The number of workers telecommuting or working for their own home-based businesses has risen by over one million people in the last 10 years, according to figures released earlier this year by the U.S. Census Bureau. Whether this is the result of corporate cost-cutting measures, or because the unemployed are finding that they must “create” their own jobs by starting businesses, the home office is becoming an increasingly important space within the home.
“I’ve explained to many of my kitchen and bath clients that a home office is now as important to the home as a kitchen or bath,” says Debbie Evans, CMKBD, RID, of Squamish, BC-based Whistler Interior Design, Ltd. “Many people are working from home nowadays, and working on a table in the basement just doesn’t cut it anymore. It should be as properly designed and organized as any other area of the house. If it is cluttered, uninviting and disorganized, then the user will not be able to work efficiently.” She reports that home offices represent a fairly standard portion of her projects now.
Perhaps this is because a kitchen and bath designer is singularly equipped to deal with the space planning and organizational requirements of a home office.
Courtney Burnett, CKD, Allied ASID, CAPS, of Dave Fox Remodeling in Columbus, OH, advises designers thinking of branching out into home office design: “Think of designing an office the same way you would design a kitchen. An office needs cabinets, storage and organizational units, countertops, good lighting, flooring, etc. These are all of the same elements needed in rooms you are already familiar with, so you can work with all of the suppliers you’re already using.”
Interestingly, the top requests by clients in the market for a new or revamped home office seem to echo the needs of most kitchen and bath clients. They want clear countertop spaces, organizational tools and a design that will accommodate their technological needs, according to designers queried by Kitchen & Bath Design News.
Whatever the primary use of the office space, flexibility is key. One constant, says Evans, is the need to streamline activities within the office, the way a designer would do within a kitchen.
“The most important thing for a home office is storage and efficiency. The client needs to have an office with storage that works so he or she can easily access files, miscellaneous office supplies, equipment, etc. The office should be free of clutter, as well,” she says.
Burnett believes that this is complicated by the dual nature of most home offices.
“For most, the home office is divided into two different categories – personal and work. More often than not, both of these offices must reside in the same space, so it is important to have physical separation between the two to keep organized.”
She says this can be achieved by creating different zones within the workspace, similar to the way a kitchen designer would think of zoning a kitchen. “In a kitchen you may have baking, maybe a specific area for receiving and paying bills with mail organization, filing options, a posted calendar or more.
“Of course, a charging area is a must,” Burnett continues. “Most households have multiple cell phones, iPods, etc. I’ve always liked using a plug mold strip that can come in custom lengths with as many outlets as necessary for all of these chargeable items.”
Diane Plesset, CMKBD, NCIDQ, CAPS, principal of D.P. Design & Associates of Oregon City, OR says that taking an inventory of everything that will need a home in the new space is a good place to begin. This holds true whether you’re designing a full office or a menu-message center in a kitchen.
“You’ll need convenient locations for all kinds of equipment – from computers, printers, scanners, keyboards and monitors that will need most of the space and that need to be planned in such a manner that they can be accessed without being in the way – down to the smaller, everyday necessities like printer paper, ink supplies, note pads, file storage and wire control,” she says.