Home Office Politics

Autumnal greetings friends!

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got this lingering back to school feeling.  It could be the change in the seasons: autumnal colours and the cool, crisp air of early mornings… or finally being back to work after the longest, strangest summer holiday of my life.  Although I emerge into the new normal much less bruised than some, as the months on furlough dragged on, I found myself really struggling with anxiety, exacerbated by uncertainty about work and life in general. 

Bright yellow of the Ilfracombe harbour

Unlike me, James has been busy working from home all through lockdown and continues to do so.  Quietly keeping calm and carrying on, he has been doing his part on keeping the shop shelves of Southern England stocked up.

In a wider sense, it seems there is a strong shift towards working from home prompted by the Covid-19 crisis.  When pressed on by necessity, it does seem all of those roles that were previously strictly office based can indeed be fulfilled by an army of homeworkers eagerly skipping the traffic, office politics and the need to wear trousers.

But what do you do if you don’t have tons of space to convert into an insta-worthy home office?  I’ve observed my friends and family resorting into all sorts of tactics to carve out space for their paper clips and PCs, from conquering corners of their dining tables to setting up swanky flat-pack cardboard desks.  As a painter I require slightly different types of a set up and thus ended up perched on a pair of camper van cushions in our spare room.  As for James, well, he spend most of lockdown in our front room, sandwiched between his wee escritoire and Graeme the Grand Piano.

Escritoire-types of writing desks became quite fashionable some years back, especially as subjects of shabby chic transformations: painted in soft pastel hues, distressed or upcycled with cheerfully patterned wallpapers.  Ours is much simpler than that, a straightforward 1930’s (or possibly even later) example in dark lacquered wood, sporting a couple of small drawers and shelves for books.  It’s not the trendiest perhaps, but I like my furniture functional, unobtrusive and above all else… affordable.

Antique Georgian or Victorian escritoires (also conversely modernist mid-century examples) command impressive prices these days, but we picked ours off eBay for 35 pounds.  You wouldn’t be able to buy a new desk half as sturdy and practical for love or money.  However, if you are willing to look past the trendiest of pieces, there are amazing deals to be found in that not-quite-antique category right now.  When new, our desk was a haphazard imitation of arts & crafts pieces with modern detailing such as the vinyl covering of its writing surface and those cute little plastic pulls.  Not quite one thing nor the other, making it somewhat undervalued today.

I’ve got my personal reasons for buying these kind of pieces, namely value for money: that elusive durability vs. purchase value ratio, but also concerns over sustainability of mass production of things.  That cardboard desk looked amazing, but I don’t want to acquire new stuff if there is a viable second hand alternative. 

I once had a friend who talked about poverty as an aesthetic and although I don’t entirely agree with her views, it is true that trends of the future are often set by those who need to get crafty with their fashion and decorating choices.  A good case in point would be looking at the gentrification of our cities and the countryside.  Furniture wise, this effect can be seen in the value of mid-century modern furniture of a certain type: given up by the generation that grew up with it, these bookcases, room dividers and sideboards were lapped up the young trendy things that needed to result in charity shopping.  Now that generation has come of age, with a fully formed style that others are willing to pay large sums for. 

It’s pretty unlikely that those yellow pine things you see stacked up in hospice shops are going to be all the rage, well, ever, but if I’d have to predict a trend of the furniture, I would gently guide you towards Edwardiana.  Think of the world of Edward Elgar: dark stained native woods of the British Isles, pre-first world war shapes and hand crafted details.  You won’t be finding it in IKEA, but with a bit of Mr Sheen furniture polish, it will last you a lifetime.

‘til next time.


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Tiina Lilja

Just a Finn, living in North Devon with a rescue Alsatian called Shut Up Rusty, writing about arts, old buildings and vintage design.

One thought on “Home Office Politics

  1. Hi there, forgot to ask about your home office setups 🙂 How’s it been for you, got any good tips and tricks on making small spaces more efficient? Let’s get the conversation going!



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