What if your house is a Jenga model? – Birds on the Blog

What if your house is a Jenga model?

Re-imagining the flexibility of living space

“I woke up from a deep sleep, with the sun blaring in my eyes. Ack! My head was facing the window. I swivelled my head towards the alarm reaching out to hit snooze. After the third snooze the bed retracts 90 degrees till Im upright against the back wall. The base of the bed is pressure sensitive. Stepping onto it triggers the bed to slide towards the front wall. At the same time the door in the wall shifts along its axis to the right to accommodate my trajectory and position.. It stops in front of me within an accuracy of a millimetre. The door slides open, I walk on the heated tiled floor. The surfaces have no specific definition of wall, floor or ceiling. The toilet folds away into the ground like a cardboard box as the shower opens out. I only make a single step in before the warm water, calibrated to my preference, rains down on my head. The pounding of the water slowly wakes me up and I breath in the steam building around me. Ten minutes later I’m done and the shower retracts. The cubicles self cleaning glass folding away to reveal the walk in closet beyond. Five minutes later I am dressed and ready for the day and the floor moves up to the third floor”

The pandemic did a number on me

The pandemic did a number on me, as I’m sure it has on everyone else. It’s not only made me re-evaluate my work, career path, friendships, but also the four walls I’m surrounded by. It heightened the claustrophobia I never knew I had. Day in day out that’s all I saw.

When working from home became a ‘must’ rather than ‘flexible’ I did not expect this hiatus would be for very long. So my work station was set up at my dining table.

That was an epic fail!

To start with all my meals were at my dining table/office. And with a open plan  living and dinning I felt I had no escape. When I left ‘work’ and went to my ‘home space’ (the couch) I would still have an unrestricted view of my work laptop. Separating the two was impossible. The feeling of claustrophobia was compounded by being restricted to the house and avoiding social contact. It was an insane and intense time. My mental health suffered, I gained a ridiculous amount of weight even though I told myself I will definitely start the Couch to 5K programme. Yes, Soon. Maybe tomorrow?

When this appeared to be a more long terms situation I chose to convert my spare bedroom into my office. Having no guests for the foreseeable future provided the ideal opportunity. Making the trip to IKEA as soon as it shops were open was next on the agenda for a desk and chair. Of course everyone had the same idea, and all the office department was cleared out! You could almost see the tumble weed moving across the isle, like a bad western.

Eventually I did get my furniture

Eventually I did get my furniture, and set up my workspace. But it felt cold and claustrophobic again, four walls a door and a window. No, the room wasn’t small by any means. It used to host a double bed and wardrobe. But I couldn’t make myself work there. Instead I found myself working from my couch, bedroom or dining table. Anywhere but at my brand ‘spanking’ new desk.

What wasn’t working?

I recalled an assignment I did earlier this year on a course I took. The exercise was to write a Reverse Job Ad, and describe your ideal work environment.

What would the culture be like?

What kind of values would they have?

Most significantly, What would the office look like? And I revisited what I wrote:

Open plan and relaxing space of bean bags and large coffee table. Break out area which serves as a discussion space or relaxing and waiting area. A large work desk with 2 screens per person, whiteboard, pin boards and sharing screen in the meeting or pod spaces. Big windows, with good views outside to focus/ refocus your eyes on.

A quiet space

A nice lunch shop close by, and to be able to pick a nice coffee in the morning!

Ok that last part was less achievable during the lockdown phase, but everything else? Bingo, came the light bulb moment.

So I re-arranged all my furniture like a crazy cat woman, without a cat! I flipped my living and dining space, brought out my office desk and moved it into the living space. I used the bookshelves to break up the space, while still maintaining the openplan. It was a lot of heavy lifting for one person, but I didn’t have much of a choice. And treated myself to half a pack of hobnobs at the end of it, for a job well done!

Now I had my open plan office, with flexible space i.e the couch! My desk faces the large windows in my living room, and I can swivel my desk chair and have plenty to refocus my eyes. I have the flexibility of working at my desk or on the couch within my cozy ‘office’, and it has increased my productivity and enthusiasm. I can still see my work station from my couch, but now it doesn’t bother me. It has its rightful place in my new environment.

I recognise that I crave flexibility, and I would always be thinking of moving furniture or walls. I imagine if my house was a giant Jenga puzzle. I’d be able to move walls in and out, change the height, the size of rooms, extrude into the basement or up into the roof.

Yes, like the Jenga it would need to be geometric for efficiency and flexibility. But I would only have to think where I want to be when I pull open a door and voila, I’m there. A room at the far end, the next floor, my friends house or even another dimension.

The possibilities are endless

AUTHOR: Rika Chandra


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