Office Displays: It's All in the Details

My last two columns explored the importance of getting in on the ground floor of the home office trend, and what elements comprise an effective display. Now I'll focus on the specific dimensional aspects of a working home office display.

Home office work stations are now being incorporated into home entertainment family gathering spaces, including basement walkout areas, great room areas of the kitchen and areas adjacent to bedroom living spaces. As with any room design, there are some simple rules to follow:

  • Desk/countertop height should be planned at 25" to 30" off the floor, including a 1" countertop. Planning at 28" might be a good compromise, since all end-users are different. If incorporating a standing work table, it should be 42" off the floor.
  • File drawers can be 15" to 18" wide. Typically, 18" file drawers are used. Lateral file drawers are best at 30", 36" and 42" wide. Depths can be 24" if required, but work top surfaces are better at a 30" minimum. Twenty-four inches is definitely too shallow for a desk surface and keyboard, unless a pullout keyboard allows the work surface to expand. For files, a 21" depth will also work, although it provides less storage.
  • A lap or pencil drawer placed under the countertop is a good option. These shallow drawers are approximately 4" to 5" high, but could prove difficult for a taller, long-legged person or a heavier-framed individual. To avoid this problem, place the drawer in an adjacent 18"-wide cabinet for pencil storage. Sometimes the smaller lap drawer is placed on an angle with open space below it for added turning space.
  • Writing knee space should be a minimum of 36", but 42" or 48" would work even better, especially if you expect someone to actually sit down and use the display. It could be smaller to convey a concept, but it will have the most impact if showroom visitors can sit and try out all the options.
    Inevitably, visitors will want to open doors and drawers, and discuss the proximity of these elements in relation to themselves. Therefore, planning a display with these kinds of real-life features is best. This way, the purchasing experience is more exact and this, in turn, will allow you to personalize and sell'a home office that best fits the'individual user. Having a well-designed display will reinforce'the consumer's confidence in'
    your capabilities.
  • An interesting layout might include a 36" clear knee space for a writing area, with an 18" or 12" angle (open underneath) on each side. This allows maximum opportunity for people to sit in a chair and turn it in a swivel without their knees hitting cabinetry. The depth of a writing area should be 24" minimum, but ideally 30" for a writing surface.
  • Of course, an office wouldn't be complete without machines. Printers, fax machines and scanners should be easily accessible, yet'concealed. The desktop writing space should be free from obstruction, leaving the area clear for'writing and other tasks. Therefore, machines should not be placed on the main countertop work space, but perhaps on a pull-out shelf.'

    As with other essential home office elements, the consumer probably has preferences for machine arrangement. Ask,'and be ready to take notes.
  • One option for storing computer components or accessory items is to position the monitor under a glass area in the countertop. One such component, H'fele America's Nova system, works well for bifocal users. Solutions are also available for wire management, computer containment, computer storage, raising and lowering work heights and pull-out tables.
  • The CPU can either be placed on the countertop work surface, or, if it's a tower, within a cabinet. Tower-style CPUs can fit in a 12"-wide base, but make sure such a base includes adequate ventilation. If the CPU is planned to be housed behind a closed door, ventilation options include venting the cabinet side, using a frame door with a decorative vented insert or using an insert door with a curtain installed to conceal the CPU.

Lighting & Storage
Lighting is another important element to consider when planning your display. Halogen spots or pucks, installed into shelving, underneath wall cabinetry or in a light bridge, are a good way to illuminate work surfaces. Halogen offers the best color rendition and adds warmth. Before planning the lighting, however, it's important to learn the consumer's needs and to consult a lighting specialist.

For display purposes, placing lights in a variety of areas and showing several different types will add interest, while illustrating options available to your customers. An outlet for additional desk lamps can be planned to add flexibility and a homey atmosphere.'

Outlets should be concealed or planned into the design so they are not visible within the writing/ working surfaces. Strip bars can be tucked under wall cabinets or hidden beneath the countertop. One product currently on the market consists of a pop-up outlet system, which comes up through the countertop via the wiring chasing. This option makes the outlet accessible when needed, but keeps it visually minimized when not in use. Consult an electrician to make sure it meets correct specification.

Pocket doors or tambours can nicely conceal work areas. Keeping function in mind: Some open areas should be within grabbing distance without standing, and all belly areas should be accessible. A pull-out table can be housed under a drawer, making sure the height is appropriate in relation to the chair and the user. Examples like these, which show planning and thought in design, are important to include in your display.

One example
Reico, a successful kitchen and bath "whotailer" in the Eastern market, has made a craft of designing and selling home office creations. We have asked these experienced professionals to share one example of a display that has worked for them.

For this display, Reico allocated a large space, 143" by 283". Such a space might be found in an existing conference or presentation area. Using it to house a home office display could transform it into a multi-purpose room. However, even if your showroom cannot spare this amount of space, you can create a functional and stylish display. Consider picking and choosing aspects of this example to create your own, or perhaps split the design into two separate displays.
A number of elements help to make this creation a success:

  • Impressive, double-glass mullion entry doors contribute to the home-like feel of this room. In addition, glass doors help put customers at ease, letting them see in and out of a closed space.
  • The design is a great combination of function and style. Keeping with the traditional styling, cabinetry is arranged symmetrically, and the design is well-balanced.
  • One-third of the display is dedicated to home office function, while a larger portion (one-half) addresses entertainment and storage. Ample floor space is left open to accommodate small group seminars and leave room to move about without feeling cramped.
  • While keeping function in mind, this display provides a luxurious experience for browsers. With two separate work areas, it invites two different shoppers to sit down and test it. With drywall, can lighting and an actual ceiling, the display takes on a homey feel. Add thick, pile carpeting to prompt customers to notice the difference upon entering this special area, but remember to use desk pads over the carpeting at the work areas for easy movement on rolling chairs.
  • Tall cabinets are a great addition if space permits, especially if you want to include a media area. Media areas can provide a focal point for your showroom. They also serve as a central hub for home office or entertainment, and can store games, paperwork, books, video tapes, and similar items.
    An important consideration for the media area is whether to plan open or closed storage. Glass or wire mesh insert doors can leave things visible, but disguised and protected. Reduced-depth talls can provide easily-accessed secondary storage behind the desk area.
  • Open bookcases create plenty of decorative storage when dressed with fluting, stacked crown moulding and a flush toe space. These elements support the furniture feel of home office cabinetry. However, fluting is used sparingly to effectively emphasize two opposing areas. Also, standard toe space can be shown, where appropriate.'
  • Solid surface is a good option for writing and work surfaces. Select a rich color that camouflages ink or other marks and blends with other decorative materials and accessories. In addition, bulletin board or dry erase surface serves well when added in the splash area.

Using this example as a starting point, you can begin a plan for your own home office display. Just remember to plan a display that you'd love in your own home, and let your customers try it.