Working Wonders: The ideal home office
Home office advice from the experts
Ever dreamed of building the ideal home office, maybe even sketching it out on a napkin as you sat in your current workspace, crammed into a corner of the guest room?
Sounds like it’s time to call in a specialist. But before you consult a professional designer, ask yourself:
What will you be using your office for? And what part of your home can you dedicate to it? The range is wide, says Wayne Smith of Southern Closets.
“You have somebody that home-schools and they have three children — that’s going to be way different than someone who spends time on the internet shopping.” As a rule, says Smith, “Big homes have dedicated offices. Smaller homes don’t.”
One elegant example in Southern Closets’ portfolio lands firmly in the former category. The home office of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ team doctor and his wife, it boasts more than enough desk and shelf space for two people—and, in honor of the Bucs, there’s a pirate-ship chandelier.
On the other hand, says Smith, his designers have also created a home office “in a closet — just a desktop and couple of shelves.”
For most of us, the need falls between these two extremes — especially if a room will have to do double duty as office and guest quarters. Which brings us to…
Murphy beds are back
I hadn’t even realized that people were still sleeping in these things. I figured they’d been relegated to movie slapstick history, a just-forlaughs prop used by the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Dudley Moore.
Not so fast. The Murphy bed, or wall bed, has been refined for contemporary use to become an option that’s far superior to “a foldout couch,” says Smith.
Clark Williams of More Space Place Tampa Bay is a big fan of Murphy beds.
“They can turn a guest bedroom you might use a few times a year into a working office,” says Williams. For ultimate flexibility, you could pair a dropdown bed with a dropdown desk.
And today’s Murphys are a lot more comfortable than the rinkydink cot Chaplin had to contend with. Williams’s wall beds use Soflo imported foam, and can be as big as you want them to be, from twins to kings to extra longs — because, says Williams, “People are so doggone tall.”
By the way, sources say there really was a Murphy — a San Francisco man with a one-room apartment who invented the bed so that he could subvert early 1900s morality laws forbidding ladies from entering gentlemen’s bedrooms. Hide the bed and presto! The bedroom’s a parlour (or a home office).
Trending… or not
Williams has been in the office furnishing biz long enough to remember when desks had to accommodate the “big back ends” of computer monitors. Now, with flat screens, there’s more desk surface to work with.
Another change: the diminished call for file drawers, because so many people have switched their records from paper to digital.
But the modern home office makes its own demands. “We’ve got to get everything you can imagine in there,” says Southern Closets’ Smith: shredders, copiers and other equipment that once upon a time you’d only find by leaving your cubicle and walking to the mailroom. Now, slide-out drawers can accommodate (and hide) these big gizmos below your desk.
Some challenges never go away, no matter where you’re working, like “wire management” — all those cords and power adaptors and recharging stations. Assess your power needs when you’re planning a space, and that can help designers find a route to an uncluttered look.
And while you’re at it, consider how you want everything lit. Office lighting used to be restricted to fluorescent tubes hanging from the ceiling. But nowadays, says Williams, “LED lighting has made a huge difference,” offering options like adjustable brightness, “ribbons” of light that don’t glare, and the kind of subtle cabinet lighting you’d see in a jewelry store.
Southern Closets’ Smith agrees about the importance of illumination.
“We’re really big into lighting,” he says, citing one of his company’s designs that featured onyx countertops lit from below.
Take a good look
Before you decide on the overall aesthetic of your home office, it’s a good idea to do some browsing online.
Check the galleries at local franchisees like Closet Factory. Their site offers a range of possibilities, from chic (white floorboards, glasstop desk, a poster of Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s) to baronial (floor-to-ceiling bookcases with a library ladder and a window seat) to practical (a wraparound counter and a daybed).
Southern Closets’ Smith recommends doing some prep via online shopping sites.
“It’s helpful when our clients visit web pages like Houzz and Wayfair and get pictures of things that they like. That gets the ball rolling.”
Southern Closets has its own mill in Odessa. Once you’ve settled on a look, he says, his team can design and manufacture “just about anything.”
And if you’re having a hard time envisioning how everything will fit, Williams of More Space Place suggests asking designers for 3-D renderings, which can show you just how much your square footage can handle.
“So it isn’t like somebody drawing it on a napkin.”