Introvert or extrovert. Sociable or territorial. Chances are, your home office tells as much about your personality as a Meyers-Briggs quiz.
Today's home offices are not cookie cutter cubicles where the framed desk photo is the only distinguishing feature. These offices are as individual as their owners. From CEO to sales rep, artist to consultant, each home office fits the task at hand and is designed to function efficiently for work-and, sometimes, for play. Whether you simply need a telephone or space for reams of paper, books, samples or art supplies, the sky's the limit in office design. And sometimes home offices incorporate so many luxurious amenities you wonder how the owners can keep their minds on business.
The hedonistic personality will settle for nothing less than luxury, and that means ultra-sophisticated design and electronics that turn work into play. Andrew Guenther, president of Advanced Audio Design, installs these technical playthings, otherwise known as advanced electronics. Though he usually installs home entertainment systems, he has equipped offices as well, including one where the homeowner originally contacted him to add a 50-inch plasma TV to the wall facing his desk and computer. According to Guenther, the homeowner wanted "a spare, clean look that didn't shout 'office.' He was really pleased to discover we could connect his computer to the plasma TV to use as his computer screen." The computer desk disappeared, and Mr. Homeowner now works while lounging in one of two matching leather Cinematech reclining chairs, a wireless radio-frequency keyboard on his lap. All the messy wires and technical equipment are hidden behind bi-fold doors. "It looks like a den or media room," says Guenther, "but he easily handles a lot of financial business from his chair." Of course, when he's not working, that 50-inch screen shows movies with full surround sound. A wireless touch screen operates everything including computer, TV, DVD and high-definition satellite receiver.
Offices are not always private spaces where the homeowner hides out to work. Sometimes they are integral to the living space. Consider the office Alison Levin Bishop, of Living Walls, designed for a Heritage Oaks homeowner, a retired school principal. "It's very visible, just off the living room and dining room," Bishop says. "The owner wanted to be able to show the office to her guests, so we blended it with the contemporary living room décor and used glass and aluminum shelves to hold souvenirs of her life in education." A fun-loving curve of whitewashed maple floats in the middle of the room as a desk with a credenza behind it. The desk was designed by Rick Lee, whom Bishop calls "one of the young bloods" of contemporary design. "It's lighthearted," she explains, "with sophisticated whimsy to make the office interesting as well as functional."
When book designer Carol Tornatore decided to change her workplace from a Chicago high-rise to a south Sarasota home, she originally conducted business from a spare bedroom. But she didn't like staring at walls. "It felt crowded," she says, and "my mind wasn't free." So she created an office and meeting space from a family room that's glassed in on three sides with windows and sliding doors leading to the pool. Tornatore arranged the space herself to fit her needs. "I went out and got the biggest desk I could find so I'd have room to spread out. I like things organized, so the desk became the focal point of the room." Next, she arranged bookshelves to fit under the windows and filled them with textbooks, fiction, nonfiction, children's books and coffee table books. "I have hundreds of books. About 60 percent of them I designed and the rest I use for reference." Built-in cabinets house paper samples, handmade papers and art supplies. The large space also let her create a meeting area with a sofa and coffee table and to add a small worktable for the original artwork she occasionally creates for the books she designs.
Serene shades of blue and green make the room a haven. "It's not a high-tech office," says Tornatore. "It's homey and goes with the rest of the house." As comfortable as her office is, Carol appreciates one important touch: "It has its own French doors that close so I can walk away from work."
Al Glass's office is as sleek and contemporary as the furniture the Sarasota designer creates. The space is ideal-a separate building facing the main house just beyond a Mexican-tiled patio with pool. The former owner was an artist who used it for oil painting and left the floor concrete and bare cinderblock walls. "I understood why," says Glass. "Her work was messy. Mine is the opposite." He finished off the space with stark white walls and added tile to match the living room in the main house, then divided the space into two offices.
The centerpiece of his office is an elegant black-laminated Knoll desk and charcoal fiberglass apron that hides the computer wiring. Above a matching credenza, the bulletin board is made of rubber tread like stairs, laminated to hold pins. "I couldn't find a nice pin-up board," says Al. "So I made it myself." A sleek black dining room table he designed functions as a computer desk. An occasional table-three layers of glass with steel tubes as a base- is the first one he designed. "It was used by Bill Cosby in the Jello commercial," he says with pride. Polarized framed portraits of his wife, Colleen, and other family and friends provide the pop art.
One of the few items Glass didn't design himself is a special find- the sleekly curved Le Corbusier lounge chair from the '20s. Positioned for creative lounging, it has a tempting view of the pool outside the sliding glass doors.
The second office features a wall of glass-fronted cabinets that display his wife's bright yarns and fabrics like abstract art. A Della Robbia couch pulls out to a king-sized guest bed. Just off the hall between the two offices are a full bath and efficiency kitchen.
"Most people don't want a business office look; they want a multi-functional office they can both use," says designer Fred Hind. Such was the case with clients Odile and Juan Ros. Rather than divide their office space, they share it, with one long desk as computer station. Retired music professors, the couple stores record and book collections, his train collection and her cello in the room, which plays off earth tones with a vibrant royal blue leather sofa and a chair in reds and blues. Says Hind, "The space had 12-foot ceilings, so we dropped it down with beams for a more traditional look and added custom-made cherry cabinets." The look is warm and inviting, traditional but innovative at the same time. And, says Hind, "The bamboo flooring is absolutely gorgeous."