The Office



Lani Woodruff


Ordinarily, my work of designing space involves the out-of-doors.  But this job of drawing

outdoor living spaces must be done somewhere.  Not just any place, but a specific place

conducive to getting the creative process flowing for me and for Garth.  Having just

moved into a home new to us, we’ve been living this journey while transforming part of

our basement into a design studio and office.  What was once a dark, dreary dungeon now

has become an inviting, warm expanse of light and color from floor to ceiling.  Over the

past 19 years of working in the landscape design industry we have had several offices. 

The faces of which have all looked very different, but have been very instrumental in

shaping what works for us today. 

 The face of offices has changed in America over time as well.  Historically, the arrival of

the railroad birthed the need for offices in America.  No longer was the ‘mom and pop’

run operation adequate to keep a business thriving.  The physical needs required multiple

personnel to perform the needed tasks once simply done in one’s head and this need

spread nationwide as businesses were expanding commerce from coast to coast. As the

railroad industry grew, it demanded more organization and by 1840 to 1850 management

was a permanent fixture in the industry and their employees began to see the railroad as

a career with opportunities to advance.  Thus began modern business and offices.  Post

WWII however higher wages were paid for skilled and semi-skilled workers in factories

than in offices.  This from demands of the American people for the lack of consumer

goods available during the war.  Since employers didn’t raise the salaries, office work had

to be made more attractive and so did the offices themselves.  Employers began to color-

coordinate and buy comfortable and attractive furnishings for the workplace.  Corporate

image was the focus of the face of this era.  Well-furnished, carpeted and softly lit offices

were the norm by the 1960s.  The ‘Action’ office, better known as the ‘cubicle’ was born in

the late 60s and thus began the modular business furniture system.  The concept was

taken to an extreme in the 1980s with the dawning of modular walls.  Now offices were

like graph paper and the cubicles made the grid.  Today, workplace design is largely

influenced by competition, technology and working styles.  The process of work versus

the corporate image is more the driving force.

 As Frederick Taylor did for America in being one of the first to actually design an office

space, we did for our small ‘world’ and actually designed our workplace for the first time. 

We thought about the physical needs we had (i.e. pretty things to look at, large work

space to spread out drawings, light to see by and comfortable chairs).  We thought about

a work environment that successfully embraced the creative process and how this

connected with our ‘corporate’ image.  Interestingly, I think the largest concentration of

thought convened around the process of how our work gets done.  We asked ourselves

what about our office space would propel us to create? 


Below the name Rootbound on our logo are three words:  create. place. connect.  The

ultimate goal in taking on a design project is to help our clients connect in some way. 

Connect to nature.  Connect to warm and fuzzy feelings.  Connect to dreams and

aspirations.  Connect to Life.  We want to create spaces that give our clients a sense of

place.  This is the sense that they belong and are connected to their surroundings in a way

that is unique to them and can only be defined by them.  Likewise, we figured, why have

our office space be anything different?  As a result, there are pine-scented candles that sit

on our desk for Garth.  Smells evoke memories for him and help him feel connected.  The

once ugly brick fireplace now stands with two coats of ‘River’s Edge’ blue for me just

because I always wanted to try painting brick.  Both of us enjoy working together and

while our current jobs have changed what that looks like, we decided a desk large enough

to share would be a fun way we could design that into our new lives.  A hand-me-down

dining room table perfectly fit the bill!  There are more details to implement and ideas

that keep flowing, just more fun to be had. 


Why all this talk about the office?  An office is just an ordinary part of life.  But I love the

sentiment in the closing line of The Office when Pam said, “There’s a lot of beauty in

ordinary things.  Isn’t that kind of the point?”  It’s when we take the time to look and see

that we elevate the ordinary.  Staying home for dinner becomes dinning al fresco on the

patio or painting the bathroom becomes an artistic adventure.  Yes, work and the office

are average, normal parts of our existence.  But perhaps that is not their endpoint.  It is

only the beginning.  It is how we design them into the space of our life that makes the

bigger picture of beauty.