Virginia Arrisueño knows how to juggle work and life.
Arrisueño lives at 52 O Studios (52 O St. NW; 202-232-1063), one of Washington’s oldest artist lofts. Built in 1914, the four-story brick building began its life as a warehouse just west of North Capitol Street. Today, it features rentable studios along with units that function as “live/work spaces.”
Arrisueño, who produces an array of stylish knits for her company, DeNada, started her career in one of the apartments with her husband, an artist who also works from home.
That means she, like other Washingtonians who make and sell art from home, has had to make her space serve double duty. Luckily for her, there are some fairly painless ways to turn your living space into your workspace.
When she first moved in, Arrisueño focused on keeping her apartment as organized as she possibly could. “I would pack up and put everything away to make sure we could live and function,” she says.
The major challenge was finding room for her extra inventory and staff. It was tough enough to find a spot for her extra scarves, leg warmers and hats, so she and her husband have since rented out the workspace next-door. Arrisueño says it’s a great compromise — she can measure her commute in feet, ideal for the 24/7 small-business life.
For those who aren’t so lucky, she advises carving out an area in your home that’s exclusive to your business.
“If you’re working in a tight spot,” she says, “figure out an area where you will do your everyday — answering emails, filling orders — keeping another space for where you keep your supplies.”
It’s a challenge Rachel Pfeffer knows well.
Pfeffer, 26, designs and creates funky jewelry, including rings shaped like bicycles, gold D.C. flag necklaces, and earrings in the shape of fish bones (with hearts for tails). And she does it all from the living room of her one-bedroom apartment in Adams Morgan (though she spends occasional days at craft fairs or pop-up stores such as Ginger Root or Crafty Bastards).
This means that, more often than not, her supplies are strewn across her living room.
“I live in an apartment with my husband, and he’s very forgiving,” she says.
Pfeffer has learned some strategies for keeping things organized. For example, she has installed a bunch of shelves in her living room to store inventory and supplies.
She’s also placed three small coffee tables in her living room, so she can move around easily. It’s a strategy she learned when she launched her business in Boston two years ago. “I try to keep them clean,” she says. “But within an hour they get covered with boxes and tools and little pieces of metal.”
And when all else fails, hide your mess away. “Invest in some nice storage containers,” Pfeffer advises. “This will make it look pretty when you’re trying to hide your mess.”
Aspiring chefs have an even bigger challenge — they need to cram into whatever kitchen they’ve got.
Niall Cooper plans to open Bakehouse, a brick-and-mortar bakery at 1407 T St. NW, this spring. Cooper and his business partner (and wife), Lindsey Morse, spent years testing recipes in their kitchen, making small batches for friends to taste or to serve at private events. They also offered up their delicacies at farmers markets.
“We thought of our kitchen as a half-way house where you host or take part in a private event,” he says.
Cooper says Morse is used to cooking in a professional kitchen. But adapting to the obstacles of home cooking hasn’t posed too much of a challenge.
Still, no matter how organized you are, it can be hard to keep your home business from bleeding into most of the rooms of your house. Rania Hassan of GoshDarnKnits and her husband share the three-bedroom home they own in Bloomingdale. Both are artists, and Hassan says their work fills the basement where her husband puts the finishing touches on his gigantic clay and glass sculptures. One of the bedrooms is a painting studio. They even have a room full of bubble wrap and packing supplies.
“The only room we don’t ever do artwork in,” she says, “is the kitchen.”
New Laws Could Help Home Chefs
For many home chefs, the biggest obstacle to success isn’t figuring out how to make 200 cupcakes in a galley kitchen. With a couple of exceptions, it is currently illegal to prepare food for commercial sale in a D.C. home kitchen. However, the D.C. Council is considering a measure that would allow bakers and others who make less than $25,000 a year to prepare food in their kitchen, as long as the food is properly labeled and follows safety regulations. Beer brewers and at-home vintners are already allowed to produce their goods in that way.
“The legislation offers people some good opportunities to get one foot on the ladder without taking too many risks,” says Niall Cooper, who has been testing recipes at home and plans to open a brick-and-mortar bakery this spring.
Maryland has similar laws, but Virginia is less stringent. Check with your local health department to find out what the laws are in your area.