home office, stand-up desk, workplace
Photo Credit:  Francois Dischinger for Herman Miller

Today’s home office borrows the best ideas from the workplace and adapts them to residential use while allowing for sky-is-the-limit personalization. Just as in the workplace, the home office has changed along with technology and the nature of work.

Custom ceilings, fingerprint-activated locks, sit-to-stand desks, a space for the dog to hang out and lots of light are the new look of power in home office design. Experts in office design share the latest trends.

1. Smaller is more. The ever-shrinking size and growing functionality of computers and their accessories means home offices require less space. “The square footage of private offices is 25 percent smaller today than it was seven or eight years ago,”said Jeff Kaufman, owner of Jules Seltzer Associates, a Los Angeles furniture showroom and interior design firm. Design experts say home offices are less likely to contain oversize desks and bulky file cabinets, yet often look like living rooms with upholstered furniture, statement lamps and adjustable-height tables that function as desks. “The design is as diverse as people’s taste,”Kaufman said.

2. On your feet. “Sitting is the new smoking. It’s an often-repeated phrase today,”said Tim Kay, managing director of project and development services at JLL, a Chicago-based commercial real estate firm. “People are finding that they want to work standing up for part of the day,”he said. The sit-to-stand desk is a new standard at his company. “All the big manufacturers offer them now—Knoll, Steelcase, Haworth, Herman Miller, Trendway.”Herman Miller recently introduced an executive version of the Renew Sit-to-Stand desk, featuring integrated electrical outlets, cord management and an optional wood veneer.

3. See the light. The dark, wood-paneled office was impressive in the day of robber barons. Research and well-being experts suggest that exposure to natural light throughout the day aids productivity. As a result, more glass windows, walls, skylights and even French doors are being incorporated into luxurious home offices. For the ultimate in controlling the day’s rays, windows with a light-reactive glazing technology can, at the flip of a switch, adjust the tint in glass to reduce light, glare and heat. New sun-activated glass automatically darkens and lightens in response to sunlight. Stephen Tomar, principal of Los Angeles interior design firm Tomar Lampert Associates, also installs translucent sunshades to temper glare and heat. “A sensor knows when to automatically lower them. On cloudy days, they stay up,”he said.

4. Grab the remote. Today’s executives can control the workplace or the home office from the palm of their hands. Homes and offices can be wired so that lighting, temperature, security, window shades and even the pool can be operated from in-wall iPads or mobile iPhones, said Tomar. Home theater systems with surround sound, hidden speakers and expansive monitors that wirelessly connect to the Internet are also becoming a new home office standard.

5. Throw away the key. Even though home offices offer more privacy, they still need to be secure. A locksmith can install biometric door locks that are activated by a fingerprint and fueled by AA batteries. Unlike other biometric locks, Maxwell Biometric locks aren’t connected to the Internet, said CEO Rachel Maxwell, who wanted to create an unhackable, self-powered lock. Four deadbolts add additional security. Biometric safes are also available at some home hardware centers.

6. Statement ceilings. If the Sistine Chapel can have Michelangelo, a custom home office can have just about anything. Designers are using custom-printed stretch panels, such as those by Barrisol, to achieve undulating, abstract ceiling forms and murals for virtually any flat surface. Ceilings can be covered with nature scenes, textiles, artwork and the ever-popular sky with puffy clouds.

7. The ultimate chair. “People who used to look at a tufted, high-back chair that would match their Chesterfield sofa are now saying, ‘Give me a clean, ergonomic, modern chair,’”said Kaufman. They have their choice of an endless array of customizable fabrics (stretch, leather, fabric or recyclable), bases, casters (carpet or hard floor), and adjustments to seat, arms, tilt and lumbar support. The latest is the Yves Behar for Herman Miller Sayl Task Chair that reflects the suspension architecture of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The new look of power. Imposing desks used to reflect prestige—and they still do. But at home, freedom of expression is the new benchmark of success. Home offices—like the famously creative workplaces of Google, Yelp and Pinterest—have personality and all the comforts of home. When home is your office, designers are free to add an art or guitar collection, an espresso bar, or even a special spot for the dog.