A Proper Office
A few years back, Dan and I bought a derelict house. There's something in our collective DNA that makes us take the route less travelled: the tough trail ... the witless way, some might say. We like a challenge and this was huge! It had been empty for years.
The oldest part of the house is over 500 years: low beams, crumbling walls and a distinct lack of ceiling in the upstairs hallway … you get the idea. It was uninhabitable.
However, inhabit it we did. On 23rd December, to be precise. We had invited Mother in law, Dan’s son and my sister to stay for Christmas. This might sound like another of our crazy plans, but when we asked them to visit we thought we’d still be in our perfectly warm, dry old house until January. The bank, however, had other ideas: as the house we were to buy had been repossessed some years before, we had just six weeks to complete or they’d offer it to the next couple in the queue. Forty two short days to sort the mortgage, survey, legals, prepare for Christmas, continue to work … and our time would be up on the 18th December. On that snowy Friday (yes, the first heavy snow in the south east for years) we were on our way. Bye bye lovely old house, Hello new challenge. Just one problem: we’d moved out and the new owners were moving in when we discovered the person holding the keys to our next abode had gone away for the weekend, leaving the offices and said keys locked for five long days.
Our possessions and hired van were duly packed in the warehouse we now felt lucky to rent. We three (Dan, the cat and I) stayed the weekend at my sister’s house, with her two cats (Season of Joy-hissy-Joy).
Finally, possessions in, oil tank filled and heating on 24/7, we gingerly turned on the water.
“The taps upstairs are still open. I can hear them.” I called.
“Okey dokey, no panic.”
We wandered up the rickety stairs to find water cascading from the loft, through the gap where the ceiling used to be. Amazingly, we found a couple of plumbers happy to come that day (at a price) and fix the broken pipes.
I turned on the kitchen lights and sister shouted, “There’s smoke coming from under the cupboards!”
Many panics later, we got into bleach and scrubbing mode, whilst Dan made (literally made) beds for our unprepared guests.
Over the next two days and nights we unpacked what we could, made sure kitchen, bathrooms and three bedrooms were semi-sterile, vaguely habitable and warm. We bought two Christmas trees and enough lights to blow the already dodgy fusebox, collected pre-ordered food from the local farm shop and tried to pretend it was our Christmas wonderland.
Dan’s 90 year-old mother was a star, his son and my sister (along with more than a bottle of wine) kept spirits up and over the coming days we had more fun than a school sleepover.
Fast-forward a few years, achey backs all round and a part renovated property I was looking forward to growing my nails and feeling like a human again.
Dan was working at our other business premises nearby, whilst my new office was the “wonky bedroom” in the old part of the house. So wonky is it that he had to build blocks to go under one end of the bed, in order that people could sleep in it without sliding out.
When Dan joined me in the business, we decided we should, at least, be working in the same premises. I tried to convince him that he could use another bedroom as an office. There were many clues that told us this wouldn’t work. In our half-renovated abode, lighting and low beams made it cosy and almost impossible to read without a head torch. Add to that we had no room for multiple printers and all the normal office paraphernalia we take for granted. So running back and forth between bedrooms/offices would knock productive hours off each day. And whilst I can shut the world out when I’m in work mode, Dan (the DIY man) looks around the house and can only think about the next beam that needs clingstrip or brickwork to be fixed.
Having finally won me round he told me that he’d already seen offices just a mile from our house and agreed a moving in date with the owners. Over one weekend we deposited our gear, assembled desks and generally created a space that felt like work … massively less painful than the house move.
Grubby and pleased, we celebrated a milestone: we had become a real company with actual offices and a meeting desk to boot.
It’s lovely to be able to ask a quick question without fighting for WiFi or a text signal in our rural abode. The wonky room has resumed its original role as guest bedroom. The printers, binding machine, stationery, ever-elusive stapler and Sharpies are there in sight of us both. We spend more time working and less discussing the next renovation project. Our new team members can come in when they need and there’s space for all.
Having a dedicated workspace really is important. The small everyday niggles have evaporated, workflow makes more sense, a quick question really is just that and when it’s time for home, we close that door and try to maintain that elusive thing called work-life balance.
Only thing is, the life part of the equation still comprises an ongoing renovation.
See you soon