Home is where the office is...

Ventilation and natural light are the two most important aspects when it comes to creating an ideal work environment. The office space should be demarcated from the home environment, writes Bindu Gopal Rao.

TAKING WORK HOME? You can  personalise your work                              environment with a potted plant, for instance.  (Right) Home offices should have a good view, great                                          seating, ventilation and light. (Photos courtesy: Kochuthommen Associates)

With advances in technology, whether wireless Internet or state-of-the-art communication systems, accessibility and affordability have meant that working from home is a reality. A home office is considered an important part of a home.

So, how does one go about creating one? Shweta Gupta, Partner, Soulscape Furniture & More advises, “First you need to write down what you will be doing from your home office. Your office space at home could be used for a conference with your team or it could serve as your private corner for very serious work.

Mostly the home office needs a computer linked to the web, printer, scanner and telephone. Some more elaborate ones also need tablets, speakers, mic, camera and gaming consoles. In all, this could mean a lot of cables which must be concealed.” The interiors should neither be overly professional and understated nor too loud and informal.

“The office space should be effectively distinct from the home environment. Personal preferences of colour, choice of design and layout, whether contemporary, modern or traditional should be kept in mind. Don’t use dark colours; use shades of white, pastel shades of blues and green which will lighten your mood,” says Harshawardhan Jayant Honmode, Division Manager for Architectural Markets, 3M India.

It is preferable to have your home office in a designated space where you can work in isolation, away from distractions. Ventilation and natural lighting are the two most important aspects for creating an ideal work environment. “Make sure that the room has ample doors and windows to let in enough fresh air and sunlight.

A bright and airy room makes for an ideal workspace. In case this is not available, then consider investing in full-spectrum lights and using a couple of air-purifying plants. Also consider the use of an AC to maintain air quality and temperature where natural ventilation is not possible. Use carpeting and create barriers to block noise. If you can afford it, consider wiring the walls with the new hybrid telephone cable that mixes traditional copper lines, coaxial cable and fibre-optic technology,” says Kochutommen Mathew, Kochuthommen Associates.

Furniture and furnishings

It goes without saying that the furniture in the home office needs to be both comfortable and ergonomic. The area also needs some storage to keep your laptop/system, books, CDs and stationery. “The chair used should be ergonomic with height adjustment, tilt and adjustable arms,” says Gupta. Modular fittings work well in this space. “Instead of a real desk, you can opt for one or two dining tables with a comfortable chair. You should have the space to work, so go for the biggest option possible,” says Christian Beettjer, Head Design, OMA Living.

“A home office desk unit in durable materials like wood, steel or glass and which integrates compartments for all PC parts and also storage for essential items will help transform your home office into a professional environment.

“While choosing a desk, it is better to avoid solid/chunky ones as this makes the room look smaller. A built-in shelving unit is perfect for storing books and objects in a small space. If the space needs to be flexible then consider furniture that can be folded and made compact or have wheels so that they can be moved around easily,” says Mathew. Sachin Sehgal, Director, Studio a+i advises, “To maintain economies-of- scale one can always re-upholster the existing furniture befitting the design and decor. However if someone is not adept at it they can always go for multipurpose customised home-office furniture available in the market or search online.”

Decor factor

The best way to do up your home office is to ensure that it reflects your personality. Going minimalist is the best way. Keeping the area functional and clutter-free is a practical option. Taking the help of an interior designer is a good idea. “If you have troubles decorating, consult a shop and ask the staff to help you. Take pictures so you can explain what you’re looking for,” says Beettjer.

“A focal point gives the eye an initial point of interest so that it can begin to take in the interior design of a room with ease. Calm and soothing colours work best in this environment, as loud colours often cause distraction. Contemporary decor often has a stainless steel armchair and distinctive geometric wall art creating stunning looks. The colour palette is limited to black and grey or has a monochrome scheme,” says Mathew. The most important factor is to strike a balance in the decor.

“If your home office has abundant lighting, you have wider options, of selecting dark wood furniture and dark flooring. However, if it’s a smaller space and natural light is a challenge, then sticking to lighter tones would be more suitable,” says Madhan Vasudevan of A 360.

Trends

Minimalism is in, with classical touches. “Interesting art elements such as paintings, sculptures or wall covers in vivid colours creating an inviting and fresh work zone are new trends. Compartmentalisation of space so as to enable retrieval of things with interchangeable components to maximise space is also a trend,” opines Honmode.

Wenge wood cupboards have a sophisticated look and discreetly hide paperwork. “Textured taupe wallpaper sets a subdued tone and chunky dark wood furniture has strong connotations. A custom-made desk in faux-crocodile skin adds a sophisticated touch to this elegant home office. Use furniture with toughened glass tops and steel which is sleek, modern and also durable.

Location is the most important aspect to be considered. Having a well-lit and ventilated room prevents the use of artificial air conditioning and lighting during the day and cuts down on electric bills,” says Mathew. “One of the biggest trends we are seeing in home-office design is that homeowners can choose unconventional furniture and storage options that serve the same purpose as traditional office furniture, but are much more stylish and personal,” opines Vasudevan.

Green thoughts

A vital aspect in home decor is ensuring that you keep the environment in mind. If you like wood, opt for recycled wood or plantation woods like rubber and acacia. Acoustical panels can be used for noise reduction and partitioning. If you want to be sure that the Vaastu of your home office is correct, Kochutommen Mathew points out that the ideal location is in the south or west.

“Avoid a home office in the north-east sector of the house. The entrance door to the office should face south; avoid entry from north. Make sure that there are no obstacles in front of any door of the office. The windows should preferably be on the north and east sides. Always position the furniture desk in the south and west sectors of the room and avoid furniture in the north-east.

The desk should face north, east or north-east. Avoid facing south or west while working. Storage for all the important documents should be in the south-west direction and the safe should be in the north,” he explains. Kamal Meattle, CEO, Paharpur Business Centre & Software Technology Incubator Park adds, “Go natural by using bamboo which is not only a renewable resource, it’s also easy on the eye and is tech-friendly. The 3 Rs approach of ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ must be the principle in mind.” If you would like to see a home office, check ‘Prana’, an energy-efficient home office that will be exhibited at ACREX 2012 this month in Bangalore.

‘Prana’ will have air-conditioning using geo thermal energy (earth air tunnel system), radiant flooring, efficient water and lighting fixtures, use of local and recyclable materials which will sensitise visitors about sustainable lifestyles without compromising on modern-day comforts.

“Prana will be a permanent exhibit installed at BIEC. It will illustrate how office and home spaces can be made self-sustainable,” says D Nirmal Ram, Chairman, ACREX India 2012.

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