My home office: Matthew Armstrong and Courtney Corey

Matthew Armstrong and Courtney Corey work from home in their Escondido backyard hut.

Now that more San Diegans are working from home, we’re taking a peek into makeshift offices around the county.

Names: Matthew Armstrong and Courtney Corey

Occupation: Armstrong is a music teacher at San Marcos High School. Corey is the founder and director of Theatre Arts School of San Diego (TAS+SD).

Location: 1,250 square-foot ranch style home in Escondido that was built in 1947.

Home situation: Armstrong and Corey live with their 16-year-old son, Jackson Armstrong, and their many, many pets. The family has three goats, Oreo, Mabel and Mama; a pug named Popcorn; a cat named Brownie (originally a stray found outside the Old Globe); and a turtle named Pedro that recently returned home after a two-year disappearance.

“We used to have a glorious gaggle of ducks,” Corey said. “But we also have raccoons and hawks and owls, so we don’t have birds right now.” There are also animals that just come visit, including a flock of parrots, a crane and peaceful opossums.

The yard is the thing: The couple bought the house about 20 years ago primarily because of the unique backyard. It reminded Armstrong and Corey of the jungle landscapes they loved from their trips to Thailand and Costa Rica. It turns out, a previous owner of their home worked as a horticulturist for San Diego Zoo Safari Park, specializing in Australian rainforests, and he’s the one who created the lush environment.

The Armstrong-Corey backyard was originally planted by a horticulturist from San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

From classroom to cocktail lounge: The couple has always used the space as an outdoor office, even before quarantine. Like every year, Armstrong and Corey create an original musical together — he writes the music and she writes the lyrics — that students from TAS+SD perform. Right now, though, Corey mostly does her voice lessons and theater work inside. Armstrong is outside, where he teaches and takes meetings about how to keep students in the San Marcos School District engaged in the arts.

Because Armstrong works primarily with musical instruments, the hut doesn’t have a traditional desk and computer set-up. Instead there are homemade instruments, portable keyboards, makeshift tables and recording equipment strewn around the area to be used as needed.

In the evenings the space becomes a “cocktail lounge” where the couple often enjoys sangria from neighboring Forgotten Barrel winery.

“That’s theater!”: Corey used the theater set-building skills she learned at San Diego State University to create her home workspace.

The benches, for example, were made from recycled doors that she used as props for a show and then just stored in the garage. She painted them aqua, waterproofed them and put them on sturdy wooden blocks. She found the pillows and seat cushions at Big Lots.

“Patio furniture is so expensive,” she said. “I come from theater, and in theater you never have enough money, so you have to figure out what to do, you have to look at things a different way.”

Tune in: Corey and Armstrong’s original musical, “The Island of Bad Kids” will be presented as a film (rather than a Zoom production), scheduled for release in July. Find details at

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