Porch Culture

With gusto, ladies and gentlemen, I say to you: I believe summer is upon us! Let’s all take a second, feel the breeze on our shoulders, and know that we’ve been liberated from our long winter. Even when it’s raining, there’s a general sense of warmth and uplifted spirits floating around. Trees are in bloom, too, and the air smells sweet with possibility!

Alright, maybe a little much. But as the seasons change and it gets warmer, hopefully you’re feeling the late spring/early summer begin to creep around you. I love being outside at this shutterstock_3971008time of year and enjoying nature, particularly ifI can do all of that while sitting on a porch. Originally, porches were built to give homeowners a covered place to sit in the summer when the weather was too hot to be inside and they stood a chance of catching a breeze outdoors.[1] Now they have become a social gathering place and encourage community spirit.

An article in The Milwaukee Journal, written in June of 1966, waxed poetic about porch culture and significance of porches as a status symbol: “You don’t have to be antiquated to remember when a porch was a sign of affluence. Even if it was a mere dab on the front of a row house, its owners could feel superior to less fortunate neighbors with nothing more comfortable to squat on than stoops.”[2] While this might not be a hard and fast social symbol today, those who have porches still enjoy their covered social area. The quality of that experience also depends on the furniture on which you’re sitting. The article, in particular, mentioned porch swings: while they might be slightly uncomfortable and fit approximately 2.5 people, they can also perfect for cuddling up with a significant other.

In 2006, forty years after the Milwaukee Journal article was printed, NPR’s Michele Norris did a piece on All Things Considered about porches entitled “Sitting on the Porch: Not a Place, But a State of Mind.” Among some of her observations was that porches organically bridge the gap between private homes and public space on the streets.[3] Therefore, homeowners can invite guests to spend time with them in a way that’s not too intrusive so they could still keep their home more private but still entertain comfortably. Similarly, would-be guests did not have to feel they were intruding if they were only gathered on the porch. Thus, in thIMG_4597at established milieu, the porch also became a symbol of good-natured and “safe” quality time.

Bush Industries is located in Jamestown, NY about twenty miles southeast of Chautauqua Institution, the pinnacle of porch perfection. Chautauqua is a cultural center dedicated to lifelong learning that focuses on religion, literature, science, and the arts. Finding a house at Chautauqua without a porch is rare; I don’t know if anyone has ever specifically counted how many porches the Institution has, but there are undoubtedly hundreds in its tiny community. During Chautauqua’s nine-week summer season, thousands of people enter the grounds and often engage in meaningful discourse on their porches…or they just sit back and enjoy the time with their friends. Either way, porch culture is very prominent and contributes to Chautauqua’s laidback atmosphere. To learn more about the Institution and its upcoming summer season, click here.

IMG_3725The Chautauqua Amphitheater Back Porch:
a gathering place after lectures, church services, and performances.

Thus, porches create summer ambiance. Why not spread that to other areas of your home? The Bush Furniture Volcano Dusk Collection by Kathy Ireland can help you complete your summer atmosphere, particularly if you want to give your whole home the same comfortable feeling your porch has. Or maybe you don’t have a porch but you desire that Volcano Cabinetsummery feeling in your cottage or home year-round. Check out the collection for desks and hutches, storage options, and convenient tables for any living area.

Here’s to quiet evenings that are still warm even after the sun has gone down, lightning bugs, and the casual bluegrass after-dinner jam session. Here’s to sitting with your friends and peeking out from under the porch railing to glimpse comets creeping across the sky (I was six and remember my father telling me it was the only time I was ever going to see the Hale–Bopp comet in my life.) Here’s to sleeping on the porch on warm nights, and the Chautauqua season commencing in a month. Let summer seep into your bones, and keep swinging.

[1] http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5589974

[2]https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=HQQqAAAAIBAJ&sjid=0ScEAAAAIBAJ&dq=porch-sitting&pg=2625,4955701&hl=en

[3] http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5589974

Porch Culture

A Meeting of the Minds: the Attributes and Faults of Collaborative Workspaces…and Their Workers

I didn’t realize what I actually knew and didn’t know about collaboration until I started doing some research for this blog post. Originally I started thinking about it specifically in terms of open plan offices, but there is so much more that goes into successful office collaboration than meets the eye.

collaborative cogsFirst off, everybody works differently. This may seem obvious, but it’s not. Already, you may be harkening back to times in your life when you worked together with others to accomplish something, whether it was by choice or because you were asked. You might have worked well in a space where everyone could share ideas, but maybe you liked some time alone to process things as well. All parties [hopefully] discussed how to work together in a mutually productive way, which is very important when thinking about how best to collaborate.

Space is directly relative as well; places that make people feel productive and comfortable for some might not for others. More and more, offices are trying different physical layouts to facilitate collaboration between employees. These can include, but are not limited to, open plan offices, conference rooms, scrum rooms, and even common eating areas. New trends suggest offices everywhere are gradually conducting less large, formal meetings and moving towards hosting smaller, informal meetings because employees feel better collaborating on a more social level.[1] In accordance, they’re trying to create spaces where that kind of dialogue can occur: “Here, let’s provide them with a café on the first floor so they can talk business in a welcome atmosphere! That will do it. We’re so trendy now!”

Often, employers realize they need more communal space, or their current layout isn’t working, and install those informal meeting areas and cafés in hopes it fixes the problem. shot of mugSometimes this works, which is great. Other times, however, people often shy away from the new spaces because they feel work done there is unprofessional and/or “doesn’t count.” Teamwork is not as easy as showing the cat the proverbial litter box and telling it what to do. A related article stated, with incredible confidence, “In team rooms, every conversation matters.” [2] They implied that as if the physical act of pulling people into the same room somehow innately increased their individual and collective brainpower. This is not always the case. By being in the same room, those people may be encouraged to commence a brainstorming session or engage in creative planning…or they could be distracted, talk about things unassociated with work, and even potentially dissolve into giggles for whatever reason. Mindset in the space is just as vital as the space itself.

In order for collaboration to occur, especially in a newly designated space, people have to buy into the idea that they will share and work together well in those spaces whether they are CEOs or entry-level employees. An article in The Washington Post in December, entitled “Google got it wrong. The open-office trend is destroying the workplace,” mentioned that companies who have moved to open plan offices have increased employee camaraderie as hoped for, but that the same peoples’ productivity was at an all-time low: no one got nearly as much work done because, “Each day, my associates and I are seated at a table staring at each other, having an ongoing 12-person conversation from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  It’s like being in middle school with a bunch of adults.”[3] Thus, research proves that without proper planning collaborative spaces can be places where productivity absolutely plummets.

In considering all these different types of collaborative spaces and scenarios, I experienced a delightful research moment when I learned what a scrum room is. By definition, these are designated places where people assigned to the same project work together to meet a short-term deadline. Scrum rooms often have large whiteboards or chalkboards on which people can share ideas, epitomizing a meeting of the minds in all senses. This concept is not new. Newsrooms and stock exchanges have worked this way for years and years and are often a flurry of activity as people are working toward common goals and putting their whole selves into meeting deadlines. In contrast, scrum rooms can also become quieter, too, as individuals work late into the night or for hours on end. I picture these places as the ultimate way to collaborate based on personal experience; I love the idea that when the going gets tough, the tough people coexist and accomplish something. The website dummies.com declared of scrum rooms, “By arranging the space for productivity, it becomes part of how they work.”[4]

Whether you think the scrum room concept is great, prefer your private office most of the time, or like something in between, technology in all these spaces unifies the way we work. As this is the 21st century, most everyone tends to plug in with smartphones, computers (laptop and desktop), tablets, HD TVs, and the like. These things have become an integral part of our lives in every capacity and are now pivotal collaborative tools that facilitate idea sharing and spreading on a digital level. I could write a dissertation on this topic, but the moral is these connections are vital. A major advantage to having these connections, especially in collaborative spaces, is that decisions can be made much more quickly than if people are not working around one another either physically or virtually. In that sense, collaborative spaces and the technology in them have actually increased the speed with which many businesses work.

Lest this blog suddenly begin to mirror an advice column, here is my recipe for succeeding in the office no matter its layout: work SMART. No matter whether you’re situated in an open plan area, talk frequently with others in informal meetings, or enjoy your quiet personal space, be productive and efficient. Know your optimal productivity environment so you can synthesize information and work well with those around you, and then emulate it for yourself as best you can. Here at Bush Furniture, we’re happy to help you out with any office furniture if you’re thinking of starting or revamping a collaborative workspace. Check out our website www.bushbusinessfurniture.com for complete collections of office furniture to address your every need. We’d love to know what collaborative workspaces have or have not done for you, so please leave your comments below!

 

[1]http://www.newyorker.com/business/currency/the-open-office-trap

[2] http://www.apptio.com/blog/cubicles-versus-scrum-rooms

[3] http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/12/30/google-got-it-wrong-the-open-office-trend-is-destroying-the-workplace/

[4] http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/how-to-create-a-physical-environment-to-maximize-a.html

 

A Meeting of the Minds: the Attributes and Faults of Collaborative Workspaces…and Their Workers

Sparkling White

Sometimes there’s just nothing like the feeling of drifting off to sleep cuddled amongst white, clean sheets! Or walking into a room that has a striking white piece of furniture in it to immediately catch your eye…right? White is incredibly popular when it comes to decorating living spaces, but how come?

Many people might associate white furniture in their home with purity, innocence, cleanliness, or clarity. Others may view it as stark and shocking. For a lot of reasons, white furniture hypothetically goes with everything. According to the laws of physics, white light incorporates all the colors of the rainbow. (Black, its contrast, is actually the complete absence of color.) Therefore, white can coordinate with all warm and cool colors depending on its shade and quantity in the room. That’s why people probably feel comfortable strategically choosing a piece of white furniture in their home.

I rented a place once that had what I’m still convinced is the world’s most comfortable white couch. Dear Reader, if you have ever had a white couch or known someone that has had a white couch, you may have just experienced a sharp intake of breath combined with a panicked thought of “Oh no, oh no, oh no, did I just spill something?!” Believe me, there were some VERY near misses, but we managed to keep the couch completely stain-free for a whole year. Bit of a balancing act, really…

Dancing Sheep…I digress. My roommate and I loved our white couch because it was the most neutral piece of furniture in the room and allowed us to put a variety of brightly colored artwork up on the walls. Simultaneously, it brought character to the space. In fact, my ultimate success with white furniture the first time makes me want to purchase it in the future!

If you’re looking to redecorate your home or are moving in somewhere for the first time, Bush Furniture can help you out no matter where you’re headed. We have a variety of furniture in white, including the Kathy Ireland New York Skyline Collection for a crisp and modern approach to home office furniture. Our Aero Collection also has a variety of storage options in white if you’re looking for a way to stay organized.

Maybe all of this sounds great, and you’d like to spruce up your business office with white furniture. Start here with the Momentum Collection by Bush Business Furniture so you can feel comfortable and productive in your work environment.

Have we helped you with some design ideas? Why do you like incorporating white into your home décor? Share with us in this blog’s comments!

Sparkling White