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Working at Home

by Dan Gregory last modified Jan 04, 2012 04:21 AM
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by Dan Gregory last modified Sep 07, 2010

Home office products, systems, and design ideas from the early 20th century to today. Continue reading →



Back to Basics, from Shaw to Chareau

Where do you work when you’re at home?  In my case, it’s either in the basement or at a counter in our small TV room. I need more space — room for a real desk maybe — storage compartments — a window seat would be nice. This daydreaming is sparked by a novel retro-solution just launched by Restoration Hardware: the home office as steamer trunk.

When open for business — that is, unpacked — it forms an L, with storage drawers, counter, and shelving all immediately accessible.

When closed up it conveniently rolls out of the way (which could make it dangerously procrastination-friendly). Where there is more space, the Seattle company henrybuilt, best known for modern eco-friendly kitchen cabinetry, offers a variety of elegant home office components.

The sleek shelving, cantilevered wall cabinet, and file drawer on wheels  would make me at least feel organized. Industrial designer Karim Rashid takes the uncluttered approach to a logical extreme in his seductive “BasiK” desk, from Council Design.

I like the way the drawers are indistinguishable from the writing surface (the line between them is barely visible), which rests on the simplest of steel legs. It’s the desk as an image of abstract thought: the support and the supported.

Cord control — or is that crowd control, no, I mean the wisdom of cords (apologies to James Surowicki!) –  is at the rear. This is truly a desk for the orderly mind. My mind probably veers more toward alluvial clutter with periodic tidal surges.

A more iconographic approach is shown in the “home office” that Albrecht Durer

envisioned for St. Jerome (I guess it’s high tide):  inspirational natural light, window seat, Ipad stand, room for dogs and lions…

Or what about the Writing Hut built by playwright George Bernard Shaw in his garden. Allowing for a short commute from the house is not a bad idea.

The shed  swivels around on wheels and a metal pin, following the sun (sign photo courtesy Shedworking).

You could say it is the forebear of our very own Flexa Studio prefab room by Modern Cabana.

But instead of a turning radius there’s space for the occasional catnap.

To my mind the ultimate home office is actually a home: the famous early modern Maison de Verre in Paris by Pierre Chareau, Bernard Bijvoet, and Louis Dalbet, built for a doctor and completed in 1932. A rotating screen directs you either to the doctor’s ground floor medical suite or upstairs to the living quarters.

The crystalline design — formed with ice cube-like glass blocks and exposed steel frames — has inspired architecture students around the world. The library living room is especially iconic and alluring for its artful collage of books, glass, and steel:  the life of a mind structurally expressed.

I think of it as a Durer for today — only with a grand piano instead of a lion curled in the corner. I guess the Maison de Verre is really two home offices — one for work and one for life. So perhaps that means thinking about how to make  every room flexible enough to function as a work space. I guess that’s what I’m already doing — I just want to be able to swing the cat now and then.



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