164 Setting up a Space in Your Home That Supports Productivity With Amy Pottenger

In this episode of Work + Life Harmony, Amy Pottenger shares her expert tips on creating a dedicated space in your home for work - even if you don't have a separate room! Are you struggling to find a dedicated space to work at home? Check out these tips for setting up a work-friendly space in your home, no matter the size!


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"Your home is your secret weapon to achieving the life and the business that you desire."
Amy Pottenger is a residential interior designer and productivity expert. She has been designing homes for over 15 years and is passionate about helping people create spaces that support their goals and improve their daily lives.
In this episode, you will learn the following:
  • How your home design impacts your daily life
  • The importance of having a dedicated space in your home for productivity
  • How to repurpose rooms or areas in your home to create a functional and stylish home office.

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Oh, man. I just finished recording the coolest episode with Amy. I cannot wait for you all to meet her. Ladies, I really want you to listen up to what she has to share with us here today on just how important it is to have a space in your home solely for you, whether you work from home or not. And she's going to give you some amazing tips because right now, if you're thinking, well, I can't possibly do that.

We don't have a big enough house or there isn't a set room. You don't need any of that. She's got some amazing strategies and tips so that you can really challenge yourself to say, you know what? I can have this. And now you know exactly what to do to make that happen.

So let's go ahead and get this party started.

Welcome to the Work Life Harmony podcast. I'm your host, Megan Sumrell. I'm the creator of the top program and top planner, teaching all things time management, organization and productivity for women. I'm also a mom and wife, and just like you, I'm juggling hashtags all the things while running multiple businesses and a family. Guess what?

You don't have to feel constantly overwhelmed, exhausted and stressed out. There is another way. When you have the right systems and tools to plan and manage your time, you can live a life of harmony. This is your show to learn from me and other amazing women how to master your time, planning an organization to skyrocket your productivity so you can have Worklife harmony. If you're ready to stop feeling overwhelmed.

This is the show for you. And if you're new here, I'd love. To get you started with my Work Life Harmony assessment. All you have to do is DM me on Instagram at Megan summerl with the word Harmony, and my team will send it right over.

Hey, everyone. Welcome back to worklife. Harmony. I am thrilled to introduce everyone to Amy today. I'm going to let her introduce herself in a minute, but I was really excited to bring her on the show because I like to talk about one of my core pillars is productivity, which for me always means getting the most important things done in a way that doesn't stress you out.

We're not about trying to win the rat race here, but I really do believe that that part of not stressing you out. We can talk about the time aspects of it, but I think there's also a subtle thing that really plays into this, which is what environment are you in when you're trying to work? Because I think that can create undue stress that we're not even aware of. So Amy is an expert here with interior design, talking specifically about how the environment in which we are working, whether you call it a home office or not, can really set us up for success. So, Amy, welcome to the show.

I'd love for you to give everyone kind of an intro the backstory, for sure. Thank you so much for having me. It's great to be here. Well, my name is Amy Pottenger, and I have been a residential interior designer for over 15 years, traditionally working with people in their homes. My joke is always that I started out in psychology.

That was always my first degree I went for and discovered I needed a little bit more creative pursuit in my calling. However, the psychology piece has always lived and woven itself in. I can see how it works. Absolutely. So because of that, I've kind of made it my mission to talk about how your home design impacts your daily life.

For me, it's always been way more than just aesthetics. And my job got a lot easier in 2020 when we were all in our home for a very long, extended period of time. So it's really my view that your home is your secret weapon to achieving the life and the business that you desire. And it's something your environment is something that you're in all the time. And it's super fun to follow behavioral psychology and how that's starting to catch up now, how basically you can change your environment and change your life.

And that's the premise behind all of what I do. It's not to create great Instagram worthy rooms, which is awesome too. That's not my goal. I get bored with that. I need more.

So it's creating a home environment that's supporting your future self, your goals, your people, the things that really matter in. Life that's so good. And just even hearing you talk about that, I don't understand all the obvious. I am not a lot of people will say, oh, you have such a beautiful backdrop. I am the first to say I am terrible at home design.

I can look at things and love it, and then I try and go transfer it myself, and it's awful. And so I did not design my home office. A professional designer once, you guys know, I was on the lover listed show. They designed my office for me. But for years I struggled.

I didn't even have a dedicated home office for years. When I was working fulltime corporate from home, I've used the dining room, I've used the kitchen. The room I'm in now used to be our living room. So it was like a desk in the formal living room with the piano was here as well. And it really wasn't until 2020 that I had now a space in our house that is solely designed around me and nobody else.

And it's where I get to come and work, and it brings me such peace that I didn't realize how, I guess, all the negative impacts of all the weird places I tried to work from for so long. So I would love for you to kind of walk through for anybody who's listening, who maybe feels that and they're like I don't have there isn't a separate room in our house for my office. I'd love to start there because I think for a lot of people, myself included, it did start with the, okay, where am I going to work in my house? And so what do we do? We flip open the laptop on the kitchen table or the bed or whatever.

So where can someone start on getting a space when they don't have a whole separate room to do that? Well, I love that you started with the fact that you may do for a lot of time. You may do for a long period of time, which isn't that every woman ever, whether you're a mom, whether you're an at home business owner, whatever, wherever you're at, that is, women, women make do, and they make amazing things happen out of not amazing spaces. So first of all, I'm just going to acknowledge that, and I'm also going to give you permission, whoever is listening, here's your permission right now. You deserve a space.

You're alive, you're human. You're on this earth. You are here for a reason. You deserve your own space. So just breathe that in for a minute.

Because I feel like so many women can't even start to think about having a dedicated space for themselves, whether it's work or otherwise, because you don't feel worthy of that space. And let me just say right now, you are worthy of the space, any space you're in because you're alive. So let me just give you that. First, sit in that and hear that for a minute. It is we are not bad people.

Bad moms, bad women, bad wives, bad roommates, bad whatever, because we want to have a space in our home solely for ourselves. Yes.

You'Re good. It's just the necessary, seemingly obvious thing that I found. I have two kids. I'm a mom. I've worked in my own home office since my daughter was a baby.

She's 15 now. So I've been there. I've experienced all those kinds of emotions, too. And moms just tend and women in general tend to just give, give, give. And I know you've heard the oxygen mask mentality, like, put your mask on first.

I still love that because it's so true. And to me, your environment, it can be that oxygen mask for you. So first of all, realizing that you deserve this area, whatever it is, where can you start? So I know probably range of listeners, you have people starting out that they have maybe an apartment with no space at all. Some people maybe have just built a brand new home and they have an office, but it's empty and they don't know what to do with it.

So when you're looking at the span of all those things, I like to start small and knowing that, especially if you're a business owner, if you're starting out if you're starting out or you've been in business and you're multimillion six figures and you still don't have a great, dedicated space, you're worth that space. Even if you're starting out and you're going to build. So one of my very favorite practical ways to have a home office is this around a little bit before 2020. But out of that came the closet office. So one thing that most homes have and most apartments have is a closet closet, a pantry space, a laundry room.

If you just go Google that, if you go Google Closet office, you will have so much fun just looking at what people have done, getting inspiration from the tiniest little place that you would never have thought you could make an office out of. So that's one that I like to start with, but also a funny story. With that my friend, her husband just built, when they were homeschooling for their kids, they retrofitted the closet to an office. They called it the claws. Yes, that is exactly the name that you search for.

Yeah, it was so tiny and the desk slipped out. But what I loved about it was, because it was so small, it gave them the permission to say whatever colors I want, the things that make me happy, that maybe in your living room might not be okay. And that really got my wheels going. And I thought that was yes. I would have never thought of that.

Totally. And just because it's small, that doesn't mean you can't have fun with it. Bring your personality in and go to town. And again, smallness or budget or whatever, there is creative things to be found everywhere. So one thing I will suggest, too, if you have a creative best friend, have them in your house.

Go to her house, walk through the house together. Because sometimes all it takes is a pair of fresh eyes. Because you look at this space all the time. I offer that service, too. I can do it virtually.

I will do a home design consult for you through zoom and just have somebody else looking at your spaces, because you might look at your space and be like, I don't have anywhere. My closets are all in you. I can't do that. So just let that go. You can.

So the other thing I love to do is to repurpose either a room or repurpose an area, because sometimes you don't have a whole room. So one example of a room repurpose would be the guest room. So if you have a larger home and you have a space for a guest space, I'll talk to people that they just get locked into, like, well, that's my guest room. This is a one use space. This is what this is for.

Twice a year, you have someone stay with you christmas, Thanksgiving, or whatever, or like, kids that have moved out of the house, like, different things like that, and taking fresh eyes to those kinds of rooms. So maybe you do still need a guest room, how can you make that guest room serve you most of the time as your home office with the multi function of including a bed, a day bed, a Murphy bed, something that works, a sofa bed that works for both purposes. And looking at how much more will you use that space when it's your office and it can still serve a guest too. So kind of putting on those multipurpose lenses, what can I get more than one use out of? So if you don't have that luxury, however, you can go as small as repurposing a corner of your living room.

It can be my first time, I. Had a long time over there. And you can make that serve you can make that serve you. And granted, is it ideal forever? No.

But if you need to start there, that's okay. So if you can carve out well, first of all, take a look at what you do, like what your job is, where you want to work and what you want to do. Because it's going to look very different if you're like an Etsy craft seller that you have to make things versus someone who is online marketing or something like that. So take a look at what you do and what you need. A lot of people can get by with a laptop and maybe a few little supplies.

So if that's you, you can take the corner of your living room, your favorite chair, get something like I love the Ikea Billy bookshelves, so easy. Or just some kind of redmade bookshelf. Or if you're fancier build something in, you can do that too. Have a place to put your stuff even though it's in your living room. It can be a little rolling file.

This little three tiered rolling things you can tuck under a desk or something under something. Like it can be, you know, you want to make sure that visually it's appealing because you're going to be seeing it unless you can really tuck it away out of sight. And what you're doing is you're just carving out a little space. So maybe when it's time for you to work, you have your favorite candle, you have a light that lights up your space that you are by a window. If you like natural lighting, think about your five senses because that's a really easy way to look at a space.

What do I want to touch, taste, you have your coffee smell. See, like I'm looking into my kitchen right now. That's super cluttered that I don't have time to take care of. Like what's your line of sight? Because that can be a distraction too.

So consider all those things even in a tiny little corner of your living room to start and watch how that helps you and watch how that builds because that can build into creating more money in your business to be able to move up to a different kind of space, all those kinds of things. And the other living room tip I'll give you is to do if you have a sofa and you have room behind it. So if you can float your sofa in a room away from a wall desk behind a sofa is a great idea because it looks like a sofa table most of the time. But then you can hide a chair. You can put a cute little lamp that also will serve you in your living room when you're just hanging out with your kids.

But sofa table behind a desk is another way to sneak in. I'm already realizing that would have worked so much better for me than when this was a living room. So the formal living room, we never really used it, right? Yes, totally. And don't be afraid you bring up a good point there, because don't be afraid to take the black and white purpose of the room on the floor plan and totally flip that.

I've made dining rooms into home offices that were still connected to main living spaces, but we made it look like it was always meant to be there. Like unused formal living rooms. Just let your creativity run wild. It is your home and it needs to serve how you want to live. And we really can make a lot of things work that you might not have thought of before.

That is so smart. I know. For me, my family kind of gets a little annoyed with me now that I have this space. It's like I am so uber protective of it in terms of someone walks in and they're like, they're putting it back in here. And what I found is we joke about it, but there's been a definite shift in when I am in here.

I'm treated a little differently. It's like, no, I'm not mum or, no, this is my office, I am working. And so I think when the knee jerk reaction for so many people is, I'm going to squeeze it in, I'm going to flip up my laptop, here at kitchen table, I'm doing other things. Well, it's no wonder people aren't leaving you alone and they're interrupting and they're distracted because you're in the main social space trying to do something else. And so I love that you've given such easy ways to find just a corner that, hey, if I'm sitting at that table behind the sofa in the living room, this is my office, this is my desk.

And the boundaries with all those boundaries are huge. Your home is a mirror. So, like, as you're looking at, I'm fitting my work in at the dining room table next to the dirty dishes. What is that saying about how you view yourself, how you view your business, how you view your time? You can create boundaries over that corner in the living room with your family.

Like, you can do it and they'll just watch how they listen to you. And I would say, like, I wish that you've been in my life, like, six years ago to say these things to me. Because I will tell you, when you have a space, whatever it is. I know when I first saw this space, that was actually designed for me. Just me.

Not me. Anybody else's desires whatever in mind? It literally brought me to tears. Yet to have a space that just said, this is a representation of me. And guess what?

It's okay to not fill it with objects and stuff. I have a few things here that my daughter made and a couple of pictures. But no, this is not also the dumping ground for every craft project and every whatever, because I want some of it. But again, it's supposed to be representation of me and not the dumping ground for the rest of the family as well. Yeah, it is emotional because it's very subconscious.

I feel like, for people that in their home environments, when you walk in, it's not for me because it's what I do. I can walk in and be instantly uncomfortable or comfortable in a place like go along with feng shui and things like that. If you do a little research there, that can help you too. But it is subconscious and it is emotional because I know for me, clutter is a huge thing. Right.

You have a family, all those kinds of pieces to the puzzle. And when my home is out of sorts, I feel it. You may not consciously feel it, and then I translate that into your office. When your office is out of sorts, when you're disorganized, when you can't find things like, how does that translate to your goals? Are you unclear?

Just look at your home as a mirror and it will illuminate a lot of things for you. Just goals in general. But yeah, now for people listening that maybe are not they are full time raising children, maybe they're not running a business or having a traditional corporate type job from home. What are your thoughts on a dedicated space that maybe isn't for work? Yes.

So one of the first things I am working on a new course called Your Empowered Home. I have your empowered home office right now. One of the first things I have you do in that course is to create what I like to call a breathing space. And a breathing space is a starting point where you can reset. And this doesn't have to be an office.

Again, corner of a chair in your living room where if you're a journalist, if you like to meditate, if you just need to sit in silence, setting up that kind of space for yourself, it's so attainable. We can all do that. We can all do that. Get a pair of noise canceling headphones and carve out the time. Carve out the boundaries for your time.

And the reason I love starting with something small like that, and especially if you have kids, if you have little kids, they're going to see you setting boundaries with your space, your time. Mom needs a minute, and they're going to do it for themselves because you're modeling it for them. So a breathing space is where I would start. It's just a place where you can exhale, read your book, sit with your t, look out the window, hospital.

It can be anywhere that works for you. It could be in your bedroom. It can be in your living room. Again, creative eyes look round like, I have mine in my home office, because that's where I like to be. In the morning, I get my blanket, and I've got two pugs.

They come sit with me and just start my day and quiet and even just having that space as an option for you somewhere you can go that is ready is a game changer. Because it's not like you feel like, oh, I want to start this meditation practice, or I want to start reading this book every day and, oh, well, I don't have anywhere to do that. It feels like another thing on your todo list, and that's not what I'm after. Even if your kids throw their stuff on your chair, you can move it and talk to them and say, hey, this is not where your stuff goes. Let's have a conversation.

But you are carving out that space for yourself, whether you're a business owner or getting started business owner or not a business owner at all. Like, everyone deserves that kind of space in their home. Yeah, I agree. And it's funny when you're talking about the chair. Recently we've been in the process of moving my daughter's, switching the guest room in her room.

And so this was her chance to kind of send her into the teenagers, pick out her own kind of furniture and yours to do. She would love to talk to you because lately her latest is she loves it. You're a designer. But she knows how possessive I get about my office in my chair. And so I told her, I said, this is your space.

And so one of the things she very much wanted was a chair. And so we went and looked around, and she ended up finding the one that she loved that was comfortable with her, with the blanket, the pillow, all of that. And my child, who has never been one to just go relax alone in her room, is up there now all the time because of that one space that we got to pick and love. I'm like, I wish I'd done that sooner for her so that she could have that same just because they're young doesn't mean they don't crave that same sense of comfort, familiarity, calm, all of that. Absolutely.

We're seeing that with her as well. Yeah. It can extend to every member of the family. Everybody can have their own special space. It's just a space that is life giving somewhere that gives you life.

That's really all it is to decorate. It for you or pick out just the way you like it. I love that for kids too. That's a really good point. So where can people get information about both of your courses now?

Yeah. So if I'm on Instagram a lot, but it's at Refreshdesign. Refresh to underscores design or refresh in. The show notes or just go to. Refreshdesign.Net and everything's up there.

Of course, me Instagram all the things I love. I'll post reels. Like one of my favorite recurring reels has to do with working at your kitchen table and how you shouldn't do it. Okay and I have to ask in closing because I feel very passionate about this what are your thoughts about people working in bed? OK, first thought is regardless you gotta do you, you really do.

You gotta do you. I've never even had the inclination to want to do that because like to me my bedroom space well, first of all, backing up on bedroom spaces a bedroom space to me is a reflection of your love for yourself can be a reflection of what your love for your partner. So go look at your bedroom through those eyes and see what you find. And secondly, I like to reserve my bedroom for things for me that are restorative and while I love my work, that falls in a different category to me. So sleep, love reading a book, that's about it in my opinion a long time ago we tried having a TV in your bedroom.

Oh my gosh, worst ever. Terrible. So if it was me, I could just get nothing done. I have to get in the frame of mind for work personally and also I personally have the problem of shutting my brain off at night so in. Order to create everything away so I can shut it off yes, I need.

No reminders of things that will keep the wheels spinning up here. And for me you work in my bedroom as that. Now if you are one of those people that have to make do with a smaller space and you're like there's nowhere else for my desk, I have to have it there. You can do it. It is not ideal you can do it, that's different.

So that's a desk in the corner. Which is better, which is definitely better and you can create space where you can close it. That's the thing with the home office is you need for boundaries. I mean, they're the time expert, you know, you need those boundaries when you work at home because otherwise you're working everywhere all the time and burning yourself out. So that's just why I would never do it.

I was curious your thoughts on that? I'm very anti over the only time I've ever had my computer in bed was when I was sick. Like, for extended amount of time, I was like, I just need to check email or something. And that's been it. But I think, again, tied back to for me, why I love this conversation about finding that set space in your house is for those of us that have struggled in the past with maybe overworking trying to squeeze it in around all the other things.

All it does is perpetuate that hamster wheel lifestyle, which we're trying so hard to stop. And so when you have a dedicated space, even if it is the corner of the living room, the corner of the dining room, the desk behind the sofa, and all of your stuff is there, then when you're not sitting there, then you're not bringing it with you all. And it correlates so beautifully with time boundaries, because you can say, these are my work hours. Here's where I go to work, and now I'm done, and now I'm leaving and I'm going over here and doing another part of my life because work is not my whole life. Yeah, absolutely.

And if your computer's out, like in that living room example, then how do we just shut it? Like close the lid when you're walking away so it's just not open and on all the time? This has been so, so helpful. Thank you so much for sharing your time with us, Amy. I know this is going to inspire folks to start thinking about where they can create that dedicated space.

So for anyone listening, hop on over, find either one of us at Instagram. I would love for you to just shoot me a DM and let me know if you are going to be inspired to start creating a dedicated space for yourself and your house, because we all deserve it. Yes. Thank you so much, Amy. Thanks for having me.

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