s made from reclaimed timber and is sturdy, yet has an elegant shape. Buy linen tablecloths and placemats to protect the wood when you’re working and dining. When I’m testing beauty products I spread myself out on a white cloth. I find it allows me to see the colours of the makeup, better, too.
When it’s dinnertime, we lay the table with place mats and coasters, and just the practice of doing that helps you switch hats from work. Fresh flowers and bowls of fruit make the table look extra special – I just take greenery from the magnolia tree out the front and use lemons, grapes and avocados to decorate table when I’m entertaining.
The trick to making your dining table work as a desk is to have a sideboard or cupboard nearby to stash all your tech and papers when you’re in ‘dining mode’. I also have the complexity of masses of beauty products to factor into the storage, so I have two sideboards, filled with clearly labeled baskets. The sideboard also holds all our table cloths, coasters and placemats when the table is in ‘desk mode.’ It’s also a great spot to put coffee table books, artwork and candles.
In our hyper-connected world, a strong WIFI connection is more important than ever. Make sure you’re using broadband if it’s available in your area and buy WIFI extender to extend your network in case you need to take a Zoom in the bedroom. Also consider purchasing a lighting set up. The most inexpensive is a table ring light with a phone mount. Phones have a much better camera than laptops, so if you need to see people clearly in your video call consider doing the call over your phone and mounting it into a ring light. You can use the light even when you’re doing the call on your laptop, it will light your eyes and make everything look better.
To prevent back and neck ache, you need to make sure your computer is at the right height. Since I’m a little short and the table is a bit high for me I sit on a big outdoor cushion when I’m working to make sure my elbows are a right angles (the ideal sitting position). Your knees should also be at right angles so you should put a foot rest or a few books on the floor too. If I’m going to be at the computer for a long period of time I put my laptop on a riser so I’m not gazing down at it and hurting my neck. The best practice is to buy an adjustable office chair but the logistics and aesthetics of that didn’t work for our dining table/office scenario. However, if you can manage it your neck and back will thank you.
At 240cm our Frieda table seats eight comfortably and ten at a squeeze, so we made sure we ordered ten dining chairs so we could use the others around the house in the bedrooms. We ordered the Wishing Chairs in Antique Tan, which are reproductions of the Hans Wegner Wishbone chairs. We leave six around the table so you’re not always tripping over chairs, the other four are spread through the bedrooms in the house at desks. Max has one in his room. I have one at my makeup table and we have the other two at desks. It’s the perfect height for my makeup table and I love the way it looks with my brass mirror and dried hydrangeas.
A good light source is essential when you’re burning the candle at both ends. We have down lights and lamps around all our workspaces. For my son Max’s room we installed a Marbaix Pendant Lamp from Schots Home Emporium right above his desk so that he can do his homework of an evening. It’s a beautiful statement piece that really brings his room together.
As a beauty journalist I have a lot more ‘stuff’ to organize than most, so I’ve had to become an expert at storage. I recently bought a bunch of wicker and rattan baskets to keep beauty products in and I store different stories and categories that I have to test in calico or cloth bags (the kind you get when you buy a nice handbag or shoes). This keeps everything separated and compartmentalized. If you use a lot of paper in your job consider using baskets or shelves, which look much better in a home environment than filing cabinets. Also consider buying a label maker to keep things very clear inside your sideboard.
There’s plenty of research into the benefits of greenery in your work environment. It boosts productivity and oxygenates the air. I bought my Fiddle Leaf Fig (who I lovingly refer to as Fergie) a big white cement pot from Schots and he’s so much happier now his roots have got a bit more room. I predict a big growth spurt. I also got a smaller pot from Schots – the Bali Planter, which I’m currently sourcing a plant for and will place it on the Otto cement side table also sourced from Schots to give it a little more height. It adds visual interest to create different heights. With your house plants, make sure you don’t over water – I only water about once a week or every ten days when I notice the soil looking too dry. And I fertilise with some Osmocote every couple of months. I also have a worm farm so I give them a bit of worm tea when I remember.