The perfect home office – As telecommuting becomes the norm, professionals seek expertise for designing a functional workspace.
When Christopher Boggs and his wife built their house in 2012, a home office was a key component in the design.
The 44-year-old stockbroker and father of two young girls wanted to spend more time at home with his daughters, yet have a quiet space for reading and research after they went to bed. His home office—a room created from two bedrooms—allowed him to allocate 20 of his 75 to 80 work hours per week at home instead of in the office.
He now comes home at 6 or 7 p.m., spends time with his 4-and-a-half year-old and 6-month-old girls, and when they go to bed at 8 p.m., he retreats into the office.
“I’m able to close the door and not have so many outside distractions,” Boggs says. “When I’m in the office at work, I have so many hats and responsibilities—which I love—but for things like reading and research, the uninterrupted time is great.”
Capital City-area architects and designers say with improved technology allowing people to conduct business remotely, they are seeing more of a demand for high-end home offices.
“With the advance of the Internet, work is being done at home more than in the office,” says architect Kevin Harris, owner of Kevin Harris Architect, who designed Boggs’ home. “The home office provides extra living space and quiet space where you can have clients over, give them a tour of the house, go in the office and close the door, make a deal, and then get back to the party without the rigidity of a work office. It makes the communication more gracious.”
Harris’ firm specializes in residential new construction and renovation design. He says his clients have spent anywhere from $10,000 to $200,000 for home offices, but adds, “There’s no upper limit.”
“I have a client who built a $20 million home, and they wanted me to show them the nicest of everything. They wanted the finest library. And I tell them, be careful what they say because they still have a pain threshold,” Harris says. “Even the very wealthy have limits.”
Harris has a binder in his office titled “Items of extraordinary quality and price,” and in that binder he has compiled information on the finest items from around the world.
“Things Prince Charles would consider,” he says. “So when I get someone who says they want the best, I show them the binder and say, ‘OK, but by whose standards?'”
Harris consults on home offices two to four times per month and designs eight to 12 new homes per year with a “sprinkling of renovations.”
The architect says high-end home office must-haves include organizational storage and out-of-site storage to hide bulky office equipment like printers, multifunctional spaces for working parents and children, and a feng shuitype design that includes lining up the doors and windows to create a flow of “positive energy.”
For example, “If a window is not directly across from the door, we encourage people to hang a piece of artwork there,” Harris says.
The architect says he is also seeing more “His” and “Her” home offices, with a bar and TV area for him and a crafting room with workstations for her.
Elizabeth Carter, owner of Elizabeth Carter Interior Design, says a lot of thought goes into creating a home office—including whether it’s intended for receiving clients. That decision could determine if a separate entrance is warranted; it also influences the color scheme in the office, light levels and furniture.
“The most important item in a home office is the desk chair. That’s where you really need to spend some good money,” Carter says. “It’s all about the ergonomics of the chair. To get a good chair you will spend at least $500, and if you want leather it will cost about $1,500.”
She adds that choosing the right color scheme is also important.
“I would caution people from using too many restful colors, soft blues, soft grays and soft lavenders,” Carter says, adding that these “bedroom colors” could put you to sleep. She says home office colors should be more neutral or bright, like a “sunny, soft buttery yellow.”
“That color keeps you happy and energized,” she says.
Vivid colors dominate the design of Rachel Hull’s Baton Rouge home office. The 43-year-old native of Jamaica says the beachy office decor was created around elements from her home country.
“I had certain pieces I wanted to go in my home office, and the two prints plus the shell wall hanging were key items,” Hull says. “The whole design is built around those items.”
Jeanette Turk, interior designer and owner of Decorating Den Interiors, says it’s important to see the home office as an extension of the home as well as a functional space and to create a color scheme that flows between rooms. She acknowledges that every client is different, but they all face the same questions in the planning phase: Is this going to be a functional space? Who is going to be using the space? Will there be a need for filing? Will things need to be locked up?
“The trick is to decorate it in such a way that the home office would be extremely functional, beautiful and easy for everyone,” Turk says. “The home office is very much part of what we call the public part of the home. Young kids—4 or 5 years old—are doing things on the computer, and these spaces are being used as dual-purpose rooms.”
Home offices are on the rise, Turk says, because so many more people are telecommuting from home one to two times per week. Clients have more design flexibility because technology like iPads and smartphones are wireless, decreasing unsightly wires within the office.
While home offices are a convenient way to work without going into the office and productivity tends to increase, experts caution telecommuters from falling into the trap of becoming overworked.
According to a June 2012 article published from the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the Department of Labor, “Telecommuting appears to have become instrumental in the general expansion of work hours, facilitating workers’ needs for additional work time beyond the standard workweek and/or the ability of employers to increase or intensify work demands among their salaried employees.”
And while working moms crave the flexibility to work from home, it’s men who seem to be the ones telecommuting most, according to a study by the Flex+Strategy Group/Work+Life Fit Inc. In the study, 31% of 556 full-time employed adults surveyed do most of their work away from their employer’s location, and nearly three out of four of the remote workers are men.
Lisa Severy, president of the Broken Arrow, Oklahoma-based National Career Development Association, says while technology has enabled more people to work from home, there are always pros and cons to consider while working remotely.
“Skipping the commute and traffic, being free of workplace distractions, and the ability to balance work and home demands is very appealing,” Severy says. “At the same time, daily distractions of family and home life, the lack of collaboration with colleagues, and the isolation of working from home can be difficult. Some of the drawbacks can be overcome by having a dedicated space at home to more easily separate work from home life.”
Go inside the home offices of four local executives below.
As a stockbroker, Christopher Boggs works between 75 and 80 hours per week. But with two young daughters—ages 4-and-a-half and 6-months old—his home office allows him to spend 20 working hours closer to his family. “Now I can come home by 6 or 7 p.m., spend time with them, and when they’re in bed, I can do my reading, research and business planning.”
When was the home office created? 2012
Why do you prefer working from home? I have two small children, and my wife and I have the girls to sleep by 8 p.m. I do most of my work when they’re asleep, and I have uninterrupted time to focus. When I’m at the office, I tend to have to change my focus and start and stop a lot more.
Do you get more done working from home? How do you stay focused? I get more of my research and reading done at home because I don’t have as many hats to wear as I do at the office. Running and exercise help—and keeping the door closed.
What are the three best features about your home office? The space, the antique banker’s desk, the large banking chairs.
What’s on your desk and why? Three computers: one for business, one for marketing and charts, and one for home items; a lamp that my Great Uncle Ollie handmade and passed down; and a small tray that holds special pens to sign important documents.
Director of marketing for financial adviser Walter Hull, Northwestern Mutual
Rachel Hull’s Jamaican roots dominate the decor of her home office. There are two prints from her native country that anchor the room where she spends days working on marketing for her husband. The former guest room is now a place for her to shut the door and focus on work. And with a few personal touches, Hull says, “My home office looks like me.”
When was the home office created? 2012
Why do you prefer working from home? I stay so busy, but whenever I enter this room it takes me to a place where I need to get things done.
Do you get more done working from home? How do you stay focused? If I’m in this office and shut the door and don’t have my puppy in here, then yes, I get more done. I can remove all distractions, play some music and keep myself motivated.
What are the three best features about your home office? Comfortable chair, thermostat controlled by me, the Jamaican artwork.
What’s on your desk and why? A tray for items to take care of right away, marketing books I need to read and a globe.
CFO, Acadian Ambulance
David Kelly has a full-time job in Lafayette as the CFO for Acadian Ambulance. When he’s off duty, he enjoys the dark-stained wood, practical man-cave feel of his home office. He used to work at the dining room table; but when he and his wife built their new home, they made sure the architect added a home office to the design. And he spends a lot of time in it. “It’s relaxing,” he says. “I can watch the TV and news on the couch, and I’m able to take a nice nap.”
When was the home office created? 2012
Why do you prefer working from home? I like the feel of my office and the way it looks. It has dark-stained wood, a bookcase, and it’s practical for me.
Do you get more done working from home? How do you stay focused? I have a full-time office at my full-time job, but I do use my office at home for preparing tax returns and paying bills and performing banking transactions. It’s quiet.
What are the three best features about your home office? The couch, the comfort of the surroundings and the decorations my wife chose.
What’s on your desk and why? Unpaid bills, a laptop computer and an iPad.
Retired mechanical engineer, current quilter
Jeanne Smith retired as a mechanical engineer in January and is now enjoying spending her free time quilting in her home office. With comfortable recliners, a view of the landscaped backyard and pool, and with a space large enough to accommodate her quilting frame, Smith is seamlessly easing into her golden years.
When was the home office created? 2011
Why do you prefer working from home? Whether it’s to work on correspondence or the pleasure of quilting, I have a purpose when I go in there.
Do you get more done working from home? How do you stay focused? Yes. There are not a lot of distractions. There’s a TV in there but I don’t watch it. My husband watches a lot of TV in another part of the house, but my room is far away from him and the rest of the house. I have good lighting and a beautiful view of the landscaping. It’s the best room to spend my waking hours in.
What are the three best features about your home office? Kidney-shaped desk, the view of the pool and backyard from my desk, a brass plate with imprint from my dad hanging on the wall.
What’s on your desk and why? My computer and audio books to listen to while I quilt. Quilting doesn’t take a lot of concentration. It’s repetitive, so it’s nice to be able to listen to something while I quilt.