The Anthology’s Workspace column takes us inside the very creative spaces of some very creative people.
I distinctly remember when Alexandra Suhner Isenberg started her massively popular sleepwear line The Sleep Shirt (which you might have seen on Oprah’s Favorite Things, goop, or in Barney’s). We were in an editorial meeting at Vitamin Daily (now Vita Daily), where she was fashion editor and I was lifestyle editor at the time, and she’d just come back from London. There, at Spitalfield’s, she’d found an 19th century dressing gown not unlike one Karl Lagerfeld reportedly wore.
Her concept? To create a modern version of the classic piece in high-end materials with impeccable made-in-Canada finishes. Now, she’s done all that and more. She’s expanded the line, moved to the South of Sweden and commutes back and forth to Canada, where The Sleep Shirt is still made.
Here, the designer takes us inside her Swedish studio in her own words.
My work day typically starts at 7:15, once my husband has left with the kids (he does the school drops, I do the dog walking) and then I start working right away, in my nightshirt, of course. After getting through emails I go for a run or walk with my husky mutt Wanda, and then shower and get dressed. The rest of the day is work, emails, and meetings, until everyone gets home around 4:30. I usually end up doing another hour or so of work after dinner or when the kids go to bed. That’s the trouble of working in a different time zone… While it is sometimes hard to draw a line between work life and home life when you have an office at home, the fact that I have a dedicated room on the other side of the house means it does feel separate.
It’s taken me two years to figure out what I wanted to do with this space. It’s a fairly big office but the closets on one side and doors and windows on the other make it impractical for uses other than a bedroom. It’s on the ground floor of our house and the door leads out to the backyard which is perfect so I can let Wanda in and out during the day. I decided that the majority of the furniture would lie along the long wall and the rest of the space would be fairly bare.
I know it sounds cliché to say I wanted the office to be good looking and functional, but isn’t that the case for most home design now? It isn’t that hard to make a room look good, but to make it truly functional as well is much more difficult. It’s important, during a busy week, that I have places I can just throw paperwork or fabric swatches that haven’t yet been stored, without making the place look like a mess. I’ve stored things according to how often I use them, and the long countertop area over the cupboards serves as a space to put things when they come in, before they are put away. The desk is adjustable; I usually work standing in the morning and sitting later on.
The furniture is mostly Ikea or vintage auction. Not exactly the most inspiring stuff but when you need functional storage to fit exact measurements, Ikea is usually the best place to go. I’ve also got plans to get some window coverings as the light can be bright during the day. The door leads outside to the yard and also to our garage and storage room, so I keep a pair of clogs handy in case I need to go outside. Everyone in Sweden has clogs, and to be honest, there isn’t a better shoe to slip on if you need to run out to the garage, grab something from the garden, or put the garbage out.
One wall is all closets which stores packaging materials and a few personal things (my coats). The sewing machine is a hand me down from my mother in law. I’ve never had a house where the sewing machine is always out and ready to use, now that I’ve got it, it’s much easier to do quick projects. And if there is someone else working with me in the office, the machine can be moved that the desk can be used for a laptop. The magnetic white board is for storing current collection information and the boxes and cupboards hold stationary, fabric swatches, and other office or packaging supplies.
The board and letter cups are from design letters, it’s a series designed with Arne Jacobsen’s letters and they are so cute. The art wall is the inspiring part of the office, and it’s a work in progress. There’s room for more items and it will grow. There are also a few kids crafts in the room, around the sewing machine and on the magnetic board.
[Photos by Alexandra Suhner Isenberg, portrait of Alexandra by Nicole Gurney]
P.S. Know someone (like, say…you!) who needs an excuse to tidy up their super stylish desk? Send a note to KDundon@TheAnthology.ca — we’d love to see your workspace!