Like it or not, video meetings are here to stay. Home editorgets an expert's secrets to preparing interiors for their close-up.
I can't be the only one that panics about what could be lurking in the background the moment I log on for a video meeting. You know how items that have become invisible to yourself can morph into a distracting focal point to others?
That’s why the camera-off function has become a firm friend during these interactions in recent months. But I’m curious to know how interiors professionals find life now that many of our homes are doubling up as film sets.
As with the rest of us, practical considerations rule when getting their interiors camera-ready for video conferences.
“Key for me is trying to find a quiet space where the dog won’t be looking to get in or out while I’m on a call,” says Angela Connolly,interior designer and president of The Interiors Association of Ireland.
As creative director of Conbu Interior Design, Angela has been in business since 2008 and has a studio but during the pandemic had to set up a home office in a bedroom. “It has been strange working from home but I haven’t worked from home for so long I haveenjoyed the novelty,” she says.
Next up is my own burning question: What to prioritise when I have only five minutes to get the room/backdrop ready for a video conference whether that’s a Zoom/ Skype/Google Hangout meeting? “You can set a virtual background in some of the video conferencing applications, it’s possible with Zoom. Make sure the background you choose is not distracting though,” says Angela.
“If this is not an option just clean up — clear away any clutter, close doors, and position yourself with a nice bookcase or with a blank wall behind you. Add some plants, if you have them, but just keep it simple.”
How do you make a cluttered space look good? “Find a place for everything and put everything in its place. There are so many storage and organisational items out there. Put everything back after using it instead of putting it on the kitchen table or counter to be put away later!” says Angela.
“Post can be one of the worst clutters. You have items which can be filed away immediately but some post needs further attention. Set up a system of files so you know what needs to be dealt with.You will know where everything is too and won’t lose important paperwork.”
Should the background be neutral? “I would recommend keeping the background quite neutral but not boring,” says Angela.
“Consider a large piece of art on a plain wall with some large houseplants or a nicely styled bookcase with a mixture of books, accessories and trailing plants.”
What about lighting? “You should really position yourself where there is a good natural light source — not direct sunlight though,” says Angela.
If this is not possible you can always set up a small webcam light. It’s important not to sit with a windowbehind you as your face may be difficult to see.
Like many workplaces and organisations, The Interiors Association of Ireland moved all its committee meetings online in the coronavirus climate.
“It has been fantastic as we have been able to engage with the chairs of the regional chapters — Sinead Cassidy, Munster chapter, and Maggie Brady, Ulster chapter. Sinead and Maggie would normally have to travel a fair distance to get to our committee meetings,” says Angela.
“I use Zoom but have also participated in meetings and training on Microsoft teams, GoToTraining and GoToMeeting. I am studying for a Master’s in Professional Design Practice and our last few classes have been virtual. It has been great continuing with our learning and getting the modules finished. However, I do believe meeting everyone and getting to know them before lockdown was important as we had established that relationship and could get in touch with any questions or concerns.”
What is the most common question Angela has received during and post-lockdown? “One of the big questions being asked is how to adapt a space to facilitate home working,” she says. “People are finding the open-plan living does not work when numerous people are working from home and children are being home-schooled.”
Longer-term, how will this affect interiors? “Home-working and schooling will be here for the foreseeable future. I think people will look at their homes to decide how they can work for them in the long-term,” says Angela. “Is it practical to split an open-plan space to create more private spaces? Can they fit a home office somewhere — even a landing space or do they need to build a studio in their garden?”
It’s not only home working and schooling that need to be considered, according to the president of The Interiors Association of Ireland. “Many people will look at the layout and functionality of their kitchens especially as so many turned to home-baking during the pandemic,” she says.