Creating A Home Office Space As Work-From-Home Becomes The Norm - 27 East

Residence

Residence / 1706326

Creating A Home Office Space As Work-From-Home Becomes The Norm

icon 13 Photos
A home office in East Hampton by DiSunno Architecture.

A home office in East Hampton by DiSunno Architecture.

A home office in East Hampton by DiSunno Architecture.

A home office in East Hampton by DiSunno Architecture. COURTESY DISUNNO ARCHITECTURE

A home office in East Hampton by DiSunno Architecture.

A home office in East Hampton by DiSunno Architecture. COURTESY DISUNNO ARCHITECTURE

A home office in East Hampton by DiSunno Architecture.

A home office in East Hampton by DiSunno Architecture. COURTESY DISUNNO ARCHITECTURE

A master bedroom office by Shannon Willey of Sea Green Designs.
Michele Scotto Trani of Sequined Asphault Studio.

A master bedroom office by Shannon Willey of Sea Green Designs. Michele Scotto Trani of Sequined Asphault Studio. MICHELE SCOTTO TRANI OF SEQUINED ASPHAULT STUDIO

Shannon Willey

Shannon Willey PEEK PHOTOGRAPHY

A Southampton law office that could fit in a small spare bedroom with lots of storage and extra chairs for family to visit.

A Southampton law office that could fit in a small spare bedroom with lots of storage and extra chairs for family to visit. JASON PENNEY/COURTESY PATRICIA MCGRATH DESIGN

A New York home office by Patricia McGrath Design.

A New York home office by Patricia McGrath Design. COURTESY PATRICIA MCGRATH DESIGN

Patricia McGrath's personal home office space in a sunny nook of the living room of her Bridgehampton house.

Patricia McGrath's personal home office space in a sunny nook of the living room of her Bridgehampton house. COURTESY PATRICIA MCGRATH DESIGN

Patricia McGrath

Patricia McGrath

Christopher DiSunno

Christopher DiSunno COURTESY DiSUNNO ARCHITECTURE

David Berridge in his home office in Sag Harbor.   DANA SHAW

David Berridge in his home office in Sag Harbor. DANA SHAW

David Berridge in his home office in Sag Harbor.   DANA SHAW

David Berridge in his home office in Sag Harbor. DANA SHAW

Brendan J. O’Reilly on Jun 18, 2020

A home office may not have been a must-have amenity for Hamptons homeowners before, but when working remotely became the norm for many professionals as the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, a workspace suddenly became a necessity.

With both spouses and perhaps some kids home from college all working or studying in the same house, even houses that were already equipped with an office needed more desks in private spaces to join Zoom meetings. South Fork interior designers and architects recently shared their ideas for creating workspaces — whether temporary or permanent — in any size home.

David Berridge, an architect with offices in Manhattan and Bridgehampton, said people have been bumbling along for months, waiting to see what happens. But recently, having had the experience of working from home for so long, they are asking, “Well why should I go into the office?”

Still, because there are still so many unknowns, he said, many people haven’t quite come to terms yet with the question of whether they should invest the time and effort to reconfigure their home. And if they are ready to move forward, the next question he identified is, “Where does that space come from in a preexisting home?”

The answer could be counterintuitive, he said. Rather than the spare bedroom becoming the office, someone who needs a larger office may move into the spare bedroom and turn his or her bedroom into the office.

“For me, as an architect, we’re trying to sell our expertise, and quite often when you interview a client … they have a certain fixed idea of what they want to do. And for me, the challenge is to ask them what they want, listen to what they think they need,” Mr. Berridge said. Then, he thinks outside of the box and looks for a solution in unexpected spaces.

He compared going to an architect to going to a doctor: “You don’t want the doctor to tell you, ‘You’re sick and you need surgery.’”

Clients who may think they need an addition on their house that will cost $200,000 to gain a home office may find they are wrong. “Sometimes an architect can say, ‘No, you don’t need to have an addition,’” Mr. Berridge said.

Most often, a home office will end up in a former bedroom, he said. But that bedroom may have “kiddie wallpaper” from when the children lived at home. It’s an opportunity for new wallpaper or paint. New millwork can add lots of storage, Mr. Berridge said, and to make the most efficient use of space he recommends completely removing the closet.

A closet gives a room away as a bedroom and is not an appropriate use of space in an office, according to Mr. Berridge, who also pointed out that the 4-inch-thick walls around closets take up valuable floor space.

In some homes, there simply isn’t a spare room available to turn into an office, or many family members require a workspace at the same time.

“People are having to find zones of the house for different members of the family, especially at this point with kids in schooling,” said interior designer Shannon Willey, the owner of Sea Green Designs in Southampton Village.

A customer came to her this month looking for outdoor furniture — high-top tables and chairs — for a new home office in his basement.

Ms. Willey said it’s not a request she would have anticipated, but the flexibility of outdoor furniture makes sense for a temporary office. A folding bistro table and chairs can take up a portion of the living room when needed and then be moved outside when the weather gets nicer, she suggested.

Patricia McGrath, an interior designer who has Coastal Home by Patricia McGrath Design shops in Bridgehampton and on Shelter Island, has designed home offices from Manhattan to the East End, and a recent job called for her to convert a bedroom for a lawyer.

“Even though it was his office, we still wanted it to look very neat at the end of the day,” she said. To that end, she installed USM shelves with a front that closes up like a garage door.

Fitting small desks in kids’ bedrooms will allow everyone their own space to work in while keeping the main family area free of clutter, Ms. McGrath said, adding that curated desk blotters, mousepads, accessory bins and wastebaskets can help the space feel homey and pulled-together. The objects should look good together but also appear as they have been accumulated over time rather than matching perfectly, she advised.

She also likes having a vase for fresh flowers or, perhaps, faux flowers wrapped with light strips that can be illuminated when the workday is done. She said flowers make one feel: “This is a nice place to be. ... I don’t feel like working is such a bother.”

Some clients want their office space in a shared area of the house like the living room — but they don’t want their desk to look like an office when they aren’t using it. Ms. McGrath recommends facing the desk into the room instead of toward the wall, and decorating it with some photographs and personal items.

For her own workspace, her desk has design books with agate bookends and a spoonback chair. “It just looks very inviting to me to sit down and do work,” she said.

A small rug, such as an oushak rug with some substance to it so that will stay put, can define the area and make it look like it was meant to be there, Ms. McGrath said. “It really grounds the space.”

She used small, interconnected tables that she can pull out when she needs more surfaces to work on, and can tuck back away when she is done.

A hair-on hide desk can be a statement piece and be used like a console table, and a live-edge desk can become the focal point of the room and can be a buffet table when needed, Ms. McGrath said. Many desks benefit from glass on top to keep them nice if a blotter is not being used, she added.

An acrylic desk can disappear in the room, and desks can be elevated too, like a 36-inch-tall console with a counter stool, Ms. McGrath said. Ms. Willey said she’s seen more interest lately in stand-up desks with adjustable heights.

The size of the desk will depend on how big of a computer screen or laptop the clients have and whether their work requires more than a computer and phone.

Drawers can be wired to provide a concealed charging space for phones and other devices, Ms. McGrath noted.

A big office appliance, such as a printer, does not necessarily need to sit on a desk or out in the open. Ms. McGrath said. A printer with wireless connectivity can go into a closet in the office or even across the hall.

A home office Ms. McGrath designed in a Shelter Island home has a beautiful water view and looks toward the sunset. However, the natural light can also create glare.

To control the glare, Ms. McGrath installed window treatments. She recommends fabric Roman shades. A woven shade that stops the glare and still lets some light in is one of her favorite window treatments, though shades can be lined to achieve a varying degree of blackout to meet a clients’ needs and preferences.

“The things about light is, multiple sources of light are usually what you need in every space, whether it’s a home office or any other room in a home,” Ms. McGrath said.

In addition to natural light and overhead light, dimmable floor lamps provide light from behind while reading, she said, and desk laps provide a more direct light.

Turning the big lights off when finished working and leaving the smaller light on can signal, “OK, I’m done now,” Ms. McGrath said.

Architect Christopher DiSunno of DiSunno Architecture P.C. in Sag Harbor said lighting in home offices has become a greater concern because of video conferencing.

“You need to be able to see the screen, still have light in front of you, but not create all sorts of crazy shadows,” Mr. DiSunno said.

Someone joining a video conference who wishes to be seen should not be backlit, either.

“If you situate yourself in the room with a window behind you, that makes it very difficult,” Mr. DiSunno said.

Ms. Willey said a good background for someone in a Zoom meeting is neutral but interesting. “Surroundings are pretty important, but also pretty easy to make look decent,” she said.

While a white wall can be fine, “you really want to have some deeper connection,” Ms. Willey said. This can be achieved with pieces of art, she suggested, such as abstract art, a beach scene or something more sculptural. For instance, her client with a new basement office picked out reclaimed wood for his wall, specifically for his Zoom meetings.

Whether a home office is remote and separate from the rest of what’s going on in the house, or sited somewhat adjacent and connected to the rest of the family living there is a personal preference, Mr. DiSunno said.

“Often we wind up making them separate in a way that they can have privacy for the most part,” he said.

Ms. Willey said having the ability to close the door and leave the work behind in that room is the most advantageous home office, and both she and Mr. DiSunno recommended putting a sleeper sofa in the office so it can still be used as a guest room in a pinch.

Built-in bookshelves combined with cabinetry can conceal printers and office supplies, Mr. DiSunno said.

Fast internet speeds are important in a home office, he noted. He said he likes to bring hardwired connectivity to a home office, a task that is more complicated in a house with a finished basement but still doable.

For those who need a television in their office to do their jobs — to keep up with the news or the markets — Ms. Willey recommends a picture frame TV that looks like an artwork on the wall when it’s not tuned to a channel.

To achieve a quiet workspace, there are a number of materials that can be used. Membranes can go behind drywall and underneath floors, and sound control drywall and special insulations can also reduce noise, Mr. DiSunno said. A double wall makes sound transmission super-limited, he added, plus triple-insulated and laminated windows reduce outdoor sounds.

Those with the means, the room and the regulatory permission to do so can put their home office in an accessory structure — but this is not always practical.

Mr. Berridge said an 8-foot-by-10-foot storage shed that’s insulated for the winter works for his writer friend, and far-reaching home Wi-Fi and cellphones make it more practical.

What’s permissible varies by town and village, Mr. DiSunno pointed out. For instance, East Hampton Town does not allow a bathroom in an accessory building other than a pool house or artist’s studio. He said having an office without a bathroom won’t be pleasant in the winter, especially if it snows on the East End ever again.

You May Also Like:

New York Eviction Moratorium Quietly Expires

The statewide eviction and foreclosure moratorium — which was extended twice over its nearly two-year lifespan during the COVID-19 pandemic — quietly expired last Saturday, without much fanfare. “In short, it was time for the moratorium to end,” State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. said. “I supported letting it expire.” The stopgap measure dates back to March 2020, when New York was the first national epicenter of the pandemic, prompting then-Governor Andrew Cuomo to announce a 90-day moratorium on evictions for residential and commercial tenants — meaning no one could be evicted in New York State until at least June ... 18 Jan 2022 by Michelle Trauring

Time To Get Seedy

In the plant world, life usually begins with a seed. Simple, right? You plant the ... by Andrew Messinger

Real Estate Drama: ‘Selling The Hamptons’ Premieres Thursday On Discovery+

There is, arguably, no harder real estate market to break into than the Hamptons. Not ... by Michelle Trauring

The Daybed: Reintroducing Your Sofa’s Chic Cousin

Ah, the daybed — the enigmatic, versatile, alluring, not-quite-a-bed, but also not-quite-a-sofa staple. In a ... by Andrew Bowen

Exploring The Options For Garbage Carting Service

It’s a tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it. Picking up the trash is a ... 17 Jan 2022 by Cailin Riley

Elaine De Kooning House And Studio Nominated To State, National Registers Of Historic Places

Artist homes, much like their inhabitants, tend toward the unique. Salvador Dalí stuffed his labyrinthine ... 11 Jan 2022 by Sophie Griffin

Order Now, Plant Later

Sitting in my office on a very cold winter day, I looked out at the ... by Andrew Messinger

Applications Now Open For Over $90 Million In Emergency Home Heating Aid

More than $90 million in federal funding through the Home Energy Assistance Program is now available to help low- and middle-income New Yorkers who are struggling to pay their heating bills amid fuel price increases this winter, Governor Kathy Hochul announced last week. Administered by the State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, applications for the home heating aid opened on January 3 for those who have already used up their regular benefit and are now facing an emergency, according to a press release. “With the arrival of frigid winter weather and surging fuel prices, we must do everything in ... 10 Jan 2022 by Staff Writer

Historic Relevance Of Proposed New Windows Continues To Rattle Restoration Project

There is nothing simple about upgrading worn-out windows in a classic old house in the ... 4 Jan 2022 by Peter Boody

A New Year Ramble

Lots of tidbits and morsels to discuss this week, so looks like we start off ... by Andrew Messinger
logo

Welcome to our new website!

To see what’s new, click “Start the Tour” to take a tour.

We welcome your feedback. Please click the
“contact/advertise” link in the menu bar to email us.

Start the Tour
Landscape view not supported
Send this to a friend