Inside Sköna Creative Director Janessa Mason's Home Office

The joys of a colorful, multipurpose work nook

I'm a senior creative director at Sköna, and before the pandemic I would commute from Oakland into the Potrero Hill neighborhood to our San Francisco office. Once we were WFH, I needed to carve out a space of my own in our small two-bedroom condo. It was its own creative assignment. The dining nook in my place had the most potential for an additional office space to make my own. To personalize the space as a makeshift studio, I looked around the house for art that I had selected over the years and moved it to the nook to create a gallery wall and support inspiration.

I have always loved Frida Kahlo, and in juxtaposition, have struggled with infertility for many years, so this piece from an exhibition called Fertile Ground: Art and Community in California has always been a source of hope and positivity. Since this is also where we eat dinner, I now get the unexpected joy of my 2-year-old son trying to feed Frida and Diego whatever we're eating. I'm an unofficial bird watcher, a lover of nostalgia (that's a photograph of the Golden Gate Bridge from 1975), and even the stormiest seas bring me calm. I bought the stormy sea painting at an annual Swedish festival that I go to with my family. We have Swedish heritage in our lineage, and like most Americans, we take that history very seriously. The fun part is that I typically run into the actual Swedes I work with at Sköna at these Swedish events, as Sköna's CEO Jenny Sagström hails from Sweden and we have an office in Stockholm. Tucked in there is my son at 4 months old. 

On the other end of the wall I have the first logo design I did at Sköna—15 years ago! I don't often love designs I've done after the years have passed, but this one has lasted the test of time for me. The painted red wall pre-dates the creation of the office space as an accent color that I chose when we moved in, to bring love and richness to our overly white and cold vaulted ceilings in the living room. I hadn't anticipated its added benefit in the dining nook as my background mirroring a Wes Anderson movie on Zoom calls. 

Next to me is an oak cabinet that I've filled with things to help when I'm creatively "stuck." Books on subjects I want to get better at, educational materials, and then "someday" projects. Someday I plan to learn how to read tarot cards, but for now it's fun to pull a card and look up its meaning. This works for those "stuck" moments, be it personal or creative. When I got married, we were given a set of books titled Don'ts for Wives and Don'ts for Husbands, but I find the advice within these apply to all the people in my life and are good reminders on how to do better.

My grandmother always loved little knickknacks, and while I generally hate accumulating too much of anything, these trinkets from my travels do bring a smile. Pictures of loved ones sprinkled throughout are important to me, along with my camera I'm still learning how to properly use. I've always been drawn to design in a physical print form, so flipping through books is another great way to break out of the sea of online ideas and brilliance. Dave Ramsey's tips got me out of debt and always help me if I'm getting off track financially (thanks, Dave). I love the copy and strategy side of design so my Archetypes in Branding is a favorite to pull out. 

I share my space with my terrier mix Meera, who helps me take breaks for a walk outside and reinforces my belief that napping is a perfectly acceptable hobby for a productive person.

My actual desk area is pretty makeshift with a dark cave vibe, but I have found that it actually assists in getting into "flow" mode. Everything around me falls away, and I focus on the task at hand. Then when I take a step back to assess if what I've done is any good, I have pictures of my family that keep me honest and feeling loved either way. 

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Janessa Mason
Janessa Mason is creative director at Sköna, a B2B creative agency with offices in San Francisco and Stockholm doing marketing, branding and design for innovative tech companies.

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