Home Office Mall: The DESIGNER
Things used to be so simple. Not all that long ago, when a client asked for a designer to create a home office, much of the concern for the way the client functioned revolved around which side of the desk the typewriter return went on. The wiring/cabling problems were largely limited to the phone, the desk lamp and the electric typewriter.
Today, however, the way people work has changed. Computers have all but replaced typewriters. The study of Ergonomics, (the relationship between man and his working environment, with special reference to anatomical, physiological, and psychological factors; human engineering), has changed the way we look at human physiology within the workplace.
What has been largely overlooked in the equation, however, is the pressing need for todayís workplace to also be Electro-entopic - (from the Greek-entopos meaning: in its correct place.) The term Electro-entopic, describes ergonomically correct placement within the workspace, of electric, electronic, and mechanical components, as well as functional task areas.
To further complicate todayís assignment, unlike designing around a typewriter, it is difficult to properly design a home office for todayís computer-user without being thoroughly conversant with the technology as well as the unique day-to-day functional requirements of the computer user.
Hereís what a design professional might hear in the way of instructions from a computer-using client in need of a Home Office today---
"Letís see, what am I going to need?...well, right now Iíve got... a tower CPU, a 17Ē monitor, the keyboard, the mouse, the speakers, the fax/scanner/copier/printer combination unit, a separate color printer, the caller-ID unit, the intercom, and an external CD-ROM drive. Iíll need an uninterruptable power supply, and of course I need a separate surge protector for the printers because they canít be run off the same system.
Iíve got a fax card and a modem installed in the computer for electronic transmissions and web access. So thatís two phone lines, and that means two going into the CPU, and two more coming out of the CPU. I did a count the other day and right now I have 14 cords and cables attached to the CPU , but at some point in the future I may add video conferencing. By the way, I need to get at the back of the CPU periodically without disturbing the cords. The same with printer access.
I need to be able to easily change cartridges, load paper and clear paper-jams. Every so often I have non-computing work to do, so I need a good amount of clear desk space. A U-shaped work area might be convenient. A compact drafting table and a reference material stand would be handy... maybe you could design something that would do double duty. Iíd also like to have a bulletin board and a write board nearby and Iíll need intensity adjustable lighting for the desk.
I prefer to have some air movement while I work, because it helps keep me alert, so maybe you could work that out too? I donít like clutter, so try to get my desk accessories and phone and such up off the desk top, please. By the way, can you figure some way to make that monitor go away when Iím not using it? It really eats up a lot of desk space. Maybe thereís a way to electrically elevate it to an overhead storage compartment.
Now...Iíll need a couple of file drawers in the immediate work area, and oh yes, donít forget an out-of-the-way place to plug in the cellular phone charger . By the way, I like to have a miniature TV on my desk...it keeps me company while I work, so Iíll need cable access along with a good supply of extra electrical outlets.
Where was I? Oh yes, I really donít want to have to look at all this equipment when Iím not working, no point in sacrificing the utility of an entire room just because Iím working in it part of the time, so letís plan on doors. And while youíre at it, letís make them lockable.
Oh, and sometimes I leave the computer on all night while Iím downloading a big file. I have to be careful not to let the peripherals overheat, so you might want to think about designing an ambient cooling system to protect the computer equipment.when the doors are closed.
Speaking of closed doors, letís donít forget that Iíll need a good ergonomic chair, but you know, no matter how attractive they are, ergonomic chairs still do nothing for the surrounding decor, so how about simply making the chair close up inside when itís not in use. That way nobody will even know thereís a Home Office in that room at all.
You know, I was thinking, Iíve got all this equipment. It would be wonderful to be able to turn all of it off or on from a single control panel Maybe even with the alternative of using a single switch for everything, including the light. You can figure out how to do that, canít you?
Now, Iím not all that certain in which room Iím going to want this, so perhaps you can just design the whole thing as one unit and make it mobile and then weíll have the option of putting it anywhere. That would make sense. But for Peteís sake donít make me look at wheels. Listen, why donít you just go ahead and design the whole thing as a single armoire type affair, and do it so that all the electronics are pre-wired and pre-cabled and all Iíll need is a single 110 volt electrical outlet and a phone jack to run everything. Boy wouldnít that make life easy! You can do that, canít you? And best of all, if we sell the house or I get transferred, I can take it with me when we move!
OK, lets think about finish materials. Shall we use Mahogany? Iíll want you to use the real thing of course...well, we can decide which finish after you come up with the overall design. Oh, and please donít use any particle board in the construction, because I want this to last.
Now... about budget...do you think you might be able to get this done for me, including the ergonomic chair, with arms, of course, and remember it's got to close up inside without giving up any of my desk space, and let's see, plus all of my desk accessories plus the disappearing monitor thing and the hidden mobility feature plus the lights and the fans and the surge protection and the back-up power supply, and the electrical wiring and hidden cabling so we don't need anything more than a single electrical outlet to run the whole shebang, including all of my computer equipment, and yes, let's do plan on using mahogany, and give me lots of storage space, and...well, goodness, that ought to do it...oh, did I remember to mention that I'd really like to have it in place by a week from Tuesday? So what do you think, can you get this kind of thing built, delivered and installed for me right away, for say...under $10,000.?"
The above article appears in the Dec.'96/Jan.'97 issue of AXIS, the magazine of the South Florida Chapter of the A.S.I.D. The author, Cynthia von Kittendorf-Gurin, along with her husband and business partner Robert Gurin, B.S. M.S. PhD. are principles of The Summerland Group of Stuart, Fla. Summerland's product, The OFFICE (which meets all of the above requirements) was awarded International Grand Prize in Home Office competition at NeoCon, the World's Trade Fair for Interior Design, Facilities Management & Communications. The OFFICE and their newest line, The Learning Station, (which again took Grand Prize the following year) offers a wide variety of mobile, height-adjustable desks which convert to computer workstations at the touch of a switch, can be found on the World Wide Web at The-Office.com