Living at Work, Working at Life
The workplace is becoming more like home even as home sometimes seems to be disappearing — especially for younger workers in the tech industry who may only use a residence for sleeping, and sometimes not even that. For example, at the huge and hugely successful home design and remodeling website Houzz, on the second floor of a corner building in downtown Palo Alto, California, the main
space is essentially a bright airy great room, complete with expansive kitchen and dining area. Long tables with laptops and monitors are just visible through the palm fronds. Lunches are provided during weekdays. The glass conference spaces that wrap around this volume are named for different rooms in a home, deftly reinforcing the focus of the website while having some fun at the same
time. Here’s the “Kid’s Room” with its brightly painted child-scaled furniture. In
the “Bathroom” there’s no water closet, but a handsome double vanity with vessel sinks floats across one wall (three Houzz images courtesy Tech Crunch).
The interior of the remodeled tract ranch house of Houzz co-founders Adi Tatarko and her husband Alon Cohen resembles Houzz offices: contemporary
with a sense of play, as shown by the clear swing chair, the pop art ottomans
and the bubbly chandelier in their own great room. It could be another Houzz conference room! In fact Adi and Alon started their company when they couldn’t find an easy web source for design ideas as they embarked on the remodel. And now their life and work are a seamless unit; home is where the houzz is (photos by Matthew Millman, courtesy The New York Times).
Houzz has very cleverly, though perhaps unconsciously, updated the approach of a shelter magazine like Sunset, which built its Cliff May-designed headquarters — in Menlo Park just over the border from Palo Alto, and shown below — as an
overscaled version of the kind of home many of its suburban readers lived in — i.e. a ranch house in a large garden. That was in 1951. Sunset even added a dining
and entertaining space for special functions, also well appointed with plantings, though it was originally designed for advertising functions, not for employee dining as at Houzz (photo by Joe Fletcher). There’s another parallel: Sunset’s offices also became extensions of their founders’ own home. Here’s a view of Sunset owners Larry and Ruth Lane’s house, also by Cliff May, and built in the
1950s. It could be another wing of the Sunset building that just happens to be a few miles away.
For Houzz, it’s not about building an office in the shape of a home; it’s about inserting a home into an office, and, just like Sunset, showing who they are: the ultimate remodeling resource. Home is work and work is home. Many other tech companies have taken this home-centric approach with game rooms and other relaxation venues — Google is reportedly considering zip lines and a “rooftop vineyard” for its new campus at Moffett Field in Mountain View, California — but for Houzz, it’s actually what they do.