When the official stay-at-home order was put in place across the region, thousands of DMV residents found themselves confined to small spaces in the city, forced to reshape their studio apartments into manageable offices. Designer Nathan Hill, though, had an alternative plan: to escape to his forest-surrounded home in West Virginia, using the natural landscape as inspiration for his daily tasks as design lead at Alexandria-based design firm Spaeth Hill.
“Before the work-at-home situation, I was generally only here [in West Virginia] during the weekends and could not take full advantage as I can now,” says Hill, who has been isolating with his partner and two dogs since March. “A perfect morning for me now starts with my coffee outside, along with my two dogs, enjoying the sense of calm while I begin to plan my day before jumping headlong into my work.”
Occasionally over the past few months, Hill has made his way back to his condo in the District, reveling in the fact that he is able to enjoy a change of scenery.
“Being able to get away to a place that has more space to move about and work is very motivating for me,” says Hill. “There’s also a lot of time for reflection when you escape the city life, which is mainly why we chose to have a place out here.”
At his West Virginia home, the atmosphere is minimalistic, relaxed and comfortable, with a direct view of the woods. For Hill, the natural light streaming through overhead skylights creates a workspace “that feels good to be in” as he stencils new designs, paints and progesses on projects.
Plus, the outdoor patio serves as the perfect mental escape from a work day, whether to enjoy a post-work drink or to read one of Hill’s many nonfiction books about art and design, all perfectly displayed for inspiration on his office desk (formerly known as the dining table). In addition to the books, Hill tends to change things up regularly within his space, which he suggests doing to create a motivating and productive workspace at home right now.
“One great way to add some interest to your space is to designate some wall space to organize and hang a collage of images,” says Hill. “These can be a collection of inspiring images or textures from magazines, posters and drawings. Part of my painting process involves sketching quick studies. I am constantly adding and swapping out images. Being surrounded by this stuff keeps me excited about the work I’m doing and makes my space feel more active.”
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