You Don’t Need a Home Office to Work From Home

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Eight years ago, Ojai, Calif.-based designer Vina Lustado created an off-the-grid tiny house so she could live a simpler, more sustainable lifestyle. The 140-square-foot home includes a workspace with a built-in wooden desk, and is furnished with storage units that nest inside each other and can be moved easily throughout the space.

While Ms. Lustado designed the tiny house for herself, the result—a seamless, minimalist living space for sleeping, cooking, eating and working—resonated with her clients. “People asked me to design their homes and offices to maximize efficiency with a very minimal square footage,” she says.

Fast forward to the coronavirus outbreak, which sent homeowners scrambling to configure their spaces for a new normal of working and schooling from home. Interest in a prefab, modular tiny home designed by Ms. Lustado’s firm, Sol Haus Design, soared. She will begin installing the outbuilding, which costs between $120,000 and $150,000, in backyards next year.

Work With You’ve Got

Vina Lustado’s 140-square-foot tiny house includes a lofted bed, a kitchen and a work space. Ms. Lustado’s work space combines a built-in desk, rows of shelving and moveable storage. Placing the desk by a window makes it feel spacious. PHOTOS: EILEEN DESCALLAR RINGWALD(2)

“Having a backyard unit with dedicated office space is really in demand,” she says.

The 260-square-foot module has ample storage within a simple, streamlined design. But for those without the budget or room to install an entire tiny home on their property, it can offer lessons on how to optimize space within close quarters.

Ms. Lustado recommends bringing in as much natural light as possible and sticking to lighter materials and paint colors that reflect, rather than absorb. Tuck away clutter and supplies into storage units closer to the floor, while using open-shelving above. “When you enclose upper-shelving in cabinetry, it is perceived as a mass or solid block,” she says.

“Any way you can open up the room, so the room feels bigger—like lots of mirrors,” says Tara Benet, a New York City designer. “And tons and tons of storage. Anything you can do to avoid clutter, whether it is a desk with built-in storage or a secondary piece.

In this Manhattan studio, Tara Benet added an invisible desk and pink filing cabinet from CB2, the Laclasica Chair from Design Within Reach, and sheer acrylic shelving.PHOTO: MARILI FORASTIERI

In a Manhattan studio, Ms. Benet installed an “invisible” Lucite desk against the apartment’s exposed brick. An adjacent pink file cabinet can be used as both an end table and a storage unit.

In a 4,500-square-foot pied-à-terre in Chicago, KADLEC Architecture + Design founder Steve Kadlec took advantage of a master bedroom nook to install a custom drop-down desk with open shelving above.

KADLEC Architecture + Design designed custom millwork for this master bedroom and office space in Chicago, which was inspired by a traditional writing desk.PHOTO: TONY SOLURI

“The idea of home office isn’t duplicating a corporate office in your home,” he says. “This space was designed so when the fold-down desk panel is up, all the paperwork can be tucked away.”

Mr. Kadlec also stresses the importance of setting up an environment that fosters creativity and productivity throughout the home. Adding the appropriate side table next to a couch, for example, creates a casual workspace. “With different pieces of furniture there is an opportunity to create mini spots for work,” he says. “It is about thinking of the whole house or apartment as being an opportunity for flexibility.”

‘In a small space you want to close the door, turn work off and go make a Manhattan.’— Curtis Popp

If a homeowner is considering renovations, identify underused space and get creative with it. Curtis Popp, founder of CPOPP WORKSHOP, carved an office out of a large coat closet in a one-bedroom, 800-square-foot condo in San Francisco. He lined the back wall with custom open shelving and kept the closet door attached. “In a small space you want to close the door, turn work off and go make a Manhattan,” Mr. Popp says.

Architect Ben Herzog often works with tight New York City homes. In a townhouse in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, he took advantage of a wide “in between” area in the kitchen and dining room area to install a floor-to-ceiling desk and storage unit. Magnetic paint added to the adjacent wall offers an interactive element for the client’s children.

In this Upper West Side apartment, architect Ben Herzog took advantage of a nook below the staircase to build an office behind a sliding translucent door. It is distinguished by a deep royal paint.PHOTO: BRETT BEYER

Real-estate agents are also getting creative, staging would-be second bedrooms or nurseries as home offices.https://5c4454b0b6196eec15dbd687bebcce41.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

“Before Covid, calling something a home office was kind of a throwaway,” says Compass agent Michael J. Franco. “Now I will go out of my way to find any excuse to include the phrase ‘home office’ and show people how they can be created on the floor plan.”

Grid Group Development has launched sales at 145 Central Park North in Manhattan, and is letting buyers work with the building’s architects, GLUCK+, to create home offices in their apartments. The 37-unit building will open for occupancy in early 2021.

An office in the model unit of 145 Central Park North.PHOTO: REDUNDANT PIXEL

Ryan Serhant, who’s leading sales and marketing, says several buyers have expressed interest in the offer.

“Anyone who is buying in New York right now is thinking about work from home.”

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