My favorite feature of my home office is the paint on the walls. It’s blood red. I’m talking deep scarlet burgundy. The ceiling is a single solid red, but the walls are a macabre mix of every horror film red on top of a slightly textured wall. When people walk in the office, it’s this color and texture they see and they often comment, “It feels so, well, oppressive.”
To which I answer, “There’s the door – right there.”
With respect to friends and family, my office is not for you; it’s for me. My office is not designed to welcome nor entertain anyone except me. It’s intended to be a place where I feel productively safe. Those blood red walls? There is not an ounce of horror in them for me. It’s my cave and a cave is a dark place hidden away from all to see. I wear those blood red walls like a warm blanket.
There are three other essentials that, for me, represent a proper cave. They are:
Your forever desk. My primary location in my office is at my desk. As you can see from the photo, I have two 27” monitors – one is an iMac, and the other is a display. Family photos on the left. Secondary desk with the PS4 and laser printer on the right. You might not have even seen the primary desk at first glance which is surprising because it’s the most important part of the picture.
Everything on that desk will be replaced in the next five years. New iMac, new PS4. The family photos will be upgraded with the latest scholastic accomplishments. There will be more pens. That desk isn’t going anywhere.
A desk’s job is to build productivity, and for me, it achieves this by first providing an immense amount of clear working space. When I put my hands on the keyboard, I want nothing around them except a cup of black coffee. There’s space for memorabilia, but it is well outside my line of sight. Second, a desk must be built like a tank. The surface of my desk is two inches of solid wood. The legs and support beams are similarly sturdy. When I put my feet up on those beams, the desk doesn’t budge.
While I, too, take the desk for granted, there are moments when I stop and admire the slightly discolored oddly shaped patch to the right of my keyboard. It’s where I’ve worn through the finishing clicking and dragging various mice over the years. I run my hands over the surface of the deck. It’s smooth, but there are dents and divots. Some of those imperfections are stories, some are simply mistakes, but like a great bag, a desk’s character is one that improves with age.
A deep leather couch. True story. I owned the Pandora.com domain name many years ago. When I sold the domain for less money than you think to the company that became Pandora, I explained to my wife I wanted three things: whatever the fancy SLR camera was at the time, carte blanche to buy a shit ton of books, and a leather couch so deep that when leaned back, you crossed a time zone.
The couch is from Restoration Hardware and it’s nearly four feet deep and almost seven feet wide. If I put my back squarely against the back cushion, my legs stick straight out like a toddler and I’m tall. When visitors sit down and discover this depth, they tilt their head, look at me, and are about say something snarky about feeling like a toddler, so I quickly explain…
“The door… it’s right there.”
This couch speaks to me. This couch says, “You. You there. You looked stressed and I have just the thing. Fire up Netflix, turn on a random Star Trek Voyager, lay down, and how about a quick snooze? Not interested in watching something? How about we re-read the Planetary Omnibus because we’re still not clear what the hell was going on there, right?”
If my desk is where I am productive, my couch in my cave is where I relax. Perhaps I am serendipitously productive or maybe I just find essential quiet between the thoughts on 28 square feet of leather.
Lovingly curated bookshelves. I’ve already waxed poetic about book shelves here. In preparation for this piece, I embarked on the weekend-long task of – once again – curating my bookshelves. If my desk is where I work, and my couch is where I contemplate, my bookshelves are my life resume.
The multi-day process of reviewing and sorting these books is not just organizationally cathartic; it’s a mental adventure where I perform a deep assessment of my current mental state. For example, multiple books on the craft of poker were removed from the shelf. Poker had a good long run – 5+ years – but during my last Vegas stint, I didn’t even think to visit the poker room. Those poker books – gone to goodwill. The writing shelf, the leadership shelf – all well stocked and full of decades of wisdom. The comic book shelf is now shelves as I’ve been on a very satisfying comic book kick for the past six months.
Unlike the desk or the couch, I don’t spend much time at my bookshelf, but like the desk and the couch, my bookshelf defines my office. These are the ideas and the words that I care about. I’ve spent thousands of hours of my time quietly contemplating each one of those books, often multiple times. For each one of these books, there are ten more that didn’t make the shelf. I could buy another bookshelf, but I enjoy the constraint of these 14 shelves. A book must distinguish itself in some way to make the shelf and when it does I want to see it every day.
A desk, a couch, a bookshelf all surrounded by blood red walls. This is the office I’ve designed for myself. I’m sitting here right now listening to Arcade Fire and appreciating that I prefer my coffee mug on the left – far away from the chaotic and spill-inducing movements of my mouse. The white stone polar bear is still sitting there, staring at me, reminding me that everything good that has happened to me is because I chose to write.