Friday, September 26, 2014

Why I chose the smallest bedroom in the house for the "master" bedroom

When my man and I moved in to this house 9 years ago, we didn't spend a whole lot of time thinking about which bedroom should be ours, because the answer seemed obvious. The largest bedroom is usually the master, right? Done.

(The pictures in this post show the result of that decision -- the larger room in its master bedroom incarnation -- so, like the pictures of the old office in my previous post they're essentially "before" pictures for our room-swapping project.)

I should note that this was before my girl was born, so there were fewer claims on the house's various spaces then. What is now her room housed the futon for guests, the tv, and my man's desk. And when that room became a nursery, the futon (and guest room function) migrated to the office, the tv to the living room, and sort of by process of elimination my man's desk to the master bedroom. Oh and at some point my grandmother's cedar chest got put in the bedroom too and started acting as my bedside table, mostly because there was no other place for it in the house.

Still, there didn't really seem to be any reason to question the idea that large bedroom = master. So why am I doing so now, and cramming two whole grown-ups into a space roughly the same size as our daughter's small room?

To be honest, the new arrangement is mostly driven by my wanting the larger room for the "atelier" (disclaimer: when referring to the room in conversation I just call it the office, because I am only a little bit pretentious) and then trying to figure out how to make the smaller space work as a bedroom.

But I think there are advantages to the arrangement too. Constraining the amount of space also forces us to strip back the functions contained in the bedroom: nothing but sleeping, sexing, and dressing. And I have to admit, that old saw about how a bedroom should be a restful haven (no tv, no computer, etc.) holds some appeal.

Knowing that the space was going to be tight has also forced me to think deliberately and creatively about how to make sure it doesn't feel tighter than it is -- meaning, how to cut down on visual clutter, how to create a unified look to the space so that it truly feels clean and restorative, rather than like a bunch of unrelated stuff shoved where it juuuust barely fits.

It's been an interesting exercise, and while the ideas I've come up with won't all come to fruition overnight I'm optimistic about my overall vision.

What's more grown-up and worthy of the title of "master"* bedroom, after all -- a big room that contains a concatenation of stuff because, well, it all fits there, or a room that, albeit small, is actively designed to be restful and pleasing? You know which option gets my vote.

*After typing the phrase "master bedroom" so many times in writing this post I'm finding myself irked by the gendered connotations. Apparently I'm not alone but there doesn't seem to be much of a better alternative. Ideas?

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Why I'm giving up my home office

...even though I plan to continue working full time from home.

Here is the roughly 10 x 10 office I've been writing from for the last nine years. 

It doubles as a guest room -- the futon folds down into a full-size mattress when my mother-in-law is in town. But other than that, the space is all mine.

(Except the closet. The closets in our house are pretty tiny, so my man has been keeping his clothes in here and mine are in the closet in the larger bedroom.)

Moving the office into the larger bedroom will mean that all three of us -- my man, my girl, and I -- will have our desks in the same room.

"Are you nervous about giving up your own space?" My man asked me as I was packing up office stuff into banana boxes.

Well, yes, a little bit. I've been a freelancer and worked from home almost my entire career, but especially since my girl was born seven years ago having an office has been important to me, psychologically perhaps even more than practically.

I said above that I work full-time, but really I work during the hours between school bus pickup and drop-off, which amounts to about 30-33 hours per week, plus at 4:30 am when necessary (which is often). I wouldn't change this arrangement for anything, and yet when you're trying to combine a freelance career with being the go-to for kid-related logistics, it's easy to feel like you're not giving either endeavor the attention it really requires.

It's just like Virginia Woolf said: having my own office space ratifies the importance of my job.

Then why am I saying goodbye to my Room of One's Own?

Well, it's like this. Yes, the office was all mine as long as I was alone in it. But as soon as someone else -- my girl, that is -- entered the room, it wasn't my space at all. Sometimes I'd be trying to answer a quick email in my office, and my girl wanted to be near me, which was lovely, but there was nothing for her to do in the office, so she would end up jumping on the futon or messing with my work papers and 20 minutes later neither of us had gotten what we wanted. So my hope is that by making my own work space a little friendlier to her, we can be together in the space more happily.

In addition, the old office tended to become a dumping ground. If someone -- okay, now I am talking about my man -- stashed something there "temporarily" it was easy for him to forget about it, and there it would remain, cluttering up my workspace for months. By the same token, since the space was only mine, I tended to put it last on the priority list in terms of cleaning and tidying. A shared workspace might end up better cared-for -- not least of all by me.

Finally, because of its small size, the office became merely a storeroom for my creative aspirations. Oh look, a whole bookcase full of fabric -- but no space to actually DO anything with it. When I was lobbying for this project, I mostly emphasized the fact that we would gain storage space. And that's significant. But more and more I've realized that what I'm aiming for is not just space to put things but space to use things.