As I write this, I’m eating dinner at my desk. A pretty common occurrence for many of you, but then, my desk is also my coffee table, and my Aeron-chair-equivalent is the living room sofa. I think you can learn a lot about a person from the kind of office that they work in. My office looks pretty homey – but of course it’s in my home. I am my own plant service, and, I must say, the begonias look crappy.
The biggest problem with a home office is usually space, and since we live in a studio, it’s especially bad. My “desk” isn’t just for writing and for dining; it’s also the games table. (We’re big cribbage players, with Scrabble a close second.) Any time I want to switch from one activity to another, there’s a lot of moving of piles that has to happen. My inbox, for instance, is a pile of mail on one of the two club chairs; when guests come over, it moves to the top of the filing cabinet. Anything that’s ready to be sent out gets run downstairs to the mailbox immediately, since there’s no room for an outbox.
Outlet space is at the worst premium. Last night I woke up my husband, pulling the computer’s power supply away from the strip with the lamp, the digital camera recharger, his cell phone recharger, my cell phone recharger and the white noise machine. I wanted to move the power supply into our walk-in closet/den, to put it into the power strip with the TV, one of the DVRs, the iPod charger, the stereo receiver and the DVD. I guess if I bomb in the real estate biz I can always start an electronics resale store.
It’s a far cry from the first real corporate office I ever saw. When I was 21, I went to work on Wall Street at a midsize firm that was just one generation old. These guys tried to belie their youth by strewing colonial junk – pier mirrors and Duncan Phyfe whosits – all over the place. And the office of the vice chairman was huge. It had a view of the Statue of Liberty, and it didn’t have a single Ye Olde Stuffed Duck in evidence. Instead, there was just this gigantic modernist painting that was so beautiful it took my breath away (I later learned it was an Alex Katz.)
But if you think about real estate superbrokers, their offices are never that great. Part of it is the business – these people know what space is worth, and they would never waste the money on an office within an anteroom within another anteroom – but that’s what I remember IBM’s Lou Gerstner used to have. (I do know one or two real estate people who wouldn’t mind taking a tip from him and having a wine refrigerator en suite.)
Still, a lot of top real estate people don’t really use their own offices. They’ll show you the conference room with a table you can land a helicopter on, sure, but actual work is performed in the Bentley or Mercedes with the driver. And, of course, at lunch, but contrary to what many of you would like the IRS to believe, the dining rooms at the Four Seasons, Fifty-Seven Fifty-Seven and Fred’s are not actually offices.
One of my favorite firms has taken a passion for understatement and really run with it. In addition to those balsa wood models of buildings (you’ve seen them, the fancy ones have parts that light up) of course there are architectural drawings of projects the firm is working on. But best of all, hanging on the walls are some aerial maps. They just look like art – but if you look closely, they’re overhead shots of a major American city, with dotted red lines drawn around entire blocks. The maps indicate what they have in development – not just buildings, but blocks.
On the other hand, I’m sure these guys have long commutes to get to their dinner tables.
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