Finding furniture that meets a need Design: The 'office-in-a-box' spreads out to provide considerable desk space and folds up neatly and rolls away.

February 16, 1997|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,LOS ANGELES TIMES SYNDICATE

With so many new furnishings coming onto the market all the time, it can be difficult to distinguish among the good, the bad and the mediocre. Apart from the pat criterion of "I know what I like when I see it," are there reliable standards for judging the quality of a particular piece?

Of course there are. And one very useful way of gauging the success or failure of a new design is by considering how well it responds to contemporary needs.

Take the example of the "office-in-a-box," made by Haworth.

In its closed position, the box is less than 5 feet high and only 2 1/2 feet wide. Unfolded, it is 8 feet wide and 5 feet deep, with about 14 square feet of work space.

Such an object probably wouldn't be found in an ordinary office environment. Even though it's quite impressive as a feat of engineering, I doubt that corporate space planners would consider the office-in-a-box consistent with the image associated with a formal business setting.

But most people with a home office aren't very concerned with fulfilling preconceptions of what a white-collar work area ought to look like. After all, one of the main attractions of working at home is being able to set your own standards of appearance.

And no one is going to regard the design of Correspondent, as Haworth has dubbed this product, as anything less than neat and efficient.

Looks, however, are probably not the main reason why a home-office worker might give serious consideration to this unit. Its multipurpose and space-saving design is what's most likely to appeal to the average at-home professional. Square-footage is often at a premium for families who must set aside an office area while also accommodating all of a household's usual activities.

Office-in-a-box makes it possible to perform everyday functions in, say, a living room while simultaneously allotting space for a home-office worker. Clutter -- the bane of most people who work at a desk in a residential room -- can be all but eliminated simply by putting Correspondent into its compact position.

Not many temporary office spaces can be folded up when not in use and moved via built-in rollers to another location. Indeed, Correspondent couldn't be easier to transport to another room entirely or even to a new home.

As more and more of us take to telecommuting, the-office-in-a-box certainly seems to meet the design criterion I mentioned earlier. I think it's one very clever response to the needs of our increasingly mobile society.

Pub Date: 2/16/97

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