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Work From Home… Outside?

Outside living takes on a whole new meaning

By Josh Kassing 

The “work-from-home” approach to employment has offered an arrangement unlike anything most have seen in their careers – a flexibility that for many, has become a non-negotiable. But working from home no longer means perching at a make-shift desk in the spare bedroom. In fact, many are utilizing this newfound flexibility as an opportunity to rethink their at-home work setup, and are moving things outdoors. 

For decades ‘outdoor living’ has meant backyard BBQ’s, lemonades by the pool and evening fires on warm summer nights, but outdoor living has quickly made its way into the nine-to-five. With the benefits time spent outside offers, it was only a matter of time before remote employees discovered that with the right elements in place, their workday could actually happen outside. 

So, what does the ideal outdoor working setup look like? An impeccable WiFi connection, sun control to prevent glare and overheating, an accessible power source, appropriate furnishings that offer ergonomic, functional seating and work surfaces and acoustic control for virtual calls or conferences. 

When those boxes are checked, remote workers can enjoy the benefits of their outdoor oasis while never missing a beat “at” the office. Who knew “work from anywhere” could be as simple as moving the office to your own backyard?

Man’s Best Friend

According to a recent study done by the The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), 1 in 5 American households acquired a cat or dog during the COVID-19 crisis. These additions have become part of the family, and let’s just say they’re getting the luxury treatment. 

As families have spent more time outdoors since the beginning of the pandemic, particularly the outdoor areas of their own homes, the needs of all have been taken into account – even our four-legged friends. Open green space. Pet-friendly turf. Custom pet-enrichment activities and courses. Automatic fetch and retrieve machines. Pet-accessible fountains and ponds. 

Many homeowners have opted to ‘up’ their backyard game by integrating elements that bring the whole family together, and we’re talking about the whole family. But not all can afford to give up their precious outdoor square footage for their pup, so homeowners are also finding unique ways to integrate these sorts of elements into otherwise less-desirable locations. Side yards, pesky shaded areas that refuse to allow grass to grow, and areas far away from home-access are all great candidates for areas to create the perfect setup for man’s best friend. 

Blurring the Lines

In order for outdoor living to be truly successful, the same elements that make an interior living space comfortable, functional and beautiful need to also be present outdoors. As we’ve become increasingly dependent on our private outdoor spaces over the past two years, the lines between inside and out have blurred, and for good reason. 

By softening the delineation between outside and in, homeowners are able to increase their usable square footage, and maximize the livable footprint of their homes. In areas of the country with moderate climates, this could mean doubling or tripling their living space, so the benefits are not insignificant. To blur the lines effectively, certain strategies must be put into place. 

First, maximize your visual connection to the outside. This means integrating as much glass as possible, especially in social areas such as the living room, dining room, or kitchen. You can further blur the lines by making those glass elements operable – allowing them to physically open up and combine adjacent spaces. Operable glass partitions such as accordion glass walls, glass garage doors and by-passing sliders are the most impactful methods to accomplish this, but even standard sliding doors to double-french doors can offer similar benefits. 

Utilizing materials that visually connect these spaces is also important. Running a flooring material that is both suitable for indoor and outdoor applications allows for a more seamless experience, and can essentially eliminate the perception of any transition at all. In short, creating a consistent experience between inside and out can help to increase the usable square footage of your home, and elevate the living experience in each of those areas. 

Josh Kassing is the VP of Design Development for Chicago-based commercial interior design and interior architecture firm Mary Cook Associates. He can be reached at



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