Architect Gene Gillespie likes the flexibility that working from home gives him.
"If I have trouble with a design, I can always go out in the back yard and garden for a while. Then I can come back in and work on it again," he says.
Gillespie and his wife, Laurie, are unusual -- . Both are independent professionals who work from their home.
They have separate offices on different floors of their Eutaw Place townhouse. Gene specializes in high-end residential design, while Laurie is a consultant who sets up corporate computer-training programs.
When they moved to Baltimore in 1978, both were working for others -- Gene in a downtown architectural firm and Laurie for the Internal Revenue Service. But they both decided to strike out on their own, and they've been making a go of it for the last seven years.
Gene says working from home suits both his business and his temperament.
"I generally meet with my clients in their homes. People are more relaxed in their houses. So I don't have any need for a big, showy office," he says.
"You also don't have to worry about working 8 to 5. I probably work more than that, but not necessarily during the hours an employer would be comfortable with."
Computers play a large part in Gene's business. In fact, his solo operation would have been difficult or impossible to maintain in the days before personal computers, when high-tech design required large, expensive graphic workstations.
"At the beginning, I basically still design by hand, on pieces of paper, and I still make paper models," Gene says. "There aren't too many clients that like to see machine-made drawings of their house. They like the hand-built touch. But when I make working drawings, I commit it to the computer."
For his detailed plans he relies on a Compaq 386 PC running AutoCAD computer-aided design software. His walls are plastered with pieces of paper containing written reminders about commands that he frequently forgets.
Gene produces his finished drawings on an industrial-strength, Alphamerics flatbed plotter. He recently began using the system to plot exterior elevations directly on the boards he uses for his models.
He also relies on Lotus 1-2-3 to keep track of the myriad technical details that go into his drawings, and on PFS Professional Write for word processing.
Gene says he doubts that he could ever go back to a standard office routine. But he concedes that working from home requires the right personality.
"You have to be used to being alone," he says, "but that isn't a problem for me. In any case, I'm not just sitting at a computer all the time. Three days a week, I'm out visiting clients."
It's also nice having a wife who works upstairs.
"At least she's here, so that if I need some entertainment or want to talk to someone, I can always go upstairs and talk to her."