How many of your former clients are now rueing their push for more open plan living in their custom homes? How many of you pros are regretting your own floor plans? Those shared open spaces are a privacy and acoustical nightmare these days, when we’re all on camera and occasionally having to unmute our microphones, too. Barking dogs, yowling cats, squabbling children are just some of the threats to work hygiene during the weekdays at home.
Not long ago, we all reveled in the liberty that laptops and tablets provided us, allowing us to work from the kitchen island or sprawled on the family couch. They freed us from being tethered to a desk or a dedicated home office. That was all fine and dandy when the work being done was light, after-hours stuff, but it’s woefully inadequate for the important Zoom meeting with your client or banker—or the final push to complete a project on deadline. Focused spaces support focused work. And when we toil in common areas of the house, we also blur the boundaries between work time and personal time—to the detriment of both. The global pandemic had taught us or reminded us of the importance of good work-from-home hygiene for every member of the family.
Going forward, your clients will come to you with shifted values and a renewed appreciation for separate home offices that can close off with a proper door, homework stations for children that vary in autonomy depending on the child’s age, and spaces for dogs to lounge where they can’t see the arrival of the UPS truck. This is where the ingenuity of the architect is a beautiful thing. If you find yourself with some downtime, you might sketch up some home office concepts and put them on your website. Solutions for small houses and flex spaces are especially precious.
If there can’t be a private office for each household member who may need one, you could take a page from commercial office solutions—the “phone booth,” for instance, a small room with a door that closes shared by the family based on video conference schedules. Additional workstations with lesser measures of privacy should be part of the mix as well, such as a cabinet that opens into a desk. And, of course, lightly used spaces can double as overflow work areas. Finally, a purpose for the formal dining room!
You might tap some of the tricks of the trade from savvy designers of commercial office space and develop rigorous knowledge about office air quality, lighting, ergonomics, storage, visual and physical access to the outdoors, and the myriad of other elements of high functioning workspaces. There’s an art and a science to the discipline, and understanding both can set you apart from the pack.
While you’re doing all that, we’ve compiled a collection of home offices, hobby spaces, and smaller workstations to pique your imaginations and jumpstart your problem solving skills. But, don’t abandon all the open space in those future houses you design, as we are likely to find those precious as well when we try to gather again safely in small groups.
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