Home office needs blend of comfort, efficiency
Interior designer Karen Brown gave up her studio, instead adding an office to her home on the Hillsborough River.
By ELIZABETH BETTENDORF
Published January 6, 2006
OLD SEMINOLE HEIGHTS - A couple of years ago, Tampa Bay area interior designer Karen Brown noticed something about the way she worked: Although she commuted to a busy design studio in trendy Hyde Park, she was spending much of her creative time somewhere much more efficient. Her home office.
The 43-year-old single mom has found she works better if she can juggle the flexibility of working from home with the needs of her family. With that versatility, came a more fluid schedule. Instead of clocking out at 5, she might spend time with her young son and then labor over a project until midnight. That meant her office in her 1939 Tudor-style home on the Hillsborough River had to be functional and attractive.
"I like having a sofa in here because if I'm thinking or just want to lay down and look at samples or design books, I'm comfortable," she says of the elegant 12- by 18-foot space with two desks - one for a part-time office manager - and plenty of storage for projects and design samples.
Brown stresses that anyone planning to work from home must consider several factors when designing an office, including comfortable chairs and desks, good lighting, adequate storage and easy access to work materials. Also important: technology needs and a suitable area to collaborate with clients, if necessary.
"Think about what kinds of materials you used most - books, files, design samples - and how you're going to store them," Brown says. "Everything you need should be in close proximity so it's easy to do business."
If you are short on space but want to confine your computer and clutter, consider investing in a computer "wardrobe" cabinet that can be closed up at the end of a day. If you have a spare room that can be specifically dedicated to a home office, think about storage needs, both long term and immediate.
For Brown, that meant converting an old closet (once the original master bedroom closet) into a walk-in storage space for everything from fabric swatches to pillows. At her fingertips, current design job files are stored in shelves above her computer. A pretty wastebasket houses rolled up floor plans, and a bamboo magazine rack that she bought at Anthropologie keeps her home magazines well-organized.
Brown, whose residential clients are spread throughout the Tampa Bay area, has noticed that with each new job, comes a request for a home office.
"In almost every home I go to now, I'm asked to design one," Brown says. "It usually replaces the formal living room that no one ever used."
Typically, for couples, she designs two work spaces - one for him, one for her, even if that means tucking a desk into a kitchen area.
Lutz interior decorator Pat Scimone-Almasy, owner of Dezyn Solutions Inc., routinely helps clients design home offices. Her most current home office - blended into a loft space - incorporates a Murphy bed for guests and space for the owner's extensive art collection.
"The most important thing you have to ask yourself is "How am I going to use a home office?' " she advises. "Ask yourself, "Am I going to use the computer daily and if so, how am I going to use it?"'
She suggests determining what tools you need most, especially on the desk. Lighting is critical, especially if your workday stretches well into the night. So are window treatments, especially during daytime to avoid glare on the computer screen.
Scimone-Almasy asks her clients lots of questions because needs vary wildly, she suggests. Someone working in sales, for example, "is probably going to need a great deal of file storage," a feature she incorporates into all sorts of furniture pieces.
And she warns, don't go out and buy office furniture just because you like it and think you can make it work. Think about your needs before shopping or you will end up making costly furniture mistakes "with things that often cannot be returned."
Melinda Ritz, set decorator for the NBC sitcom Will & Grace, offers several home-office tips on the Web site iVillage, including putting your home office anywhere in the house where you feel comfortable.
For one thing, she says, don't try to make it look like an office, but rather meld it with the decor of your home by blending furniture pieces you already own. An attractive chest of drawers can easily hold files, for example. Instead of a generic computer chair, consider pulling a beautiful side chair from elsewhere in the house. Use flowers and plants for ambience and lighting and color freely to create the desired mood.
The Web site www.behr.com offers photos and advice for transforming a humdrum home office into a pleasing work station. Color is essential: Cool hues such as blues, greens and purples, are passive and receding and can quiet the nerves and soothe the soul; warm colors, such as red, yellow and orange are active and appear to move toward you, creating a cozier feel.
Karen Brown painted her office walls in a leather-tan Ralph Lauren suede paint paired with a tactile grass clothe below the chair-rail. The window treatments, full-length drapery panels with reversible swags and leopard print accents, are so good looking, she once used them in an ASID designer show house.
And between her two desks?
One of her favorite accessories: a 1940s Queen Anne reproduction sofa that she has hung on to for years, reupholstering it for every new use. The second-floor office gets plenty of sunlight, which she controls with an adjustable match stick shade.
"I like working up here because it's quiet and has an old Florida feel," she says. "I feel like I'm tucked back away from everything."
Plus, she adds, she's available whenever her son needs her.
"It's nice," she says. "I can take time out for him whenever I need to."
[Last modified January 5, 2006, 08:50:08]
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