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.

Architect Vibeke Lichten designed the pool house of her weekend home on Long Island (shown above and below) to double as her home office, but came to realize the half measures weren’t quite enough. “The first summer it was occupied, I realized I’d designed the house for everyone other than myself,” she says. “I just submitted a design for an addition that will be a dedicated office. We need a setup of things that we refer to often or that make us creative, and it’s not a space you can necessarily share with other people for a long time.” Click the photo above to see the complete project story.


Space in San Francisco is at a premium, so in this remodeled house by Substance Architecture, Paul Mankins redesigned the staircase to carve out elbow room for a workspace with great views of the city. Click on the photo above to see the complete project story.


A sense of restraint guides the interior design of this rural house in Northern California by Nielsen-Schuh. A continuous wood ceiling slopes up to the west, warming the steel-and-glass superstructure. Beneath the floating ceiling, partial-height partitions bookend the open living space. On the north side, the kitchen’s maple cabinetry divides the living area from the office behind it.


Even if a space doesn’t serve immediately as a home office, it can bide its time as a sitting area until needed. Such was the case in 530 house by PLaN Architecture. The guest wing actually has two spaces that can function as workstations, on either site of the partition wall. The “reading room” opens to a private patio space. Click on the photo above to see the complete project story.


In the Artery Residence by Hufft, the clients each have a dedicated home office and an additional workstation in the art library. The built-ins were custom designed by the firm. Click on the photo above to see the complete project story.


North Penn House by Deborah Berke Partners tucks two small home offices in the master wing of the house. Each has views to the outdoors. Click on the photo above to see the complete project story.


The home office in Walker Warner’s Makani Eka compound is contained within the master pavilion, with its own lanai and views of the Pacific Ocean. Click the photo above to see the complete project story.


In Brooks + Scarpa’s Thayer Brick House, the home office looks out on a private courtyard. Click on the photo above to see the complete project story.


In the Pacific Palisades Residence by ShubinDonaldson, a children’s workspace opens to a contained courtyard for free play. Click on the photo above for to see the complete story.

A children’s study room is just off the kitchen in House Etch by Studio Dwell, hiding behind mural-painted sliding doors. Click on the photo above to see the complete story.

When the kitchen cabinets are furniture grade, it’s easy to insert a workspace in the mix, as shown here in Madison Passive by Mowery Marsh Architects. Click on the photo above to see the complete story.

In Big Cabin/Little Cabin by Renée del Gaudio, the owner lives largely on her own, so quiet is not an issue. A desk is easily camouflaged within a wall of shelving in the great room. Click on the photo above to see the complete project story.


In the Brick House by Campos Studio, a showcase stair winds its way up through the house, terminating in a light-filled workstation and reading nook overlooking the neighboring forest. Click on the photo above to see the complete project story.

Of course, if all else fails, there’s always the dining table.