The walls of his home office are laced with dozens of albums. Madonna, John Cougar Mellencamp, Tina Turner. Some people would think this is really tacky, said Andy Wolfe. But music is, and always has been, important to him.
Having your favorite things surround you in a creative space helps keep your spirits up. “A place of balance, a place of joy when I’m working,” he said.
Wolfe used to share a home office with his wife, Jenni, on the second floor of their Duluth Heights home. But on Saturdays, the Superior High School teacher still used to drive across the bridge to grade papers or work on the Spartan Spin.
In the fall, he got what felt like “a gift from my wife” when she suggested he convert the mudroom/exercise room into a home office. He still works Saturdays, but it’s in his garden-level office, and the space makes for an easier transition from work to play.
Planning the space, Wolfe knew he wanted to split the rectangular room into sections.
It’s still part mudroom and part gym with a coat rack, shoes; weights, a workout bench and a Harman Kardon amplifier — a tribute to his father.
A few feet over is a comfy, leathery reading chair, a footrest and a desk that Wolfe assembled himself. It’s long enough for a second person, which was intentional because space to collaborate is important, he said.
When Wolfe is writing poetry or columns, he uses a notebook or his MacBook. On the latter is a Snoopy sticker, a logo for his favorite band, The Who.
Wolfe said he wakes up at 3:30 a.m. He exercises in his office, then he writes or plans classes.
He likes the dark of early mornings. “Believing no one is up. I think this actually helps my creativity because it’s like you’re not being judged, and no one’s going to walk in on you.
“You can say or write whatever you want.”
Their house was built in 1992, and the family moved in four years ago. The now-office was meant to be a garage, so it’s tricky to heat. Wolfe laid down carpet and rugs from Target, one from a friend.
There’s a computer chair, which was a Christmas gift, and a “banged-up” end table, one of the first things the couple bought that wasn’t from a garage sale, Jenni Wolfe said.
She said the space reminds her of a statement their son made about her husband’s first DVD player. “One minute, he had one, and then he had 50. Same thing (with music). He had five albums, and then he had 30,” she said.
There’s a bookshelf with titles by Louise Erdich, Jeanette Winterson and a well-annotated copy of "Paradise Lost."
“If you love literature, you will annotate the rest of your life,” Andy Wolfe said. “One of the best ways to engage with things is to write. Write about it, write on it, write to it.”
Many of the pieces in his home office have personal value, a roadmap of stories behind a storyteller.
Wolfe pointed to pictures of his family, sharing the first time he heard The Who album “Tommy,” which would later be their son’s namesake. A rec-room he used as an office when their children were teens. That time he had $500 worth of CDs stolen before a road trip, and his spouse greenlit using some savings to replace them.
A friend, who has since died, gave Wolfe a wall hanging that he uses to track his top albums of the year. Some picks from the list: Hayes Carll's “What It Is,” Maggie Rogers' “Heard It in a Past Life,” “Moonlight” by Johnnyswim.
Wolfe can’t work with light over his eyes; it affects how he thinks, how well he can work, he said. So his office is dimly lit, with several little lamps placed throughout.
Jenni’s grandfather used to turn soda acid canisters and blow torches into lamps, and he crafted a “fancy” one for Wolfe. It holds a stack of albums perfectly.
Wolfe said he doesn’t listen to them as often anymore, he opts for streaming or CDs. That’s one of the reasons he wanted to hang his favorites.
Scanning the albums, Wolfe oozes thoughtfulness, breaking down the detail in Supertramp’s “Breakfast in America” album cover to the meaning of Bruce Springsteen’s posture on “Born to Run.”
In his office, music’s on all the time. “It becomes the white noise … the background to my thoughts,” he said.
Have a cool nook at home for your laptop or an alcove with a computer desk? We want to see! Share your home office for a story in the News Tribune. Email Melinda Lavine at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 218-723-5346 to share your space.
Tips for making home office space
Andy Wolfe has had home office since the fall. On Saturdays, the high school language arts teacher used to go to work, but being able to make a home office saves him travel time, and it makes an easier transition from work to play.
Here are his tips for making a designated work space.
Be willing to see your room as more than one space, if you can.
“Pay attention to your personality, and let the room be conducive to what you know works best with your personality,” he said.
Whether you’re making or sharing a home office, compromise with your partner.
Treat going to your office like you’re going to work. Drink coffee, eat, complete whatever you need to finish, anything that might distract you before heading in.
Let family, roommates, children know you’re working.
Take designated breaks.
Go off-site to interact with others.
Set a daily finish time and stick to it.