Tackling the Home Office Dilemma

Tackling the Home Office Dilemma

Design expert Kenneth Wingard gives advice on preparing a customized home office.


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Who doesn’t want a great home office? From needing a quiet place to pay the bills, to getting your tech company off the ground, to just wanting to emulate Ward Cleaver and Mike Brady, a home office fits the bill… pun intended. Odds are, however, that unless you’re an empty nester or that tech company has already paid off, you don’t have a plethora of extra rooms laying around the house waiting to be turned into office space. 

So, you need to decide how you are going to combine and compromise. What are you going to give up? The TV room, separate rooms for the kids or both? What can you combine with the office? The guest room, the TV room, a craft room?

Then, decide are you a go-big-or-go-home kind of person or do you prefer out of sight, out of mind? Of course, a lot of this depends on what you’re doing in your office, but an equal amount depends on what kind of person you are. There are those that want to walk into their offices and be immediately surrounded by their work – architects with sketches on the wall and models on the shelves or writers who want to be surrounded by books and manuscripts. Then there are people who want to be able to close a laptop, latch a closet door, or unfold a screen and not have a hint of work in sight when they’re finished. I’m definitely the former, maybe it’s my fascination with wood paneled libraries.

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Speaking of which, I believe that in order for an office to be truly functional, it has to be aesthetically pleasing. It doesn’t have to necessarily be “pretty”, but you need to create an atmosphere where whoever is going to be working there can feel calm, organized, happy and at their best. Who’s going to want to hunker down and write the next great American novel surrounded by beige filing cabinets, disorganized cinderblock shelves and shoeboxes full of jumbled receipts? One needs to able to walk into their workspace, exhale, clear their mind and get down to the business of the day without being distracted by clutter and chaos.

I had just such a challenge in this week’s episode of Home Made Simple. They are a two-office household, but due to limited space, their offices need to serve as work space, guest rooms, library, meditation room, reading room, and, um, tea house. Add to this two very different aesthetics. The husband wants a streamlined, Zen haven and the wife wants a bright, colorful space that reminds her of the islands.

With one, I go big, transforming the entire space into a dream office, with the other, we go small, shrinking the office and hiding it away, opening the room to a host of other uses. Both are great, and both show you there’s more than one way to skin the office cat… so to speak.

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