Same but different: The rewards of designing your own home

The view from my desk in JOI-Design’s new studio has changed. While I no longer look onto a peaceful canal and thriving green lawn like in my old office, I now enjoy the different – yet still beautiful – scene of the landscaped driveway of our exquisite new home, a 1920s villa we sensitively restored and modernized before moving in earlier this year.

It feels a bit like a doorman’s office since my door opens directly onto our new lobby… and somehow, it is. Each FF&E rep who glimpses me through the front window sees my open office door and pops in… just for a short, friendly hello 😉

And as I usually start early and leave late, I now know all the habits of our team members: when each person comes to the office (more or less awake, some still semi-sleeping), if they go out for lunch or eat in our kitchen, whether they spend quiet moments in our garden, and when they usually leave work. But since my colleagues and I work too much anyways, there’s no need to check if anyone arrives too late or leaves too early!

But while my view has changed, the work itself isn’t that different so far. I still share an office with my wife, Corinna, we still use the same tables for meetings, fabric samples, magazines, etc…  

But for all of us, our new studio feels different to our previous one. We have pride in our new home. In fact, a client commented that before we had the workplace of corporate designers, and now we are enjoying a boutique lifestyle!

We went from a huge, 6,030-square-foot, one-story space with very few walls to an historic mansion built for a wealthy family, a home with lots of rooms, hallways and a sweeping staircase. It feels more intimate and private, and even though it’s larger at 8,400 square feet, we don’t really have many more workstations since usable area was “lost” with the hallways and staircase.

Moving is a great opportunity to become organized and get rid of the mountains of stuff that grow over the years. It was quite satisfying to be able to reduce the size of our sample library, since the Internet is more up-to-date.

Lots of walls were torn down so each room could hold up to eight people – and you know what, the office is much quieter! If I want to speak with colleagues, it’s no use calling out to them. It’s easier to pick up the phone! 

We now have outdoor terraces next to the kitchen for lunch breaks, and are continuing the tradition we love of cooking and eating together – even more important now that we are in different rooms and need to come together to socialize as one united team.

However, the most noticeable change is that we, as a 30-year-old company, have now “grown up”! We at last have our very own house that we designed to be just the way we wanted it, with a gate to enter the grounds, a driveway and small parking lot, and a vast, 43,000-square-foot garden. So, I wonder – now that we have shaped our dream home, will our new home shape us?