Take inspiration from eight well-known creatives who transformed their domestic environs into multi-functional workspaces.
With most of us having relocated our work to the spare room or the kitchen table, it’s more important than ever to make your home feel like an inspiring and motivational environment.
Artist Frida Kahlo painted many of her masterpieces in her bedroom, while modernist designers Paul Rand, Saul Bass, and the Eames combined personal and professional living in purposefully-designed home studios.
From photographer Cindy Sherman to graphic designer Peter Saville, these creatives show that home-working can be the best setting for creativity and innovation. Consider these your ultimate WFH (Work from Home) icons.
1. Paul Rand
Paul Rand’s home studio at 87 Goodhill Road. Image courtesy of PaulRand.design.
American graphic designer Paul Rand is best known for the iconic and enduring brand identities he created for some of the biggest corporations of the 20th Century, including IBM, Enron, Morningstar, Inc., UPS, and ABC.
A lifelong champion of modernist design, Rand’s house in Weston, Connecticut was a fitting tribute to Mid-Century Modern style. Designed by his first wife Ann, the Rand House combined all the mod-cons of Mid-Century design with a huge home studio.
Here, Rand created many designs for logos, posters, and books, and authored three memoirs. Overlooking the wooded grounds surrounding the house, the studio contained Rand’s drafting desk and vast pinboard walls displaying designs for past and ongoing projects.
2. Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo pictured on the bridge connecting her and her husband’s adjacent homes. Image via AP/Shutterstock.
Perhaps more than any other creative occupation, the production of fine art has often been conducted in a home setting. In particular, many well-known 20th Century female artists created their work at home, more so than many of their male contemporaries. Traditionally, women often occupied multiple roles within a domestic setting — wife, mother, home-maker — as well as, in some cases, creative professionals.
In the case of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, both her childhood and marital homes became an intrinsic backdrop to her extraordinary working life. After a bus accident in 1925 left her injured and bed-bound for three months, Kahlo received a specially-made easel that allowed her to paint in bed, and a mirror to allow her to see herself. Her interest in self-portraiture stems from this period of recovery.
Over her lifetime, Kahlo split her time between two home studios. The first, in Coyoacan, is known as Casa Azul (the Blue House) and was her childhood home. She also lived and worked at a compound she shared with her husband, the muralist Diego Rivera. Kahlo’s home and studio was separate from Rivera’s house and connected by a bridge, allowing the couple to visit each other while retaining their own separate spaces, for producing work privately.
Kahlo loved to be surrounded by beautiful and inspiring things in her home studios, filling her living and working spaces with a riot of color, animals, plants, and artwork.
Kahlo’s studio at Casa Azul, pictured in 1970. Image via Gianni Dagli Orti.
3. Charles and Ray Eames
Architect and designer Charles Eames, pictured in 1971. Image via AP/Shutterstock.
Two of the most influential pioneers of American modernism, married couple Charles and Ray Eames made significant contributions to a wide range of design fields, including furniture, industrial manufacturing, architecture, graphic design, film, animation, and textile design.
The Eames first began experimenting with creating plywood furniture in their small apartment in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles in the early 1940s. They soon established a larger studio in Venice, LA, but their propensity for working in a home setting continued in 1949 when they designed their own home and attached studio in the leafy Pacific Palisades neighborhood.
The studio at Eames House, designed by Charles and Ray Eames, in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles. Image via Wikimedia Commons.
The Eames House and Eames Studio became the location for much of the Eames’ work output throughout the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. But, was also a place of creative refuge and inspiration for the designers, who harbored their vast collection of art and furniture from around the world in their self-designed home.
The couple lived in the house the rest of their lives—a testament to the success of its modest, functional design as a work and living space. After Ray Eames passed away in 1988, Charles’ daughter Lucia inherited the house and established the Eames Foundation. Today the foundation runs the Eames House as a historic house museum and welcomes 20,000 visitors and design devotees each year.
4. Georgia O’Keeffe
Georgia O’Keeffe in her home at Ghost Ranch, in 1968. Image via Everett Collection/Shutterstock.
American painter Georgia O’Keeffe is celebrated for her dramatic paintings of large-scale flowers and the desert landscapes that surrounded her two homes in New Mexico.
O’Keeffe was raised in Wisconsin before becoming an art student in Chicago and later a practicing artist in New York. It wasn’t until 1929 that O’Keeffe first visited New Mexico, the region that would inspire her to create some of her most significant work. Instantly enthralled by the beautiful open landscapes, O’Keeffe went on to buy her first property in New Mexico — named Ghost Ranch — in 1934.
The artist felt a strong affinity with this “untouched lonely feeling place,” and curated a life of Zen-like simplicity. She spent her days painting the surrounding environment, walking in the nearby mountains, and gathering bones in the desert. Although O’Keeffe was sometimes made out to be a loner figure by visitors and critics, she created a truly inspirational environment where her creative work not only flourished but excelled.
The paintings she produced in this time were often directly inspired by her house and its environs. Dramatic desert landscapes, animal skulls, and vast, azure skies are all common features of her celebrated work.
5. Peter Saville
Peter Saville with his tribute to LEGO in the office attached to his home in Clerkenwell, London. Image via David Sandison.
Graphic designer Peter Saville may be one of the most famous designers in the world, but he too is a WFH pioneer. The iconic record sleeves Saville produced for Manchester-based Factory Records — including the bands Joy Division and New Order among their signings — marked the start of an exciting and glamorous career in graphic design, during which Saville has produced work principally for clients in music and fashion.
After periods of working for partner-led creative agency Pentagram and ad agency Frankfurt Balkind in LA, Saville returned to the UK in 1996 and formed “The Apartment” — a design studio run from Saville’s Mayfair flat, which also doubled as a photo studio and meeting-place for cultural and creative figures of the London Britpop scene.
In 1999, Saville relocated his office and home to Clerkenwell, London. Throughout the 2000s, Saville continued to be in high demand from commercial clients who grew up with his work for Factory Records. From his gallery-like studio Saville created a brand identity for the City of Manchester and redesigned the logo for fashion house Burberry, among many other things.
Saville’s dazzlingly white and extensive office in Clerkenwell stretches the definition of working from home, but it certainly serves as ultimate home studio inspiration.
6. Cindy Sherman
A reconstruction of Sherman’s New York home studio on exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery in London in 2019. Image via Nils Jorgensen.
The creative output of photographer and artist Cindy Sherman is both divisive and deeply fascinating. Her photographic self-portraits depict Sherman in different costumes and settings, creating a vast array of imagined theatrical characters that offer commentary on a wide range of themes, including pop culture, feminism, and aging.
A touring retrospective exhibition in 2019 lent an insight into Sherman’s creative process, which included a reconstruction of her home studio. Pull-out drawers and wardrobes filled with the tools of this master of disguise — rubber masks, wigs, makeup, and props — line the walls of her studio, surrounding the central work table and photography backdrop sheet.
Sherman’s studio was originally a room that took up half of her loft apartment in New York, but the incredible success of Sherman’s work has since facilitated an overhaul in her home studio situation. Today, with a converted barn as her studio on her ten-acre Hamptons estate, Sherman is certainly living proof of her commercial success as an artist.
7. Saul and Elaine Bass
Graphic designer and filmmaker Saul Bass, pictured in 1961. Image via United Artists/Kobal/Shutterstock.
Alongside Paul Rand and the Eames, Saul Bass was another key pioneer in the Mid-Century Modern design movement in America. Bass started his career as a graphic designer, creating print adverts and film posters, but his groundbreaking simplistic designs for animated film titles, including Hitchcock-directed Vertigo, Psycho, and North by Northwest, firmly cemented his place in the annals of design history.
Saul Bass often worked alongside his wife Elaine Bass, who was also a designer and filmmaker. Elaine’s contribution to many of the collaborative Bass projects, such as the iconic title sequences for Spartacus and West Side Story, went uncredited until 1989, though her part in bringing much of Bass’ work to screen has now been widely acknowledged.
The couple created much of their most prolific work from their home in Altadena, California. The low-slung, modernist house was separated into children and adult wings, the former for their two children, Jennifer and Jeffrey. The studio was connected to the adult wing, and was characterized by shelves crammed with rolls of film and walls plastered with drawings and storyboards.
8. Beatrix Potter
Beatrix Potter’s house near HawkesHead in the Lake District, England. Image via Richard Sowersby.
Beatrix Potter’s illustrations and books are still beloved by children today, and in many ways she was the ultimate WFH icon.
A keen illustrator and painter since at a very young age, Potter was enamored with the flora and fauna she encountered on holidays to the Lake District (in the North of England) and Scotland. In 1905, Potter moved to Hill Top Farm in the village of Near Sawrey in the Lake District, three years after The Tale of Peter Rabbit was published to wide and immediate acclaim.
Hill Top became Potter’s home studio where she not only painted and wrote, but also learned how to become a sheep farmer, fostering a deep interest in the conservation and preservation of the landscape, nature, and culture of the Lake District.
Just as Georgia O’Keeffe discovered New Mexico to be her source of creative inspiration, Potter was also creatively inspired by her home environment. Many of her later books were inspired by the creatures and landscapes of the Lake District, and she continued to be involved in local rural issues and affairs until her death in 1943.
Cover image via Everett Collection/Shutterstock.
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