Introducing my new home office: The Barn!

A couple months ago, I finished building my home office in the shell of a barn. It started as a old horse barn with a dirt floor and no ceiling and over the course of a few months, turned into my new creative space (with a small recording studio) where I now spend most of my time. Here are some shots of the final product. (Scroll down if you want to see some progress shots of how it all came together.)

A Few Things to Note...

  • Wall artwork is by the talented photographer Cole Rise (still need to hang the last piece on the bare wall).
  • You might notice that around the double-doors is writing on the walls. I turned to IdeaPaint, a special type of paint that dries into a slick white board surface. Pretty awesome stuff. Cleans better than an actual white board!
  • My track lighting is all LED lighting, greatly reducing power consumption and heat produced.
  • To keep the tunes going all day long, I went with SpeakerCraft in-ceiling speakers and a BIC subwoofer. The sound is insanely awesome.


"The Barn" as it has been so originally named used to be a horse barn in the 70's, but has been nothing more than a storage unit for yard tools and a place for junk since then. (First pic is now the office, second pic is now the recording room.)

I employed the help of 2/3 of my nephews to get the junk out. (It's not breaking child labor laws if they're related to you, right?)

And then my dad helped loosen the tightly packed soil so we could level for the floor.



Here's all I came up with in terms of plans. I'm thankful that our handyman was willing to run with just this.

Got a large delivery of "real life lego pieces" from Lowe's and proceeded to carry it 100 yards from the street and down 60 steps:

Once the junk and rat poison were out, we were ready to frame the floor (handyman Brian on the left).

Side note: did you know that handling wire (used to hold insulation up off the ground) with bare hands can make you change colors?

Now that we had a floor, it was time to frame in the ceiling.

Once the ceiling was framed, I noticed that my favorite local coffee shop (Kean Coffee) had an awesome recessed ceiling for their chandelier.

So of course, I decided I wanted a recessed ceiling too, to make the room feel bigger. (This would eliminate the exposed wooden beams I had drawn into my plans.) So we chopped a hole in the framing we just built and made a recessed section.

Then came insulation and wiring. I'm pretty sure we used several miles of wiring.

Among the things being wired up were:

  • Wiring for 5 speakers
  • Independently controlled track lighting
  • HDMI ports
  • Between the office and recording room, a DVI plug, USB connections, XLR inputs and 1/4" returns
  • Way to many ethernet ports and power receptacles

Oh, and we had to install a subpanel for power, so we got to run lots more wire underground to get to the barn. In the pic below, you'll notice my ingenious solution of getting all the wires we needed to automatically feed to us as we pulled them underground. (That's our handyman you see in the later pics.)

And the last pieces before the finishing.


The Finishing Touches

Naturally, the most fun of the whole project was wiring it up.

Here's where the interior started going Tuscan. Yes, the walls have a faux finish (texture). That was a lot of fun to apply (note: texturing is hard work).

And then came the final pieces like my four speakers. This stuff could power a mid-sized rock concert.

Eventually it all came together. I did go a bit over the top, pre-wiring for a wall-mounted projector (HDMI and power) and a motorized projector screen, just in case I ever want to add them later. Oh, and don't forget the keypad door locks. Just like with cars, physical keys are a thing of the past!


Post-Construction Uses

The Barn has even been turned into a full-on video production studio!

The Barn has really become my home away from home (by about 30 yards) and I've been able to focus in this creation like nowhere before. It was well worth the high price and the hard work that went into it.

How to charge clients: flat fee vs. hourly rate?


Having been back in the freelance world for a while now, I once again have to deal with quoting my clients an hourly rate for long-term contract work on an ongoing basis. I've been able to raise my rate several times in recent years, and now it's to the point where most people balk when I give them the figure.

But in reality, the amount of work I can do in an hour is the equivelant to what might take a less experienced person twice as long (or longer). In addition, more experienced people can cut down on potential revision time and avoid costly problems in the future by utilizing the knowledge they've built up of their work. And in general, if you've performed the same skill for a while, you're going to have all the tools you need and be much more comfortable doing it. So one hour of my time can easily be equivelant to four hours of a less experienced person's time.

Unfortunately the average client doesn't see it like this. They just see a high number and look to the next person. That's why hourly rates are hard to use, especially on long-term, open-ended contracts.

A designer named Clay Butler wrote about this problem. He also points out that hourly rates actually punish good designers:

Another problem with charging by the hour is that it punishes for getting get better and faster. To keep up with your increasing speed and skills your hourly fee must keep rising. With an hourly rate you can paint yourself into a corner because at a certain point an hourly rate will just sound ridiculous, where the same total fee, when presented as a flat fee, sounds reasonable because it focuses on value received and not the commodity (hours).

Clay Butler's opinion is that a flat fee works for both the contractor and the client. But rather than calling it a flat fee, he calls it a "value-based fee."

His suggestions are good, but I'm not so sure they work for me, given the fact I mostly do long-term contract work rather than one-off, short-term projects.

The challenge I face is to try to avoid the sticker shock that potential new clients might feel. The best clients understand the high rate and everything factored into it, but many others don't. So I don't know if I've found the solution for this problem yet. If you have a solution to this, I'd love to hear it.

Close game-ending play in 19th inning of Braves/Pirates baseball game. Did the umpire get it right? You decide.

Normally when I mention Major League Baseball umpires on my blog, it's to rant about a bad call (like here and here). This time, however, the ump got one right. And this call was big, because it was the 19th inning (for those not familiar with baseball, games usally go for 9 innings unless there's a tie, and games can't end on a tie) and this play ended the game.

It's funny how, even when things are black and white, people still see all sorts of colors. It's pretty clear (based on the replay in the clip above starting at 2:08) that the tag was never applied (simple contact between players doesn't matter - the catcher has to touch the player with his glove or the ball directly). It's just about as close as a play can get, but umpire Jerry Meals made the right call because that contact wasn't made, yet he's getting tons of flak for it. I just don't understand how people don't see that the runner wasn't tagged.

Here's the clip from the Braves' broadcast, if you want to see it from some slightly different angles.

What do you think? Do you see what I see?