Workable ideas for home offices

The Baltimore Sun

I'm trying to carve out space in our family room for a home office. It's not meant to be anything grand - just a chair-desk combination, some storage units and space for my computer and printer.

Most of what I've seen in furniture stores seems scaled for a commercial office. It's either too large and heavy-looking or too modern in its styling to fit comfortably into a simply furnished family space with a contemporary design.

You've just used a couple of the most indefinable terms in the lexicon of interior design: "simply furnished" and "contemporary design." Sorry, but that doesn't give me a clear vision of your family room.

Even so, your quandary is quite common in today's digitally driven world, and I thus feel a duty to try to help.

A built-in unit with storage compartments and a work surface has been the standard solution for home offices for several years. Typically, it's either custom-built, and, therefore, quite expensive, or it's assembled at home from a set of flimsy components.

Furniture manufacturers have figured out, however, that this isn't a satisfying pair of options for many members of the growing home-office workforce. In fact, the slogan heard earlier this year at the international home-furnishings market in High Point, N.C., was "work spaces that work."

The trend toward better-looking and more diverse selections for the home office has resulted in the production of a variety of interesting pieces. Some make reference to traditional designs, while others have a more innovative look that may make them difficult to integrate into the average American home - to use another indefinable term.

Shown above is an example of a traditionally designed piece with a contemporary, multifunctional dimension. Magnussen Home, a manufacturer of stylishly crafted furniture, has developed a cocktail-sized table with a lift-top work surface as well as sliding, felt-lined trays and plenty of other storage space. The sleek black finish - definitely a contemporary touch - is punctuated by nickel fittings.

Close the top and push away what I assume is an occasional chair used with the work surface, and you're left with an attractive piece that's only hinting at its functional possibilities. Something like this would likely blend well in a family room. It's also consistent with your aim of finding a residential-style piece able to accommodate basic home-office tasks.

Rita St. Clair is a Baltimore-based interior designer. Readers with general interior design questions can e-mail her at the above address.

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