All the Comforts of Home - Page 3

How the well-designed home office makes it easy to get to work

“I have a skylight directly over the floor area of the office, so when I’m sitting at the computer or the project table, there are just streams of light coming through all day,” she says.

George also uses the small space (only ten by seven feet) for a side business designing T-shirts, logos, and other materials, using a hidden worktable that rolls out when needed. Also in hiding but available when needed is Rebecca’s sewing machine.

Perhaps the best way to hide office equipment, however, is to get it out of the house entirely. David Glickman and Tracy Bartley did just that in the Palmer & Krisel neighborhood of Corbin Palms in Woodland Hills, where David assembled a prefabricated, stand-alone ‘modular dwelling’ behind their house to serve as Tracy’s office.

“It almost feels like you’re working in the backyard,” Tracy says. Their pair of hens often wander in, for one thing.

Tracy, an art historian and painter who handles the archive of the late artist R.B. Kitaj, uses the office for that work and for a part-time job with the Los Angeles school system coordinating use of schoolyards for public parks. That second role came about as an outgrowth of her activism in Corbin Palms as she sought community use of a schoolyard there.

In her Long Beach Rancho, Rebecca Wiant (left) enjoys her well-planned office for which she spent a lot of time “thinking it through and rethinking it through.”

David, also a painter, works building exhibition displays at the Getty Museum. He found the modular building, which usually retails for $20,000 to $25,000, as a floor model for half price at a home show, and assembled it over a weekend with friends. “It was a community house-raising,” David says. “I had the guys come over. We’d tilt up a wall or two and tilt up a beer.”

The office structure originated from Seattle-based Modern-Shed, one of several modern-style prefab-building manufacturers on the market. Its style meshes well with Tracy and David’s modern home, providing a compact 120 square feet of space. “It was a design dilemma to fit as much in there and still have room to work,” David says.

The office has electricity but no air-conditioning, ample storage, a deck, and is better insulated than their house, David says. It’s also homey.

“When Tracy is out there working, I can wave,” he says. “We make eye contact.”

Rebecca’s office is conveniently tucked between the kitchen and living room.

Another strategy for creating a home office involves merging rooms. Christine and Bill Bumgarner turned the two front bedrooms in their San Jose Eichler into a combination office-multimedia room. They use the office section to work—Christine often works on European or Asian time to communicate with overseas contacts—and their ten-year-old son Roger uses it for home schooling, working with a nanny who also serves as his teacher.

Although Roger’s schooling takes place throughout the house, with messy scientific experiments confined to the kitchen, much of it occurs in the home office. He takes virtual classes using the computer, and works on robotics there. One project is a robot that decorates Easter eggs.

The Bumgarners brought in glass artist Trudy Barnes to give the office a personal touch, with a design that incorporates a secret message in Morse code. “My husband and I work with codes all the time and now we have this coded message,” Christine says.

The Bumgarners, who work for Apple, outfitted the room with the latest in high-tech—Ethernet, iMac computers, a wall-mounted television, surround sound, cabinetry of sustainably grown wood, and the same computer-adjustable Workrite desks used at Apple.

“We’re as wired as one could possibly be, I think,” Christine says. None of that wiring, however, is visible. Nor is most of the office equipment. The printers are hidden. “You just pull them out when you need them,” Christine says, “and tuck them away when you don’t.”