Advancing technology changing the look of home office

  • Home offices are now taking on a more comfortable, softer look with tables, instead of bulky computer desks.

    Home offices are now taking on a more comfortable, softer look with tables, instead of bulky computer desks. COURTESY OF WALTER E. SMITHE FURNITURE

  • Donna Hall

    Donna Hall

  • A writing desk, instead of the traditional computer desk, along with a bookcase in the background that houses decorative items, are part of the new look of a home office, said designer Donna Hall.

    A writing desk, instead of the traditional computer desk, along with a bookcase in the background that houses decorative items, are part of the new look of a home office, said designer Donna Hall. COURTESY OF SAVVY INTERIOR DESIGN INC.

  • This Hinsdale home has all of the office components behind doors in the built-in wall. The room can be used as a small living room or library, not necessarily as an office, said designer Donna Hall.

    This Hinsdale home has all of the office components behind doors in the built-in wall. The room can be used as a small living room or library, not necessarily as an office, said designer Donna Hall. COURTESY OF SAVVY INTERIOR DESIGN INC.

  • A Keno writing table replaces the more traditional computer desk in some offices.

    A Keno writing table replaces the more traditional computer desk in some offices. COURTESY OF WALTER E. SMITHE FURNITURE

  • Some people still want organizing systems, like this wall unit and desk combination.

    Some people still want organizing systems, like this wall unit and desk combination. COURTESY OF WALTER E. SMITHE FURNITURE

  • This laptop desk often replaces the bulky computer desks in a home office.

    This laptop desk often replaces the bulky computer desks in a home office. COURTESY OF WALTER E. SMITHE FURNITURE

  • Mark Smithe, center, Tim Smithe, right, and brother Walter Smithe at their Walter E. Smithe Furniture showroom.

    Mark Smithe, center, Tim Smithe, right, and brother Walter Smithe at their Walter E. Smithe Furniture showroom. DAILY HERALD FILE PHOTO

  • Designer Janet Davidsen, in background.

    Designer Janet Davidsen, in background.

  • Janet Davidsen

    Janet Davidsen

 
 
Posted11/13/2011 6:00 AM

The rapid changes of technology have affected more than those devices you use for mobile computing.

Laptops, notebooks and iPads have radically changed the look of the home office as a workhorse. Instead, any room in the house will do, or even a multipurpose room, experts said.

 

"That's because the tower is dead," said Walter E. Smithe, who heads his Itasca-based namesake furniture stores around the suburbs. "Most offices had to accommodate those (computer) towers and you couldn't use that space for anything else."

Along with those towers, the hulking PC monitor is disappearing, along with equipment that was typically stored in those bulky computer desks. That includes related wires, gadgets and peripherals that were scattered around. And as people embrace a paperless office, more files are stored electronically, so those huge credenzas and file cabinets are changing as well.

As a result, the wireless age is changing the furniture industry and how interior designers view a room where wireless work is done.

Many people are opting for more beautiful, softer surroundings, and getting away from the traditional computer desk. Many are using tables to accommodate their laptop, Smithe said.

Still, those who work at home still need organization, or a quiet place to concentrate, so some organizing systems are still popular, Smithe said.

"They have more input on how furniture is being used," Smith said. "A desk could be in the family room or living room, and make it a like an office. They're a lot more flexible."

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And even the old-time roll-top desks are making a comeback. People can still use their mobile equipment there, cover it when guests arrive, and then later quickly roll it back up and return to work, he said.

"And we're selling a lot of beautiful, simple writing desks, which are perfect for iPads and laptops," Smithe said.

Also, bookcases now are used more for decorative pieces rather than storing books and other furniture is changing as well, said Janet Davidsen, owner of Details in Design Inc. in Wheaton.

"The look is more simple now," said Davidsen. "Business is now being done over the computer, via email and the Internet, so we're not using as many file cabinets anymore."

She agreed that tables are in for the person wanting to sit and concentrate and use their mobile devices. And the room includes softer images, including window treatments and special lighting, such as a chandelier she installed for a client in his 30s.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Technology has really changed the way we work and what we work in," she said.

Faxes and printers also are fading pieces of equipment, and are being stored inside closets, credenzas or other compartments, said Donna Hall, president of Hinsdale-based Savvy Interior Design Inc.

"Some desks are more decorative now with legs or pedestals and they have a prettier and cleaner look, not the typical bulky look," Hall said.

Those desks also don't accommodate keyboards, which also appear to be less used.

She sees some file cabinets still in use that are now concealed behind wall paneling, or even work surfaces stored inside walls and later pulled out when needed.

"The home will become more cozier, and now have as many components and not look like the workhorse it once was," Hall said.

These trends are not just local. They are nationwide, according to the American Society of Interior Designers in Washington, D.C.

Changes in computer technology has become a boon to interior design and the home office is no longer tied to a specific space, said designer Annette Phillips, an association member and owner of Your Style Inspired in Vienna, Va.

Computer desks are really now docking stations and require much less space," Phillips said.

They also can serve as an organizational space. This opens possibilities as more drop-front secretaries or vanities offer character and charm to a room.

"After work, you can close the top and the room is ready for another use, perhaps as a guest room," said Phillips. "Because of the flexibility of laptops, your home can now multi-task, more functions with less space required."

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