Mobile technology grants us the freedom to work remotely – from home, an airport, while on vacation – meaning the working day begins and ends when we choose. As Craig Schultz of California-based architects Laidlaw Schultz says, “No longer are office hours defined by a nine-to-five work schedule; people are now expected to be at-the-ready 24 hours a day.”
This new era of working “when it suits you” has catalyzed the trend towards home offices or hubs. A place where you can not only do business, but surf the web, connect with distant friends and relatives, and while away the hours gaming.
Homeowners are starting to realize that an office isn't simply a workstation, but another space to express their personal style
Increasingly, designers and their clients now regard the home office as a room worthy of the kind of attention normally reserved for a kitchen or living room. Linda Holmes, interiors director at LuxDeco, an online store for luxury home furnishings, explains: “More and more homeowners are starting to realize that an office isn't simply a workstation, but another space that offers the opportunity to express their personal style, and help pull the look of their entire home together.”
Indeed, the very notion that a home office should be an isolated unit is outmoded. Designers are now integrating offices within a home’s communal areas – whether connected to the living room, part of the master suite, or used as a multi-purpose space. In one oceanfront property, Schultz utilized all the space available to create a fully functioning home hub adjacent to the home’s primary living area.
Some home offices can be neatly slotted into existing space, others created from scratch. And as with any other room, the desire for bespoke furnishings is a given. Interior architect Thomas Griem, founder and director of architecture and design practise TG-Studio, observes: “Space planning is key; it is always important to utilise unused areas within your home. We have in the past created a fully functioning home hub underneath a staircase.”
One of his clients wanted a stylish and functional office area that, when not in use, blended seamlessly into the living space. Griem had ample storage built into the wall to hide office clutter and maintain the space’s clean lines, as well as enlarging the room’s windows to keep it light and airy.
With the move to bespoke design and furnishings comes the freedom to be more experimental with style. As Schultz says, “No longer is the home office a dark-panelled room with a mahogany desk and tufted leather chairs; now these spaces can be light, modern, and – dare I say – fun.”
Brian Pontin, sales manager for Neville Johnson, a British bespoke furniture-maker, also advocates using color to brighten up a home office: “Bold accent shades needn’t be restricted to accessories; when designed carefully and tastefully, office units can look fabulous in a smooth white gloss with the option of combining with contrasting on-trend colours, such as orange and green. By mixing painted doors, drawers, and shelving with a wide selection of veneers, gloss, and glass finishes, the home office will have that modern, cutting-edge look.”
Schultz goes even further, suggesting the use of metallic paint, chalkboard paint, or even marker-board paint, allowing you to use your wall as a magnet board, chalkboard, or whiteboard – your very own real-life Pinterest. In his modern library home office, he incorporated a blue fabric-wrapped panel underneath the shelves, which the owner uses as pin-up space when working through a project. “This can offer a new way to work and help organize one’s thoughts. Don’t be afraid to be a bit eclectic with your desk – let it reflect your personality.”
A desk, or “work station,” will, of course, be the focal point of most home offices, so it’s vital to find something that’s both practical and beautiful. As Linda Holmes says, “A desk is one of those investment pieces that we expect to last for generations, so it’s really important to find something timeless that you will love forever.” Modern technology, however, may soon render a desk less vital, if not redundant. As Schultz observes: “Thankfully technology designers have recognized that tech should really be in the background – supporting our daily lives, not the other way around.”
For now, however, homeowners are choosing desks with ample storage solutions. One of the best-selling desks at LuxDeco, Holmes says, epitomizes this trend: “The Wellington desk by British-brand Davidson is a perfect example of enduring style and quality. It’s a pedestal design which is entirely designed and created by master British craftsmen using black sycamore wood and special lacquering techniques. Like all of our best-selling office pieces, the Wellington blends form and function impeccably, offering impressive storage capacity to aid a clutter-free space and an organized mind.”
And, of course, any home office will require storage and accessories: a simple item like an Aston Martin paper knife, or a pair of elegant globe bookends by Eichholtz, for example. L’Objet has some beautiful crocodile-effect pieces, crafted from porcelain and flattered with 24-carat gold detailing which would be a stunning addition to any home office.
As Holmes observes: ‘Smaller, unique items that help homeowners to tell their own story always prove popular. People look for functional pieces that make a statement and give their workspace an identity of its own.’