A home office can make you feel like a CEO


October 28, 1990|By Rita St. Clair

A home office doesn't have to be a boring white space with a desk made out of filing cabinets and an old door. Working at home, after all, is supposed to provide a greater degree of freedom -- and that applies to the physical surroundings and the day-to-day schedule.

No matter where you stand on the corporate ladder, it's possible to look like a CEO at home. Don't skimp on comfort and convenience if you're lucky enough to have escaped the standard work environment.

The prerequisites for achieving this look are the same as for any successful interior design. First, figure out the room's functional requirements, and then decide what atmosphere best expresses your personality. Then satisfy those needs and desires.

If an oversized Parsons desk suits your fancy, buy one. You may have to make do with less working space as a result, but that problem isn't too hard to solve. A clever arrangement of storage compartments is usually sufficient for overcoming space limitations in a home office.

Keep in mind, however, that a minimum of 36 inches is needed to work comfortably behind a desk. Also, the knee hole in a desk or credenza has to be at least 30 inches wide.

As much as you may enjoy gazing out a window to gain inspiration, the best daytime lighting comes from a source located behind the desk chair. In a small room, that may mean you'll be staring at a blank wall. So decorate it with some favorite artwork or photos. And since there are no corporate expections to consider, don't hesitate to do your own thing.

I'm constantly surprised at how conservatively many home offices are designed. Maybe it's because their users really are traditionalists at heart. But possibly the selection of furniture reflects a paucity of imagination -- or at least the difficulty of finding a perfect 18th century English desk that makes the home executive feel as though he or she has finally achieved a partnership.

The pieces shown in the photo are store-bought, sturdy and nondescript. But their lack of panache is partly offset by the room's stylish surround.

Dark blue painted woodwork is accompanied by Satinesque wall coverings in combinations of greens, blues and vivid paisleys. An all-over floral was chosen as the main pattern and applied above chair rail height right around the room. A coordinated border was placed below and above it, while a mini-print in complementary colors extends down from the chair rail to the woodwork.

Bookshelves, decorative objects and artworks can appropriately be placed against this type of pattern. Wallpaper like this doesn't overpower a room but instead acts as a warm backdrop for personal memorabilia.

An Oriental carpet helps further to soften the boxy furniture. It also makes the room feel more like a home library than a home office.

At night, the proper illumination can usually be obtained from a single desk lamp. There's almost never a need for overhead spots above the desk, which often produce a disconcerting glare. The objective is to create a soothing glow rather than a dazzling brightness.

I realize that home offices are sometimes created from tiny spare rooms. But do try to include at least one comfortable chair for a guest. Visitors will surely come knocking if you do succeed in creating a comfortable and attractive setting.

And have you noticed how many downtown offices are being designed to resemble residential retreats? The reason, of course, is that most people prefer to work in a relaxed and personalized environment.

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