Moving to Westlake, Texas has been great. We love everything about living here. However, we have been missing our old home office quite a bit. In Illinois we had a fantastic home office in the basement. It was large, warmly decorated and furnished, had bright but dimmable lighting in addition to lots of natural light, and there were a bunch of gigabit Ethernet ports. As fast as wireless networks are now, nothing beats a hardwired connection to move large video files from your workstation to your NAS. Having a dedicated office space also helps keep work separate from family life. Our kids generally stayed upstairs so there were few interruptions even when they were home from school.
Our Westlake home is a bit larger than our Inverness home was but there is no dedicated office space. Since we moved in, Ahu and I have been using the breakfast area as office space. While this has several conveniences - it's easy to get a snack in the kitchen or throw in a load of laundry - it lacks the separation of work and home life. The boys are pretty good about letting mommy and daddy work but there is no door that can be closed to indicate the need for privacy and no walls to block out the noise from a loud TV.
Knowing that summer break was fast approaching, Ahu and I started looking into home office options early in 2015. Our original goal was to decide on a design and have it constructed and ready before the kids got out of school for the summer. This proved to be overly ambitious. After reviewing many options, we decided on a design in early June and finally hired a general contractor to build in early July.
We live in the Stagecoach Hills Airpark in Westlake. Stagecoach is unique among Westlake neighborhoods in many ways but most signficantly in the fact that homeowners here can have additional structures on their property. As an airpark, many residents in Stagecoach construct a hangar to store a private plane or two. The Westlake building code for Stagecoach Hills allows for a single outbuilding up to 2,500 square feet and any number of smaller outbuildings up to 200 square feet. The smaller outbuildings are usually greenhouses or utility sheds. With this building code in mind, Ahu and I decided to build two small offices in the backyard, each exactly 10' x 12', well within the "shed" size limit.
Our favorite feature of our home in Westlake is the backyard. It's usually lush and green and it is nicely shaded in spots by a dozen 100-year-old post oaks. In the area where the offices will be built is a long stretch of fragrant honeysuckle. The offices will extend the deck around the pool and will take on the appearance of two pool cabanas.
Ahu and I each spend well over 2,500 hours a year in our offices. My days often start at 4am or end after midnight. I strongly feel that the space in which so much time is spent should be comfortable and energizing - a place in which you want to spend time. It should be well-lit and at the right temperature. It should be quiet and isolated from interruptions. The air should be fresh and pleasant. Whatever kind of work you do, it should be the optimal place to do that work.
While our home office in Illinois was one large space, we decided on two smaller offices for several reasons:
- Temperature Control. As is the case with many married couples, Ahu and I prefer completely difference temperatures. Ahu likes an ambient temp above 75 degrees, closer to 80. I prefer a steady 72 degrees all year round.
- Decor. Ahu's office will be painted in her colors and have a marble-like tile floor. My office will be more rustic with wide-plank hardwood flooring, chair rail, textured paint, and a beamed, tongue-in-groove paneled ceiling.
- Privacy. Ahu and I are frequently on conference calls. Over the last year there were many times when we were on different calls at the same time in the same space. Having a private space allows us to avoid having to talk over each other or mute ourselves.
My office will sit approximately where the existing utility shed is in the above picture. The entire structure will sit in front of the pool equipment shed. We were also able to preserve both post oaks that are close to the site. All work has been fully permitted with the Town of Westlake so that everything is done according to code.
These offices will get a lot of natural light. Across the front of each office are 3 separate, operable windows with screens. Any or all of the windows can be opened for fresh air. Ahu's office - located on the far side of the space - has an extra window on the side that opens directly onto the honeysuckle.
Staring at a computer screen 12+ hours a day isn't helping my eyesight so, as I get older, having good lighting is pretty important. It's helpful to have bright light for reading but, at the same time, I don't like having a lot of extra light when I'm coding - the 3 screens in front of me are already almost the right amount of light. So these offices have both direct can lighting and indirect LED lighting. There are 4 can lights in each office and a strip of LED lights that runs the full perimeter of the ceiling, hidden behind crown molding. All lighting is Philips Hue lighting; the brightness and color of all lights can be controlled by an iOS device. For those 4am days, the lights will be programmed to turn on automatically so I don't have to fumble around in the dark.
In between the two offices is a small 10' x 10' meeting space where Ahu and I can sit outside and talk. There will be a ceiling fan and motorized screens on the front and back. If the weather is nice and insect-free, the screens will probably be up. But being able to put the screens down at the touch of a button allows us to have a cozy space to sit in the evening and enjoy the warm air and a cool drink without having to put any bug spray on. In the cooler months, we could put the screens down, open the doors and windows, and have one large, contiguous, bug-free, open-air space.
Internet access is provided by a 100 Mbps cable modem line. Currently, all of our networking equipment, servers, and storage are inside a cloest near the front door of the house. As part of this project, Cat 6 Ethernet cables will run from this closet out to the offices and then routed as necessary. It will be great to be back on a hardwired connection.
Needless to say, we are greatly looking forward to these offices being done. I'll post more updates as I can.