Practice Note 1: John Assael is Always Right (Part 1)

— 3 minute read

My first desk in my current practice set up was the flight case of a bass guitar – it was a fantastic start. My work diary for the time reads:

“Yesterday I set up new workspace at home – or is it a studio? It consists of 2 trestle legs from Ikea and a worktop fashioned from the flight case of my girlfriend’s Rickenbacker bought in Nashville. I don’t think I could get off to a better start than that, although it has to be said, it’s not really big enough. As soon as Travis Perkins re-opens after the Xmas break I will be buying a fire door to work off.”

The diary goes on to say:

“I have written my to-do list, which essentially says “start up a new business.” My first task is to set out what I am trying to achieve. I’m thinking about doing things more slowly than is currently the fashion and spending more time on it, but of course that might not tally with the office’s financial outlook. I have a feeling that the area where I can make the most difference is that I think I am pretty good with people.”

You can tell that I was very excited about everything, which is good, but there is something else you need to know:

A friend of mine once said that when you set up a new office you need to start renting office space for yourself straight away and not work from home. Apparently John Assael had told him this, and he was right. A great architect called Ray Bryant, who I worked with at RMJM, backed up that thinking. He explained that, amongst other things, renting out office space helps to make sure that you charge the right amount for fees and that you don’t start cutting fees back just because you have no overheads – this being a very vicious circle that is very difficult to get out of.

Now, I know that my diary went on about my beloved home desk space but you do have to start somewhere. I probably stayed working from home for a fair bit longer than I should have done. It helped with the juggling act that is childcare and the needs of others around you. However, I have recently moved into a small corner of a shared studio in Dalston and it’s great. So – sincere apologies to Martin, John and Ray for taking so long to get around to taking your advice – but I got there in the end!

© Douglas Architects Limited 2016