Walt Disney, the master storyteller, might imagine the history of the office something like this: Back in the 1930s, this lot had a simple bungalow house with a garage in the rear. Remnants of the driveway, the original garage structure, and the garage doors have survived and can be seen as part of the current office structure. In the early 1950s, the garage was remodeled into a living space for the owners while the frame house was torn down and replaced by the current brick house. Once that house was complete, they moved into the house and remodeled the garage into an office.
The actual design of the office was developed during the winter and spring of 2000. Construction took place during that summer of 2000. The office uses similar materials as in the house to connect the two structures with unified visual themes.
Japanese and European interior minimalism.
The Japanese storeroom.
Industrial loft spaces.
Furniture built appropriate for the space.
Wright's open floor plans with areas that flow into one another.
The 424 house: materials, colors, and angles mirror those in the house to unify the structures on the lot.
• Research at University of Oregon: exposure to sunlight and outdoor views = 6% fewer sick days.
• Teaching prep: prepping course lectures and projects, grading, and archiving projects and student files.
• Weblishing: writing essays and the WensdayDesign blog.
• Creating and producing design products.
• Writing short stories.
Porch column: Mimics the Arts & Crafts motif column on the front porch of the house. The porch is created by slicing a corner off the garage mass - the angle unifies the office with the deck canopy and interior walls of both the house and office.
Exterior walls: Vinyl siding to convey the backyard garage motif and for ease of maintenance. The front has a faux garage door and Mission style lighting.
Floor: Sealed concrete floor to continue the old garage theme and an area rug with geometric patterns.
Interior walls: White walls and corrugated tin that match those in the house.
Office refresh 2017
1. Work area: open, minimal, flexible project areas
Retired, smaller desk
Purge art, shelves, closet, bathroom
Clean floors of paint, texture, paint
A diversity of spaces is more productive. The new concept is called activity-based workplace design, tailoring spaces for the kind of work to be done.
A former student, Matt, works at the AmericanAirlines maintenance facility in Tulsa. He messaged that he could get some seats for free. I didn't even debate the merits, I immediately responded, Yes, I want some. I drove from OKC to Tulsa to pick them up, and we had a fun pizza lunch with some other former students. I got the triple because I thought it would be cool to have the middle seat in coach, an icon of uncomfortable air travel.
I put the seats in the house, against the tin wall, facing the television, almost like a row of theater seats. But, there were some issues:
1. The exposed end of the seats was the end that butts up to the cabin wall and is therefore unfinished (no end caps) and not too attractive.
2. The set of 3 seats was just too big and dominant for the space.
I then moved them out to the office but they didn't fit well in there, either. Well, I'll just disassemble the 3 and create a set of 2. While planning that, I realized a single seat would be even better - it would fit better in the office and I have a connection - I often sit in a single seat on the NYC-OKC non-stop flight on a Brazilian Embraer jet.
12 is an exit row, with much more leg room, than most on this Embraer plane. The very first single seat has good leg room, but no storage. Seat 12B, across the aisle has more room.
Above: Dismantling the seats. I had to go to Lowe's Depot to get some specialized tools to fit some of the screw heads. I thoroughly cleaned the parts and was able to choose, from the original 3 seats, the best cushion and back sections.
Previous interiors and floor plans
Dragonfly motif hanging Tiffany-style stained glass light
Ceiling spots to highlight artwork
Desk lights for task lighting
• Clement Mok: pops concert poster
• Karim Rashid: book frontispiece
• Edward Benguiat: show poster
• Norman Rockell: Herb Lubalin, new logo
• Deborah Sussman: LA Olympics, 1984
• Philip Meggs: book title page
• Edward Tufte: book frontispiece
• April Greiman: postage stamp, 1995
• 1960s era album-insert poster of Bob Dylan signed by its designer, Milton Glaser
• First-run production, Backgammon in the Round
US Patent, USPTO, Nov 8, 1977
• The package design for Backgammon in the Round
Printout, Ultimate Backgammon Board, model by Jim Watson, 2013
Pedigrees of the English Peers, engraving, 1764
Think Small: Volkswagen ad, Doyle Dane Bernback, 1962
• Various components of the round backgammon board, including the original patent.
Tripod house, model designed and built by Watson of a Bucky Fuller style domed house that cannot crack from settling since it is on a tripod base. The model sits on an antique sculptors stand.
Great Spirit, a painting by Ruthanne Smith
• know thyself, a painting by Donna Adams
Ancient Alien, a sculpture by Renee Rich
JRW lego logo, a sculpture assemblage by Jim Watson
Edward Tufte, Karim Rashid, April Greiman
Clement Mok, Deborah Sussman
Ed Benguiat, Philip Meggs, Milton Glaser
I made a few changes to the office in the summer of 2007 in order to accommodate the books, papers, and items that i brought home from the school office after retirement. Additional refinements were implemented in 2010 to better accommodate the needs of jamesrobertwatson.com and after purging the slides, files, and books amassed during 30 years of teaching.
• Removed the octagon table (I didn't use it very much) and one Ronde chair.
• Moved the lounge chairs by the windows to create a sitting area which works better by the full-length windows
• The back of the office is now dedicated to resources and storage.
• Installed a flat-screen television for the sitting area.
• Put in a large lateral file.
• Moved in the flat file from the school office.
• Removed the refrigerator and microwave and installed shelves for product inventory.
• Installed a JRW jamesrobertwatson sign on the front window.
• Added an airline seat, 2013.
• Replaced the corner windows with no vertical mullion, July 2013.
Items purged out of the office
Ronde Chairs designed by Aldo Ciabatti, a familiar sight in cafes throughout Europe. Made of tubular steel and sheet-metal fabric mesh. Two simple arches swoop gracefully to serve as both legs and armrests.
• Octagonal table
Oliblock pieces created by Daniel Oakley (and influenced by architect Zaha Hadid) to encourage building things in a new way; to challenge, teach and stimulate one's mind, yet be fun and appealing.
• Jigsaw puzzle of a print of Marilyn Monroe by Andy Warhol
I had a dog door installed in the house the day before moving in 1995. But, when the office was built in 2000, I didn't think it would be as necessary. After more than a decade of getting up to open the door for the dogs, I finally installed one there, also. I tried several different models and finally just bought 2 doors that matched the one in the house and installed them between the studs in the bathroom. I filled the depth of the wall with some white tin flashing. The double flaps helped insulate and weatherproof the door and the opening. The dogs, Manhattan and Brooklyn, adapted to the new door easily.
Floor plans: Pre-NYC, Post-NYC:
Previous layouts 2000-2016
Petite cube chair, designed by Le Corbusier in 1928; conveying the ideals of the Bauhaus and the International Style and based on theory of functionalism in response to the decorative Art Nouveau and Art Deco fashions. Corbu made a major impact on the development of modern architecture and furniture design.
Wassily Chair (original name: Club Chair B3) designed by Marcel Breuer in 1925. Created and later named by Knoll for his Bauhaus colleague, Wassily Kandinsky. It is the first piece of seating furniture in the history of design to be made from seamless precision-drawn tubular steel. Chromed steel and leather seat, back, and armrests; it has strong sparse lines and animated character.
Aeron chair award-winning ergonomic chair by Don Chadwick and Bill Stumpf.
Desk chair with no automatic adjustments.
The huge built-in desk allows several projects to be out at one time and includes space for the computer workstation.
• The shelf and table furniture are the same industrial shelving with table and desk tops made by Watson, in the same faux stone/broken granite style as those in the house, except those are black, all the units in the office are aluminum.
A flat-screen LCD television is mounted on the corrugated tin wall. There are no visible cables - they go back thru the wall.
• An iPod charger and speaker column.
Previous Floor Plans
Below: I switched the location from the southeast corner to the southwest corner of the lot - to take advantage of a vista looking towards the northeast and it became a 'garage' structure.
Fotos of the office during construction
Link to fotos on