Home-Office-Trends are changing as home owners today are increasingly moving out of their McMansions and searching for homes roughly 10% to 25% smaller.
Delve into the details of how the home-office of today is being integrated into smaller spaces. This award-winning author shows you how to apply these latest home-office-trends to your own design.
We evaluated the latest design trends from this article and decided on a sunporch conversion. It has great natural lighting and is centrally located. We have completed many of the necessary improvements.
Four of our six surfaces are complete and only two more to go...check our progress right here for ideas for your own home-office.
Although this article* was written for the new home sales and marketing audience, it is full of original and bright ideas that you can implement to achieve the most up-to-date plans that suit your lifestyle and resale value.
Doing Double Duty in the Home Office
by Shawn Evans, CSP, CID, Realtor
As the trend toward smaller homes takes hold, interior merchandisers are being challenged to incorporate home offices and workspaces into smaller or non-traditional spaces. Fortunately, the shifting lifestyle choices that are driving this trend present perfect opportunities to let your creatvity soar.
Examining the trend
Today's home buyers are increasingly moving out of their McMansions and searching for homes roughly 10% to 25% smaller. They still value ample space in kitchens and bedrooms.
So the reduction in square footage is coming from the rooms they use less frequently, such as spare bedrooms, formal dining rooms and formal living rooms. Depending on their needs, many will also sacrifice private home office space in order to fulfill their needs for a smaller home.
While the home office may be shrinking or re-imagined, however, it is definately not going away. American families still need a place to pay bills, organize schedules, do homework, work from home, and the myriad other functions a home office serves.
In fact, Gartner Dataquest projects that 27.5% of workers will do some amount of telecommuting in 2009, up from 25% in 2007. So how do interior merchandisers address this trend?
Support for smaller spaces has arrived
Whether you're showing home offices in smaller rooms or in non-traditional spaces, the good news is that the technology and home furnishings manufacturers are on your side.
The latest technology makes it easier to not give over your house to your office. We seldom pause to think how portable electronic technology has changed our lives. It wasn't long ago that a cordless phone was almost as big as a toaster, laptop computers were prohibitively expensive, and PDAs were just an idea.
In today's wireless world we are no longer bound to a traditional home office. In fact, we often want access to the Web to vote for our favorite reality show contestant while watching TV or to carry on a text message conversation with a friend while cooking dinner.
As a result, electronics are shrinking and the traditional fixed desktop PC of the past is quickly being replaced by portable laptops that only take up 10 inches of desk space. Further, with wireless electronics, peripherals like printers can reside in closets or basements.
They don't even have to be in the same room or on the same floor to be accessed from the workspace.
At the same time, home furnishings manufacturers are responding by offering smaller, more multi-purpose pieces. File storage ottomans and hide-a-way computer cabinets are good examples.
When you shut the doors on these units, the papers and equipment disappear and the one-time office returns to it's beautiful dining or family room function. Many furniture manufacturers are also keeping in step with our multi-tasking culture by creating innovative furniture designs that can do more than one thing at a time.
For example, there are many wall units now available with middle sections that can be changed out to serve either a home entertainment or a home office function. The key is to select furnishings that are functional and flexible.
Home offices make the move into non-traditional spaces
So where are all these non-traditional spaces we keep talking about? They're everywhere and anywhere your imagination wants to take you. In today's environment we are all doing more with less and this is translating to the way home owners want to live in their homes.
So they either want to see inventive solutions or spaces that do double duty. Here are just a few examples.
IN THE KITCHEN: Create a space in the kitchen for a desk, a computer, and a file cabinet. If there is not space, use part of the kitchen island or counter area for laptop space, and incorporate a file drawer into the kitchen cabinetry. This allows home-owners to check email while cooking dinner or watching the kids in the family room.
IN THE DINING ROOM: Formal dining rooms are seldom used these days. A nice computer armoire in the dining room allows the room to double as a home office on a semi-permanent basis. The dining room table can serve as a great work surface.
GUEST BEDROOMS: A typical guest room can easily double as a home office. The clever use of cabinetry or built-ints allows you to put everything away at the end of the day and still have room for a bed, providing guests with a place to sleep.
CLOSETS: A standard sized reach-in closet can easily become a functional work area by adding a desktop that can accomodate shelves above. Shut the closet doors and leave behind a day's work without seeing it until you return the next day.
UNEXPECTED SPOTS: Be creative. There always seems to be one space in every home that no one can figure out what to do with--a wide hallway, a small alcove under a stair-case, a small spot withing a dormer, a butler's pantry, or even a screened-in porch.
Doing double duty in traditional spaces, too.
A smaller home size doesn't mean you have to do away with a private home office space altogether. You can still put one in a spare bedroom or other space with a door. But consider how you can make the most of that space.
With the desk taking up less room, you could add other furnishings--a loveseat, oversized chair and table, bookshelves--and allow the office space to also function as a den or library. Incorporate crafting elements to turn the room into a combination office/craft space. Or add a convertible sofa and have it do double duty as a guest room.
Once again, the keys are flexibility and functionality. As our consciousness continues to shift toward conservation of resources, home owners will want to see clever ideas that demonstrate that you understand their desire to make the most of what they have.
Workspaces work harder when you know your home buyers' movtivations.
Of course, choosing a creative space is just part of the equation. You must also consider the home buyer's motivation for downsizing in the first place and incorporate an understanding of that into your interior merchandising.
The challenge comes in pinpointing which motivations are driving the shift toward smaller square footage in your community. Here are some of the main motivations for downsizing, as well as a few suggestions for tailoring your merchandising to meet consumers' needs.
THE EMPTY NEST: Drive by a desire for less maintenance and less "empty" space, active adults may find hideaway office locations--such as inside a closet--appealing. Making the office do double duty as a tasteful guest room for visiting grandchildren will appeal to this market.
Another great idea for merchandising to active adults is to arrange a space in a room with a large flat-screen TV. A laptop computer can easily be connected to the TV, turning it into a monitor that's easier to see and work from.
ENERGY EFFICIENCY: Anything that shows an efficient use of space will appeal to prospective home buyers that are downsizing to conserve energy. Dress the space with a reclaimed wood desk and an Energy Star laptop, and you'll appeal to their conservative, humanitarian vision.
COST SAVINGS: Those who are moving to streamline costs might appreciate a clever workspace that folds down like a Murphy bed or any other conservative use of space. Inventive, yet attractive uses of permanent office space will also appeal to their desire to not only cut costs, but also live in sophisticated style.
First consider why your home buyers are moving closer in...to spend more time with family? To get more rest? Then plan a space that incorporates those desires into the plan. A home office armoire in the den will put your home owner in the midst of family activity and will also put the workday behind them when they close the doors.
Many parents are finding that the size of their homes keeps them from having quality time with their families. In a smaller home, a living room with flat-screen TV/computer monitor makes a great place for homework or family studying, yet converts back into an entertaining space for guests when the laptop is put away.
An office space in the kitchen helps parents work while keeping an eye on kids in the back yard. And the family dining table can give everyone in the family a comfortable place to do work together.
Salespeople complete the solution
As homes continue to get smaller in size, it's essential for salespeople to remind buyers how they really live and demonstrate the flexibility of the home.
A laptop sitting on an ottoman in the den just looks like a laptop sitting on an ottoman in the den until you reveal that the ottoman holds files, the large TV on the wall doubles as a monitor, and the laptop connects to their workplace network.
Then the whole room takes on new dimension and they begin to see that they're not losing space by downsizing, they're doing more with the space they have.
Author: Shawn Evans is the owner and president of P Four, an award-winning comprehensive sales, marketing, and interior merchandising firm based in the Washington, D.C. area.
With 20 years of experience in real estate marketing, sales, and interior merchandising in a mature urban region, Evans and his team have a unique and seasoned approach to making smaller spaces work harder, while still maintaining their sophisticated style.
Prior to starting P Four, Evans spent 12 years with Pulte Homes. He served as vice president of Del Webb for the Mid-Atlantic area. Under his leadership, the communities he oversaw were awarded Active Adult Community of the Year, Active Adult Clubhouse of the year, Best Green Marketing Campaign, and numerous other regional and national awards.
Prior to his Del Webb role, Evans was vice president of sales and marketing for Pulte Homes of the Mid-Atlantic. To contact him, visit www.PFour.com or email him directly at ShawnEvans@PFour.com
*Reprinted with permission from "Doing Double Duty in the Home Office" by Shawn Evans, 2009, Sales + Marketing Ideas, pages 36-40, copyright 2009 by National Sales and Marketing Council of The National Association of Home Builders.