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The Plus Factor: How women are reclaiming the home as a source of empowerment


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Photo: Shel Pink
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When I first went freelance last year, moving from my beloved, snug-as-a-bug New York City East Village apartment (and 35-minute, two-subway-transfer office commute) to a lofty space in Chicago’s Wicker Park, the nerves surrounding my newfound boss status were systematically soothed by a sense of control that I suddenly felt over daily workflow—not to mention my actual work zone. But what surprised me most were the questions I fielded from friends and acquaintances, now less focused on wellness updates and instead a universal fascination: “What’s it like working from home? How long are your hours now? Where do you sit? Do you wear sweats all day? Do you love it?”

It’s as if, in 2018, kicking the traditional 9-to-5 desk job is the fantasy for professional women.

It’s as if, in 2018, kicking the traditional 9-to-5 desk job is the fantasy for professional women. In fact, the home, AKA the place our grandmothers were consigned to, has become a major vehicle for self-care and inspiration. For the “staying in is the new going out” generation, there’s real joy—and peace—to be found in decluttering, DIYing and designing everything from meditation nooks to shibori sheets.

This is the world, after all, in which an obscure Japanese organization expert can write a book with “life-changing” in the title—and it actually ends up being an understatement. (Marie Kondo rarely changes just one life, after all; she creates KonMari Method evangelists.) It’s also the place where you can whip up health tonics at will, and where you can get your sweat on (and this year, you won’t suffer from a lack of workout choices).

Another thing to be found at home, besides peace and joy? Boss business. In fact, the number of women-run businesses is growing 2.5 times the national average—and they’re way more likely to be run out of their homes than male-run businesses.

“Organizing a thoughtful, unique home space is a way to nurture yourself and open doors to explore other facets of your creativity.” —Elizabeth Tigar, interior designer

The movement away from rented studios and open floorplan offices to actual living room hearths is sweeping up everything from craft-focused pursuits (a recent study shows that 87 percent of Etsy sellers are women) to self-employed creatives and big-time business consultants. “The ‘home’ and things that were traditionally considered to be the women’s realm have really been democratized—honestly I think it’s about the arc of feminism and gender roles in the Western world,” offers Elizabeth Tigar, a Houston-based interior designer who maintains that working from home is delivering an empowering new creative outlet for productivity.

“Thanks to the DIY gospel of platforms like Pinterest and Instagram, more people are exposed to well-designed interiors, at all levels of lifestyle and budget. Life is busy, chaotic, and expensive, so your home (and office) can become something of an oasis. Organizing a thoughtful, unique home space is a way to nurture yourself and open doors to explore other facets of your creativity.”

A proponent for all things slow-processed and handmade in today’s on-demand, commodity-based world, Tigar even keeps up a casual passion project of irreverent cross stitch commissions under the name Most Mad & Moonly as a form of artistic therapy. “Now there’s value in things that take time—that are made by a human, for another human—and a whole economy behind it. People want something real, something connective.”

So, what does it look like, exactly, to master your career from the safety of an inspiring, nurturing home base?

Here are 5 tales of intentionally domesticated (and self-employed) women who are finding major empowerment—and success—at home.

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home as a source of empowerment
Photo: Era Ceramics

1. The artist-slash-businesswoman

Era Ceramics founder Lindsey Wohlgemuth studied fine arts at The University of Texas and maintained one simple goal: to support herself through her art. “After graduating from college, I wanted to continue working with ceramics, but I no longer had access to a studio. I was working at a flower shop and saved up money to buy a potter’s wheel—I set it up in the kitchen in place of our dining table,” the Austin-based artist shares as we chat about her rise to heart-of-Texas fame in the 10 years since. Her handspun pottery pieces (that she now throws while watching Friends reruns in the sunroom she built on the side of her home) are fast becoming in-demand items for everyone from local restaurants and jewel-box retailers to art-focused German curators. “Meeting people in person and having them literally walk through our bedroom on the way to the studio has formed the strongest and most lasting client relationships.”

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women reclaiming the home as a tool of empowerment
Photo: Shel Pink

2. The “slow beauty” social director

Creating a sense of community is a crucial element in the beauty process, according to Shel Pink, founder of the SpaRitual beauty brand author of Slow Beauty. She uses her Hollywood Hills home as a studio where guests can gather around a table and experience new products and collections together. “The table is beautifully styled and we teach guests about the healing powers of tea, the nourishing benefits of our formulas, and share at-home rituals for self-care, as well as the Slow Beauty philosophy,” Pink says of her vision for the vegan, natural brand, which is “all about bringing the spa tradition into the home.” Finding corporate office spaces too rigid and structured, Pink prefers working in an area conducive to lounging and daydreaming.

Pink hopes to create an environment similar to the historical salon gatherings of the Enlightenment period.

“I don’t think people should be caged up all day in cubicles and sitting inside at desks. The entire work format needs to be rethought again—more windows, more access to nature and fresh air is imperative, as well as spaces to meditate, nap, and stretch as needed.” Utilizing the indoor and outdoor wings of her home for meet-ups where women come together to share ideas, Pink hopes to create an environment similar to the historical salon gatherings of the Enlightenment period. “Away from the patriarchal hierarchical structures of the traditional office environment, women working in their uniquely crafted home studios are free to create from their personal value system as opposed to an organization’s value system—to conjure up all sorts of fresh and meaningful concepts that contribute to the world and make it a better place to be.”

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women are reclaiming the home as a tool of empowerment
Photo: Sophie Jaffe

3. The wellness entrepreneur

“I think women in this generation are realizing our power and our abilities to truly do it all,” says Sophie Jaffe, the Los Angeles-based founder of the superfood brand Philosophie. The certified raw food chef and yoga teacher now works completely out of her home, building her business and balancing personal life (with two sons and a baby on the way).

“Having an office area where I can meditate, flip upside down for a juicy yoga flow, or take a HIIT workout outside to post to our blog is incredible.”

“I had an office space for several years and it forced me to stay really disconnected from home. This environment allows me to get way more accomplished as I can seamlessly handle home life, save money on meals, have back-to-back meetings right here and not spend time commuting,” she shares of the original move, which she attributes to her Taurus nature, since “having a sacred home space is super important.”

Sophia Jaffe Philosophie
Photo: Philosophie

Jaffe is able to earn an income while maintaining the healthy lifestyle that she promotes. “Having an office area where I can meditate, flip upside down for a juicy yoga flow, or take a HIIT workout outside to post to our blog is incredible—I feel so grateful my home is a one stop shop for my business!”

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reclaiming the home as a source of empowerment
Photo: 10&Co.

4. The beauty pros who office (and bunk) all in the same place

Tamara Hansen and Elle Begely, founders of 10&Co., the Australia-based skin-care brand designed for modern moms, not only run their company together, but also live together. “We set up our home office earlier this year out of a converted warehouse that was originally a shoe factory, split over three levels,” says Hansen, who began living in the roomy space with her black Labrador, Rudy. When Begely’s apartment flooded a few months later, she moved in as well.

women reclaiming the home as a source of empowerment
Photo: 10&Co.

Formerly an interior designer, Hansen notes that she’s seen an increasing desire to create enhanced working, living areas. “As career women, moms, entrepreneurs, we all want to have a space that allows us to work in our way, to our time schedule, and around our lifestyle and commitments,” she notes, adding that relationship status (read: married with kids) isn’t always the driving factor. “Whether it’s a single woman’s space or a mom’s office within the family home, carving out an area that’s dedicated to you can be very powerful in terms of productivity, creativity, and well-being.”

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women reclaiming the home as a tool of empowerment
Photo: Whitney English

5. The (at-home) kitchen boss

“I think women are seizing on the opportunity to reinvent the cliched image of a female relegated to banal household duties, and simultaneously shrugging the notion that you have to be climbing the corporate ladder at a 9-5 to be considered a 21st-century feminist,” says Whitney English, RD, a primarily plant-based dietician and food vlogger who shoots videos and sees clients in her actual kitchen. “We’re changing the conversation. It’s not only okay for women to enjoy cooking, decorating, and caring for their families, but they can actually make a career of it.”

“I think women are seizing on the opportunity to reinvent the cliched image of a female relegated to banal household duties.”

And she should know—for the past three years, the mini-mogul has made a business out of “Whit’s Kitch” from her house in LA. And instead of brainstorming sessions in the office, she now uses her airy amenities to host cooking nights with a group of female wellness enthusiasts. “I know many dietitians and food bloggers who have separate office spaces,” she admits. “But using this space as a place to experiment, create, learn, and educate just makes sense for me.”

 

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