Leading hotels, large and boutique, have been quick to recognise and accommodate the morphing of business and leisure time in their designs, says Lawson Robb’s Alix Lawson. By giving guests a fine balance of exceptional hospitality with comfortable spaces for meetings or quiet time, they appeal to a wide well-travelled demographic.
The need to combine work and leisure is increasingly growing in the home. While the concept of home holds many meanings, the crux is to design very personal spaces that provide calm, privacy, refuge and inspiration, in living spaces as much as work spaces. Whether it is the home office of a bustling family or a sole resident does not detract from the need to have an isolated area dedicated to work.
The key attributes for a successful home working space are: wireless, uncluttered, spacious, and secure with a view outside and unexpected spaces to store items of value. Increasingly we are finding that clients want access to their home office via a separate entrance altogether, so that personal space remains so.
The home office needs to look like a place of work while referring to the personality of its owner and their line of a business. The head of a creative firm will have a very different space to that of someone in finance, reflected in the colour way and layout. The specification will also be driven by sector. A financier has recourse to multiple computers, while a film executive may need a large drop-down screen in addition to a home-based cinema.
For many of Lawson Robb’s clients, the call is for furniture of stature – a solid desk such as those by Davidson, seating areas of good proportion and ergonomic desk chairs by brands such as Poltrona Frau. Subtle lighting design is essential along with storage that takes account of what is to be displayed, such as books, trophies and photos. Computers themselves can now be finished in bespoke materials, such as those by Dudley & Roche. The sum parts are impressive without distracting and imbue professionalism as well as comfort.
Gone are the days of a complicated system of leads and partnering sockets, thanks to the growing market for wireless technology and home automation systems. These are a refreshing and a long-sought solution. However where leads are unavoidable, the key is careful space planning before any build or furniture installation. That way they can be chased through walls and floors and sockets positioned at exactly the right position to minimise intrusion. For the increasing internationalism of clients, the use of world-adaptive sockets is growing. Video or audio conferencing equipment can be incorporated, but discreetly so as not to overwhelm or overtly resemble a boardroom.
High security storage spaces are essential for business documents or items of worth. These can be concealed innovatively within specially tailored and automated joinery, with floors structurally reinforced to support heavy safes.
As much as work is about busy desk-time, it is also about engagement on a one-to-one level and essential downtime, during which the premise for many deals is brokered. Inviting seating areas and a drinks or hospitality bar are essential to this aspect. These are designed in keeping with the look of the rest but the area is delineated by rugs, introducing different fabric textures and incorporating more informal lighting.
For some clients, Lawson Robb is also designing the home office adjacent to private dressing rooms and en-suite bathrooms. This adds another dimension of sophistication and tailored space arrangement. This way, the entire working process, from getting ready to business negotiation, can be contained seamlessly within one space in the home.
In summary, the emphasis is on furniture and furnishings that are as individual and bespoke to the person as the rest of the home. The key is to create an added formality around the home office imbued with professionalism and as much of the owner’s personality as they wish to reveal.
Alix Lawson is co-founder of interior architecture and interior design firm Lawson Robb lawsonrobb.com