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Getting the job done at home

By Audrey Hoffer
Dec. 30, 2017 at 11:08 p.m.

Artist Larry Kirkland stands at his drafting table, where he creates some of the drawings for his large-scale public art projects.

Working from home has become as ordinary as having a job in the first place. No one blinks at a request to go remote part time, because traditional separations between work and home are softening.

But what if you must live and work under the same roof full time? Need a work surface the size of pingpong table, or running water, or your boss at the headquarters out of town just plain doesn't want to pay rent for your office anymore? How do you meld your working space with your home?

Jerry Zremski, bureau chief for the Buffalo News and a former National Press Club president, confronted this reality.

"For years, we had a two-reporter, plus intern, bureau in the National Press Building, but in March 2010, I started working at home. My employers felt it made financial sense," he said, sitting behind his spacious white desk.

"It was a big sacrifice. This was a guest bedroom," he said gesturing around the 10-by-12-foot bright and airy room. "Now I give up my bedroom for guests."

Years ago, Zremski renovated his two-bedroom Washington condo in Logan Circle. So he brought back Natalya Mumzhiu with NM Design Studio and asked her to rethink the second bedroom.

"I wanted it to look like an office, because if it was just me and my laptop at the kitchen table, it wouldn't feel like work," he said.

"Jerry called and said he was moving his office into the house," Mumzhiu said. "I also work from home and know how important it is to have a pleasant, organized and professional space."

She placed the desk perpendicular to the windows "so he could look outside all the time with just a turn of his head," she said.

"I told her I needed a lot of room for files, and she said, 'I'll invent something,' " Zremski said.

She made a desk from an Ikea kitchen countertop and set it over three file cabinets. She built wood shelves onto the walls and covered cabinets with frosted glass doors. "Glass creates a peaceful atmosphere and tricks the eye, making the space look bigger than it really is," she said.

Zremski said, "This is an office 100 percent. If you looked just at this room, you'd see an office and never guess it was in a condo."

Artist Larry Kirkland designs monumental site-specific installations for institutions around the world. His 40-foot-high bronze doors, etched in Latin verse from the first page of Genesis in the Gutenberg Bible, form the entrance to the new Museum of the Bible in Washington.

He conceives these works in a light-filled double garage-sized studio — designed by architect Michael Lee Beidler — that joins his Washington house with translucent glass pocket doors. "So I keep the light between the two spaces," Kirkland said.

The rectangular studio is bookended by walls of paned windows and doors that face a porch on one side and a yard on the other.

"The space is magnificent for my private working world and our home life," he said. Kirkland lives with his partner, Brendan Doyle. "We transform it for dinner parties and holiday meals."

A huge eggshell-colored metal layout table on wheels dominates the space and is Kirkland's primary working area. They roll it onto the porch for their 30-person Thanksgiving dinner.

The giant 9-foot-high, 18-foot-long wall behind the layout table "is my pinup wall. In the future, when we sell the house — I know we won't live here forever — a family can open up the space with a fireplace or windows," Kirkland said.

Roommates, partners, even spouses can sometimes be problematic. "I think if one works at home, you have to separate your places and be disciplined," Kirkland said. "Now that Brendan is home more often, he'll barge in and say, 'Let's have lunch.' But I don't want lunch. My idea of lunch is to stand at the kitchen sink, eat half a sandwich and not dirty any utensils so I don't have to worry about cleaning up."

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