Oh, the home office, that catch basin of neglect, that repository of roller-wheel chairs and sorta-good-enough desks and framed photographs too meaningful to throw away but too ugly to hang elsewhere.
For my longtime clients Peter and Brenda Juric, the home office had become a kind of purgatory, a place where outcast furnishings collected in unhappy arrangements, their fates uncertain and overcast.
As developers, Peter and Brenda are well acquainted with good design, and take pride in the beauty of the homes they build on Vancouver's west side. And, as frequent entertainers, the wild patch of their own office had become a source of embarrassment.
It called for a renovation, and they charged us with creating maximal functionality and crisp design. Here are five questions we answered in doing so:
Why a galley-style floor plan?
Before the renovation, the room at its centre held two desks facing each other, perpendicular to the window wall.
Not surprisingly, the arrangement felt awkward. To move around was to navigate obstacles.
Peter and Brenda wanted to capitalize on the length of the room rather than fight it. We decided to run the desks along the window wall, a move that conferred three benefits. It opened up the view to the front garden for those working. It radically increased the surface area available for working.
And it created space to build full-depth millwork on the opposite side of the room, an area now available for file storage and a flip-up countertop on which to review architectural drawings.
The idea was that, even with drawers open and bodies in motion, the office should comfortably accommodate two people at work.
Why the modern light fixtures?
Lighting functions the way an adjective does. It describes. When poignant, light enhances the essential parts of a room's composition. When banal, it diminishes them.
We wanted the playful utilitarianism of the Torch Light fixture (by the U.K. design team Established and Sons) to counter the plain white of our office's background, leaving the matte-black finish to reference the room's other dark elements – carpet, hardware, computers, and Eames chairs.
The smack of modernism contrasts sharply with the quiet elegance of the rest of the Jurics' home.
Our hope: that a visitor looking through the glass from the front entry be surprised by the room's smart feel.
In addition to the ceiling fixture, we selected black Tolomeo desk lamps. A design classic, the articulating lamps are one of my favourite additions to offices, even bedsides. They adjust effortlessly and provide great task lighting.
Why the bamboo desktop?
Like a dinner table or kitchen counters, a desktop has to endure a lot of abuse. For this reason we usually avoid paint-grade finishes and stick to more durable materials. At the top of our list is stone slab – it's bomb-proof but also extremely expensive. For this desk surface, stone would have run $5,000 – too much for a secondary area of the home.
After stone, the most durable option is plastic laminate. It feels institutional and cheap, however, so we often prefer a mid-toned wood desktop.
In this case, we went with bamboo.
Bamboo is very hard, and resists denting and chipping. better than wood does. (It scratches as much as wood, but the abrasions are shallower and hide well on a light- or mid-toned product.) We also liked the colour of bamboo for this room: it helped warm a space whose modernism risked austerity.
Why the gallery wall?
I love the look of artworks grouped on a wall. It has an impromptu air that draws you into the space. That was what we were hoping for here – the wall is first thing guests see as they peer from the entry, through the glass door into the office.
Our motivations weren't purely aesthetic; the wall tells a story. As second-generation Vancouver developers, Peter and Brenda are proud of their roots. Among other items, framed on the wall is Brenda's parents' first building certificate. As the two are at their tasks in the office, it's pleasant to be able to glance up and remember where things started.
What about techneeds?
Offices have a lot of requirements – especially when it comes to machines. In addition to the desk and filing cabinets, Peter and Brenda needed space for a printer/fax and paper shredder.
For this, we were able to take advantage of the recess in the corner on the wall opposite the window.
Within the recess we designed high upper cabinetry to store stationary and tools and an illuminated cubby below for a pin board.
We left an open space to accommodate the printer and fax, so that it would be accessible but not conspicuous.
Wall Colour: Cloud White, OC-130, Benjamin Moore, benjaminmoore.com
Millwork and trim: Cloud White OC-130, Benjamin Moore, benjaminmoore.com
Hardware: Bradford Hardware, bradfordhardware.com
Rug: Custom design, The Sullivan Source Inc., sullivansource.com
Lighting: Established & Sons, informinteriors.com
Desk Lamps: Toleme, artemide.ca
Chairs: Setu Chair, Herman Miller, hermanmiller.com
Storage boxes: Black and white, Room In Order, roominorder.com