When I opened Pia Design two years ago, I was nervous about where it would take me - it was always my dream to have my own interior design studio, but I never expected my dream to take off the way it did. It has been an absolute whirlwind of exciting projects, wonderful clients and I am honoured to have had the chance to meet so many talented, small business owners and creatives through this journey, many who have become lifelong friends.
Last year was a particularly good year for Pia Design - we grew from a single designer studio to small team of freelancers and in January, Emily joined the studio as our first full time junior designer. We completed a major refurbishment of a country house in West Sussex and saw many smaller projects come to life. We signed on a couple of really big projects as well as plenty of smaller ones, each one unique, from a new-build in St. Albans, to a Grade II listed barn house in Buckinghamshire.
We were also featured in Estila magazine in an article about sustainable interiors and we improved our eco credentials by joining the 1% For The Planet movement as well as the Carbon Club with Forest Carbon. You can read more about our Eco Mission here.
There are many ups and downs and uncertainties that come with running your own business and celebrating our two years of success at home during a global pandemic was certainly not in my plans for the year ahead but one thing I have definitely learnt over the last two years is that life has a tendency to create a few plot twists every now and then.
I am incredibly fortunate that due to our eco mission of running a paperless office and limiting our travel to the essential client / site visits, we were already set up for digital and remote working - with the exception of the sample library which I run from my home office. We also have a few projects in the early development stages, so we are able to carry on working during these troubling times (a welcome distraction from the news).
The stay at home lockdown might only be a temporary measure, but I don't doubt that these times will leave a lasting impression on how we work and communicate with others in times to come - perhaps in the longer term, we'll even be able to appreciate some positives to come out of this tragic worldwide situation. So, in light of the current situation, in celebration of our two year milestone, we are sharing our top tips for working from home:
1. Create a peaceful environment: Working from home can be full of distractions, so I have created a designated working zone to keep my focus. I also like to play relaxing music and burn candles / diffuser oils. 'Zoning' your work space is also important so that it's easier to switch off from work at the end of the day - this is what I struggle with the most, working from home.
2. Take Plenty of Breaks: I'm a firm believer that an 8 hour working day is not the most efficient way to work because our brains get tired. I personally find that stretching my working day to 10-11 hours, with regular, 20 minute breaks throughout the day (quiet thinking time, a walk in the park, cooking and doing the laundry whilst mulling over an idea) is more productive than cramming all my work into a shorter period of time. Flexible working hours also free me up to work when I'm feeling the most creative or most productive, rather than 'forcing it'.
3. Create a routine: It can be easy to procrastinate without clear working hours, but sticking to a work rhythm or mini routine help organise time better. After breakfast and a cup of tea, I start my day by checking my emails and checking in with my team, making sure they have what they need to carry on with their work for the day, what deadlines to meet and so on. I like making to-do lists to stay on top of priority tasks as well.
4. Stay Social: I'm fortunate that my job is very social, even when I'm at home working alone, and I find half the day is usually spent on the phone with clients and suppliers, so it never feels lonely! However, the current situation is a good reminder that often picking up the phone and speaking with someone directly is much more personable and gets things done faster than sending an email.
5. Reassess your Calendar Obligations: As important as face-to-face interaction is in business, this is a good time to ask ourselves - did we really need all of those 4 hour round table meetings with the design team, or are there some meetings which could easily have been conducted over a phone conference in less time, with less travel emissions? As a small studio with UK-wide projects, we are always trying to be more efficient with our time and travelling to and from site visits is one of the most time-consuming parts of our day. Modern technology is a remarkably effective tool for replacing some of that wasted travel time with a virtual meeting.
6. Connect with Nature: Now, more than ever, our connection to nature is crucial to our well being. I recently shared my thoughts on Biophilic design with Claire Gaudion (who stocks some beautiful products and our favourite recycled plastic bottle rugs), so if you're interested in how to bring nature into your home or to better connect with the natural world (which remains constant, even through uncertain times), check out her blog post, linked above.
These may be troubling times in the world, but I am determined to learn what lessons we can from our changing world, and adapt if necessary - here's to many more years of sustainable, tailored living from Pia Design!