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By Marlene Holmquist

Cause and effect take time, and we are now hearing how employees at home are working all over the house—literally. It varies somewhat by gender, ethnicity and region, but in general, we are not always staying in our offices with the doors closed. And what is equally interesting, companies are now making efforts to replicate the feeling of “home” at the office, with more comfortable color palettes, moveable walls and selected spaces where indoors meets outdoors, etc.

Last July, when we moved to the Dana Point area, I became my own client, downsizing my dream office to one-tenth of the size of my previous space. At my old office (which was a separate space in our home), my favorite part of the day was opening the double sliding doors to listen and watch the plethora of birds start their day, too. I would step outside, canvas the ample flowerbeds for weeds, and a just few minutes later, I would be content to sit in my ergonomically designed office chair in front of my computer. But how was I to replicate that wonderful feeling I looked forward to every morning into such a small space? Planning! I no longer needed the square footage or manpower of previous years, so we purposefully bought a home with a downstairs office space. It has double doors leading to a small but lush backyard. Taking small breaks into this outdoor space brings me back to that feeling of serenity of my previous studio. And knowing it is a mere five minutes away to take a beach walk also helps!

Humans may initially be drawn to a space because it is pretty or interesting, but we will eventually move if it is uncomfortable. There is a tipping point for comfort—too little makes us irritable, too much will put us to sleep. Designers intuitively use the combined principles of balance, emphasis, contrast, rhythm, scale, proportion, harmony, and details to create the appropriate feelingof a space. Color is used within these principles and can influence a feeling or attitude almost immediately. Years ago, when I visited a quaint new BBQ restaurant, I found myself becoming uncomfortable, and my lips literally puckered from the bright lemon-yellow paint on the walls! Solution: a warmer and lighter shade of yellow would have harmonized much better with the comfort-food menu of homecooked ribs and cornbread. More importantly, it would have felt more friendly and inviting, resulting in more comfort for the diners and more profit for the owners.

Even if you work at home by yourself, there’s always room for improvement. You will find a free do-it-yourself gift on my home page that can help you get started: 7 EASY EXERCISES TO ASSESS YOUR HOME INTERIOR.

Marlene Holmquist is the owner of Luxury Ranch Interior Design. She holds a BFA in Illustration from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. She recently relocated from a 5-arcre ranch/studio in Ramona, CA, to Monarch Beach in 2020. She now boards her cow horse Zeke at Shady Maples (formerly Tar Farms). Marlene is currently a member of the San Juan Capistrano Equestrian Coalition and Las Vaqueras Women’s Riding Club.

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