toolshed-turned-studio with yellow doors & windows, blue trim & green siding with red table and two chairs beyond

Some as-yet-unknown proportion of the workforce will never return to the office, but one thing I know: I'm committed to being one of them. I go to the office for meetings, but have done the rest of my work from home since 2020. Until last week, Wanda and I were jammed into a bedroom with our two dogs. Focus was difficult. We decided early last year to move my work out of the house to what had been a sad little windowless tool shed. I made the move a week ago this morning.

Anytime there’s a change of pattern, I ask “what else can I pair with this change?” It doesn’t seem like a big deal moving my work from a room in the house to a former tool shed just 7 steps away from the back door, but there’s weather. That means I need to be more intentional instead of wandering aimlessly around the house for half the morning doing whatever comes to mind. So now I do dedicated social media while drinking a pint of our home-brewed kombucha, a green tea, and a detox tea.

I then go out and check email, but with a new twist. Previously, I’d clear out my regular inbox, but that can be a deep rabbit-hole, so beginning day before yesterday, I started reading client emails first, all of which have their own smart mailboxes so theirs don’t get lost. When Wanda’s up and the girls have done their business, we now have coffee, either in the Coffee Cove (the red table & chairs to the right, our living room, or the front porch, depending on the weather, where we go over our job board (once paper & rarely updated, now iPad).These paired patterns really help start the day more effectively. I’m wondering what else we might pair, or if this is enough? In any case, never let a new pattern get lonely!


bookshelves illuminated by boom light over computer table with rolling tech shelf below

This is the back sidewall of the studio, which is the first view when entering. We finished the walls in nickel board, which means I can attach anything I want anywhere I want because it's wood. Drywall is positively fragile by comparison. The ceilings are beaded board… or actually, beaded board plywood, so we did trim boards 48" on center, otherwise the joint at the end of the full sheet of plywood would have been obvious.

The bookshelves are simple, and based on the metal shelves I’ve had for over 20 years, which are 13 ¾” OC and that worked well. I turn overly tall books spine-up on the shelf. really tall books go on a top shelf. So I used the same shelf spacing. Both shelves and verticals are 1x10s built as individual shelving units so you nail in from the backside. Then sit the new one right beside the old one, glue in between and finish the now-1 ½” vertical with a 1x2. It's really strong that way, whereas adjustable shelves are almost fragile in comparison because shelves can tip.

I built the rolling shelf under the computer desk to get tech clutter off the desktop; it rolls so I'm able to roll it out to connect or disconnect stuff without crawling under the desk. And the swinging boom light reappears in several locations.

inside corner of studio where rolled drawings stand stacked

Here's the back corner. Bookshelf inside corners are usually lost but I set the end shelves 8" off the side shelves so I can turn books off the side shelf because I leave a bit of slack space on every shelf for later additions. Plus, it's a good place to stand rolls of drawings. And it turns out that all of the seriously oversized books fit on the one top shelf in the corner.

I was a bit worried about the three shelves over my computer desk because they're all supported by a single 1x4. After a week, there's no sign of sagging so hopefully I'm OK, but I'll probably back it up with a ripped-down 4x4 behind supported by 4x4 brackets below, but not a full bracket like a roof bracket but just single vertical 4x4s cut in a Craftsman pattern since the house is a Bungalow.

twisted boom light in foreground with mini-split unit beyond surrounded by bookshelves

This is the right end, and as you can see, imperfections abound. I didn't notice until the ceiling was up that the joists weren't level, but left it that way instead of ripping it out and starting over. The mini-split interior unit is slightly off-center because I was taking care of some outside things when they hung it, and like the ceiling, I decided not to start over.

The boom light is twisted and they sent a new one, but I put up the original because it's quirky and it fits right in with the other imperfect things. Here's one you might not have noticed: see how the ceiling light is off in all the pictures? That's because the beaded board plywood is half the thickness I was expecting. I installed the light anyway, but it has electrical problems so I'm bringing in an actual electrician to reinstall it. Electricity and plumbing are two things where imperfections can cause serious damage.

The end wall shelves are lower because the mini-split wall unit required that much clearance, which is what made room for the tall books. Every other bookshelf in the studio runs right up to the top of the wall.

boom light at window illuminating drawing desk below with bookshelves to the left

Here's the right front corner. Wanda's chair is in the corner; she's looking for an ottoman that fits under the chair when she's not using it. She has been my muse ever since we married almost 45 years ago after my first year in architecture school. From that point onward, she came to all my juries and was in the studio many late nights. She says "I audited an architecture degree." Since graduation, she has critiqued all my work and inspired countless thoughts that never would have occurred to me. So this chair is essential to our practice.

You'll notice the boom light has moved to center over the hand-drawing table (an old library table we bought at auction). The view through the window is to our back yard where we've been designing our outdoor rooms.

door & window looking out into courtyard with drawing table centered on window

This is the front side. Side wall shelves were designed to center the drawing table on the window. And it turns out that the door misses the right side of the table by a fraction of an inch. We lucked out on that one!

And I call it a drawing table, not a drafting table because it's flat. Everything I've drawn by hand for a quarter-century has been either letter- or ledger-size, and my drawing boards are FoamCore which is cheap and spins easily on the table.

Work on a drafting table, and you must contort your back to get the angle you need to draw certain lines; with FoamCore boards, you move the board, not your back so it's far more comfortable. "Architect's Back" is a known thing, but I've avoided it since the previous century.

two windows framing studio front door with drawing table to left & drawing files to right

Here's another imperfection in the front left corner: When Wanda mounted my first dollar and my Alabama registration certificate, she slid them left in the wall panel. Not knowing why but trusting her eye, I followed her lead with the pair of coat & hat hooks below.

Architects who are what I call "alignment Nazis" insist everything must line up perfectly no matter how many times you have to tear stuff out. The Vernacular Mind takes a very different approach, basing decisions more strongly on what feels right and less on the cold rationality of rules.

The Vernacular Mind also trusts that subsequent decisions can support prior ones. Dad put it this way many years ago: "don't worry about making the right decision; make the decision, then make it right."

end wall of studio with drawing table to left and bookshelves & computer desk to right

Finally, this is the left end. The window beyond looks into Wanda's studio, which now doubles as the laundry. Eventually, and if the City agrees, we hope to bring Clay Chapman or one of his apprentices to build a loadbearing brick studio across the courtyard where I'll move, and Wanda will move to this one, giving us a He Shed - She Shed. Both now and then, we can gaze at each other across garden rooms in between.

I debated putting the drawing files in front of the window, but am confident we can do something on the sill that looks cool from outside. The shoe rack & my backpack's daytime home are to the right.

The poster hung above was of SmartDwelling 1 we designed that was in the Wall Street Journal years ago. I sent this copy to Dad, who framed it and hung it prominently in his and Mother's bedroom at the nursing home, where it remained until his last day.