• Gail Jacobson

In the past six months, the home office has gone from the status of luxury to urgent necessity. The world has gone topsy-turvy, and with uncertainty comes a need to focus on the “controllables”. I am a strong believer that our interior environment critically affects our well-being. One aspect over which we have control is our interior spaces - what we choose to be surrounded by. No matter the size of our bank account, we can bring joyful touches of beauty and meaning into our interiors. And, whether we are an employee, a contract worker, or an entrepreneur, creating a home office merits that kind of intentional creation.

The Practical Stuff

How to start? First, identify your needs for space, privacy, natural light and/or a view to the exterior. Your workspace could be virtually anywhere in your home. But setting up an office in the middle of your dining room would be challenging if you need privacy, don’t want to clean up at the end of the day, or work odd hours. Likewise, officing in an attic or basement space might not be ideal if you need to keep an eye on young children or monitor the mail or package deliveries.

Consider how large of a work surface and how much and what kind of storage you need. Do you meet with clients or co-workers? Do you require an adjustable height desk? Can you leave your work out at end of each day, or do you need storage with doors where everything tucks away neatly? Once you’ve identified your needs, decide whether a corner of your living room, a walk-in closet, your sunroom, a spare bedroom, the space under the stairs, or a corner of your finished lower level could meet them. Would you capture valuable space (and add value to your home) by finishing your attic, lower level, or 3-season porch? Or are you ready to go further? An addition that serves as an office today could be converted to guest quarters down the road if necessary. In any case, consider your needs for lighting, electrical power, technology, and office equipment. If you crave natural light, consider adding a window, or a solatube or skylight (if you are on the top floor) if budget allows. Buy the best chair you can afford, especially if you are going to be sitting for long periods.

The Fun Stuff

Creating a home office haven is an opportunity to take a stylistic “U-turn” from your usual décor. Surround yourself with colors, textures and personal, meaningful keepsakes that inspire and motivate you. In this time when you might not be travelling, why not hang photographs of your favorite get-away or another place you dream of visiting? If you love coastal style, bring that into your new space and revel in that! Or make your office into a joint work and meditation space. One caution - If you need to carve space out of a well-trafficked area, choose furniture, colors, light fixtures, and accessories that blend with the style of the rest of your home.

Case Study

The drawings below are a home office design for a colleague and friend – a general contractor with whom I regularly partner on residential projects. My friend had launched into finishing his lower level – then hit pause to ask my help with space planning and cabinetry design. Once I understood his and his wife’s objectives and style preferences, I created a plan featuring an expansive, u-shaped work surface, a desk facing the rear yard, a balance of open and closed storage, Shaker style cabinetry, solid surface countertops and wood shelving, and a separate desk for home-schooling or gaming. Construction is underway!

Remember - whether your plans include converting an existing space or building an addition, a professional designer will be a valuable partner to guide your process!

  • Gail Jacobson

You are looking for a house – perhaps your first! You’ve considered all of the options: single family, condominium, townhome. You have your list of needs and wants: the right neighborhood, architectural style, interior spaces, number of garage stalls.

You see a few – or a lot of listings. It’s like dating. You enter, look around, and “swipe left”. There may be a succession of “no’s” – a lot of swiping left. The features of these “no’s” – the positives and negatives - populate your mental – or physical checklist. As you go, you pare the list down to your true priorities.

Then suddenly, you walk in, and it’s over. Swipe right! You can see yourself there – with your pets, family and furniture - your artwork on the walls. It has the right vibe!. You want that house. Trouble is, this is the point where critical thinking is key, and you are too excited for that. How do you think through whether it will fit your current needs? Is it adaptable for future life transitions?

Answer: Bring a Professional Designer with you to provide a logical voice and objective eye. Is it feasible to remove walls to create a more open plan? What would it cost to add an extra bathroom? Where could you carve out a mudroom? Would new flooring make it more appealing? Does the kitchen need a complete redo? Are there maintenance issues that could gobble up your budget? A Professional Designer, experienced in remodeling, can imagine the possibilities, help you budget for updates, minimize risk, and empower you to make a wise, confident home-buying decision.

We joined our Clients at an open house to brainstorm ideas for

re-envisioning the flow between the kitchen, formal dining room and living rooms in this surburban home. Between the closing and move-in date, we completely transformed the spaces with creative structural solutions, timeless design, and high-quality finishes.

Updated: Aug 29

In my south Minneapolis neighborhood, we are blessed to have many beautiful examples of our vernacular architecture – compact 1910-1940’s bungalows in stucco or lap siding, with unique exterior details, painted trim in brick red, delft blue, deep teal, olive green, and chocolate brown. They give our blocks a distinct character. I am always struck by the love and craftsmanship with which these homes were designed and constructed.

In the past ten years, however, we have seen a distinct new architectural genre popping up on our city blocks (first two photos below). These homes, built for space rather than style, are big, two story boxes, with high-pitched gable roofs, boxy pillars, very few windows, and vaguely Tudor-style trim. They are typically painted white or shades of gray. I call these “The Ugly Houses”. They are production built, stripped-down in style, and tower over their immediate neighbors, blocking light.

I realize that larger homes have a place in the city. Young families want to live in our neighborhoods and need space that our older bungalows cannot provide. But this trend alarms me. I envision a future of tear-downs – row after row of graceless boxes lining our oak and maple-graced boulevards. Fortunately, some residents are fighting back. One nearby homeowner bought the house next door to keep it from being razed and replaced by an ugly house and is renting it. It is only one small gesture, but everything helps.

One new house in our neighborhood that has ADDED rather than subtracted character is this architect-owner-designed home (3rd -6th photo below). Beautifully designed to fit a narrow lot, it proudly stakes out its corner, announcing “I’m here to add contrast and a complementary flavor to my block, rather than to overtake it”. I have been excitedly tracking its progress on my daily walks. I love the mix of materials, the varied sizes of its lap siding, and the playful tilt of its multiple shed roof lines. I hope THIS becomes a trend – new homes designed with thoughtful creativity, rather than a cookie-cutter, assembly-line mentality. I am keeping my fingers crossed.


Phone: 612-310-7069 / email:

                    3657 39th Avenue South Minneapolis MN 55406

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