Will you walk into my parlour?

Anytime I hear about people wanting to leave full-time office work in favour of working from home, I want to stage an intervention. Same for people who express a desire to live in tiny houses. I have some experience with both. This is roughly my reaction in both cases:

Dewar Facepalm - Imgur

I have many friends in the same crowded little boat, and was thinking of them when I read a piece in this weekend’s Globe and Mail, all about the lovely home office of a probably lovely person with unquestionably lovely taste. You can read that article here.

After seeing what others had to work with/in, I was, in a word, envious.

At the same time, I felt somewhat marginalized. The subject of the article has a fantastic work space but it in no way reflects the reality of most work-at-home folks, especially those with young children, especially those who live in the 416.

So as counterpoint, I decided to interview myself. Here’s what I had to say.

Why this is writer Jeni Armstrong’s favourite room


Professional writer Jeni Armstrong loves her job and wanted her home office, located in the house she and her partner purchased seven years ago in east-end Toronto, to nurture that enthusiasm. Unfortunately, it’s a two-bedroom home with an unfinished basement, so Armstrong’s resourcefulness was put to the test. “My options were basically the kitchen table or the couch,” she confesses. “The kitchen table won out because it’s further from the TV and also because it’s a table.” When asked if she regrets the choice, the mother of two shrugs: “It’s out of direct sunlight and there’s reliable WiFi. Are these questions for real?”

The dining room window

This is what I look out of all day long. There used to be two big trees that I would study as I wove together different drafts of speeches, articles, op-eds. The trees were on a neighbour’s property and when they cut one down, I cried. Like, actually bawled. The window casing? Shit, I don’t even notice that anymore.

The flowers

I honest to God don’t know where that came from. We usually have fake ones from the dollar store in that vase. They’re orange and fairly hideous but my kid picked them out.

The flooring

It’s bamboo; we got it on clearance at Home Depot. Reasonably durable, but cracks like a frickin’ Icelandic glacier with any changes in temperature or humidity. The next floor is going to get glued AND nailed and if that doesn’t work, fuck it. Pine needles. I don’t care.

The desk

… is a table. My chiropractor sent my work chair a thank-you note for all the repeat business it sends him. The table is also where we share our family meals, work on LEGO, play cards and stare at the wall of Rubbermaid containers that never seem to get emptied. Filled entirely with my own crap, so I’m not allowed to complain, by the way.

The lighting

Debbie Travis for Canadian Tire. For? Or just at? I don’t know. You hit the switch and there’s light. Mission accomplished.

The desk decor

I already told you: it’s a table. Anyway. Placemats are from Kitchen Stuff Plus and are great because when they get dirty on one side you can just turn them over and hold off on doing laundry for another day. The mug is from Indigo. I like that its handle keeps me from having to wrap my hand directly around a ceramic vessel filled with burning hot liquid.

The laptop

Ew, that’s not mine. I use a MacBook Air.

The elastic bands

The other night we went out to one of those room escape games, and our half of the team had to crawl through a maze made of laser beams. This is my kids’ attempt to recreate the effect. They’re a little young to appreciate the weaponry potential of elastic bands, but that will come in time. That will come.”


12 thoughts on “Will you walk into my parlour?

    1. Same here. It was actually a birthday gift last year, one for which I am grateful on a daily basis, but I didn’t want to say that in case it detracted from my otherwise whiny prose. :-)


  1. Great one Jeni! Natasha and I are running a course about this – helping women that are surprized/disappointed about their new work-from-home life and all the joy and chaos is includes! As always, you are fabulous!


  2. Our house came with a desk in the kitchen. That’s my office. My back is to the TV in the family room, which I have on to create noise because complete silence makes me twitchy. Great interview!


  3. Hilarious interview!

    Chiming in as an office worker (and tiny house dweller) that you would shake your head at…. While there is definitely much to be said for office life, ambiance is not included. My office is windowless, without any artwork beyond photos of my kid (office services took away my wall art while I was on mat leave), and way too far from the kitchen (while somehow too close to the muffin shop in the concourse below). I still manage to have chronic back pain despite the fancy-pants office chair and I live in constant fear that my manufactured background noise (YouTube, CBC radio, etc. all through earbuds, of course) will catch IT’s unwanted attention one of these days. Plus, I have to use a Windows desktop…. ugh.

    Grass is greener, maybe?


    1. True enough. The last time I had a windowless office I kept myself entertained by whipping elastic bands at a nearby co-worker’s head (hence the reference to weaponry). And the IT cop squad. Ugh. I once worked with an IT person who admitted that her ideal job would be working as a prison guard which seemed … apt.


  4. YES! THIS!! Okay…I mean…I like the IDEA of a tiny house, but in practice…have you ever searched out pictures of people that live in tiny houses with kids? I have. It looks like a tornado hit a Toys R Us. More so than the average house with kids even. There is not enough Container Store to fix that shizz, I tell you! The “small” house that we’re about to move into (a 2/1 of 825 sq. ft.) with a 6 year old and baby number 2 due in August already feels cluttered and we’re not even there yet. I cannot imagine a legit tiny house with kids!!


    1. Yep. I have no idea how couples manage it, let alone families. I would LOVE to have one as a solo retreat. But the word “solo” is key. :-)


  5. I have a reasonably large home, with a separate home office. It would be nice if I had the office space to myself, but there are teens with homework who need the other computer. I’ve been known to revert to the couch with my laptop. Besides, it’s more fun editing photos when you have an episode of Suits running in the background. I wish I could admit to be disciplined to epic proportions when working from home – but I was far better when I had the 8-4 office job. Here I’m as likely to be looking out the big picture window with a long lens shooting pictures of birds, grabbing a ‘quick’ load of laundry, walking the dogs…. On top of which, the office space currently looks like Hurricane Gustav blasted through. I swear, every time I think I clear it out and purge it, another blast runs through. Must be Calgary’s Chinook winds! On the bright side, the dogs want in and out so often, that I’m not glued to my desk chair for long periods – so my chiropractor is relatively pleased. :-)


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