Her grandfather’s Underwood typewriter. A scarf with ballerinas on it. A cozy reading chair. A fabulous chandelier. These are the things that are lovingly placed in Tammy Greenwood’s home office.
As the author of 13 novels (under the pen name T. Greenwood), Greenwood has always worked from home, whether that meant taking over a portion of her kitchen counter in a small apartment or creating a spot in her kids’ playroom where she could write and interact with her toddlers.
Right now, though, it means a dedicated room in the Clairemont home Greenwood shares with her husband Patrick Stewart, and their daughters Mikaela Stewart, 18, and Esmee Stewart, 16.
“I spend a lot of time in my home office, I consider it like my own room,” she said. “It’s important to have a space that’s yours and yours alone.”
Along with writing books like “Rust & Stardust” and “Keeping Lucy” in that space, Greenwood also uses it for reading papers and manuscripts for her job as a creative writing teacher through San Diego Writers, Ink and the Maryland-based Writer’s Center.
Because so many people are adjusting to a work from home lifestyle, Greenwood gives us a tour of her own space, along with tips on how to carve out a spot no matter what your living arrangement.
Make it cozy
Greenwood begins her day in the office around 5:30 a.m. and writes for several hours.
Right now she’s working on a new novel called “The Turning World” about a group of mothers who have daughters aspiring to be professional ballet dancers. And, yes, even though Greenwood also has a daughter in the ballet world, she describes this book as “Big Little Lies” meets “Black Swan,” so it’s not autobiographical. (Follow book updates @the_turning_world on Instagram.)
To help get inspired, Greenwood recently painted her office dark teal.
“People say a darker color can make a room feel smaller, but I think it makes the room feel cozy,” she said.
Adding to the room’s coziness is the Greenwood’s new chandelier and velvet chair.
“I didn’t have any place to sit in the office and read,” she said. “I got this chair so I could have a place to read student work, but now what actually happens is my kids come in and sit there ... so if you want to get work done, don’t put in extra seating.”
Keeping a blanket on her chair and putting her desk in front of a window are also key to making the room inviting, even if it’s before the sun comes out.
Surround yourself with special things
“There’s nothing worse than having to work in a space where you don’t want to be,” Greenwood said. “It doesn’t have to be a huge space, it doesn’t even necessarily have to be private - but it should be comfortable. And for me, that means surrounding myself with things that are special to me.”
The books in the tall shelves, for example, are all organized in a very specific way. The top two shelves are various editions of every book Greenwood’s ever written: hardcovers, paperbacks, translations, etc. There are three shelves devoted to signed books written by fellow author friends, and the rest are rows of her favorite authors, including every book by John Irving and Toni Morrison.
Greenwood also loves collecting old typewriters, but the ones in her office are actually hand-me-downs from family. The black Underwood belonged to her maternal grandfather, Donald Craig, a poet who used the typewriter for his own works. The typewriter in the bookshelf was her paternal grandfather Clifford Greenwood’s, a trumpet player.
“In my collection, these are most special because they aren’t just ones that I found at antique store,” she said. “They were used by my grandfathers, and actually, they’re the ones in the best condition.”
Keep it tidy
There’s a work table in the office where Greenwood has room to do other projects like sewing, photography, or even just organizing papers.
“The table isn’t usually that clean,” she laughs. “But I do like to keep things organized so that I can just focus on what’s on my plate. It puts me in a state of mind where I feel like I can create. It’s really hard for me to get into that zone if I’m feeling like I’m not comfortable.”
A reason the room can be tidy is because there’s a closet where Greenwood stores things like photo equipment, papers and other odds and ends.
“My agent gave me a beautiful vintage scarf with ballerinas on it,” she said. “I hung that up over the pink curtain, which is actually hiding a really messy closet.”
Other things lovingly organized in the room include meaningful pieces of art: framed corks from Champagne bottles that were opened after finishing a book, portraits of her daughters, a paint-by-numbers ballerina that her grandfather Greenwood made for her when she was a child and a sketch of the family’s Vermont home.
Make it work
Since the quarantine, Greenwood’s usually quiet house is now filled with her family working and going to school online. So that means more interruptions, more distractions around the house and many more visits in her personal space.
To help stay focused, she recommends keeping a schedule and establishing where people will be working throughout the day.
“The most important thing is to be respectful of each person’s need for private spaces,” Greenwood added. “People are inside with spouses and kids, so it’s a matter of finding your own space at home, no matter the size.”