As homeworking becomes a long-term solution, rather than a short-term fix, so clients in the residential sector are increasingly looking to architects and designers to come up with creative solutions that separate work and home life.
By Helen Parton
Open plan living has dominated residential clients’ wishlists for decades now but the Covid-19 pandemic has perhaps turned the tide as the benefits of being able to separate out different activities come to the fore. While commuter costs may have reduced and supermarket bought-sandwiches are replaced by home cooked lunches, so the need to invest in specific places for work and live has become more apparent, as people realise that commandeering kitchen tables, sofas and even beds as temporary workplaces wasn’t going to suffice for the long term. Homeworking is here to stay, with London’s Evening Standard newspaper reporting that nearly a third of people questioned didn’t want to go back to the office at all.
Studio Ben Allen’s Room in the Garden is a flatpack self contained workspace.
© Ben Tynegate
Architects have responded to this new work order with solutions that don’t compromise on style, space or indeed sustainability. Studio Ben Allen has come up with ‘A Room in the Garden’. This concept is ‘intended to relieve the congestion of the urban home’. It comes as a flat pack kit of parts with no on-site cutting required and screw and bolt fixing holes pre-drilled. When assembled, this creates an octagonal structure with a hexagonal roof, which frames a square skylight. The intention was to create a high quality yet affordable solution with low volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Surman Weston’s Heid One concept brings nature indoors thanks to its large swing window.
© Surman Weston
South London-based architecture practice Surman Weston, meanwhile, has come up with Heid One. This is a customisable, prefabricated garden room, combining traditional joinery craft with cutting-edge digital fabrication. The emphasis is on a harmonious, healthy space to work, which maximises natural light courtesy of a large window which swings open to bring in the outdoors. There is a strong sustainability story here too with a green roof to encourage biodiversity and even a bird box within the cladding.
Bisley’s HideAway desk is wall-mounted and opens to provide a practical worksurface.
If client budgets, briefs or both don’t allow for a completely separate room, there are a number space planning ideas to consider. The concept of broken plan: keeping the flow of an interior but retaining elements of privacy has been around for a while. Here half walls, split levels and mezzanines can create zones to break out. During the pandemic, this idea has been rapidly developed to include smart shelving incorporating space for greenery, simultaneously embracing the growing trend for houseplants.
USM’s world of plants provides separation and space for houseplants.
Desk surfaces can pull down from the wall by day and be shut away when the work is done and storage solutions adapted so an unloved nook or under-stair space becomes a practical place to put in the hours at work.
Framery One pod distributed by Welltek has a sound insulation system which cancels out noise.
© Framery One/Welltek
Manufacturers have worked hard to offer alternatives to architects and designers looking to specify set ups for home offices that don’t have a hard, corporate look but instead blend in to the domestic environment, while offering some degree of separation of the nine-to-five from family time.
While working from home might be part of our lives for some time yet, architects and designers can be relied upon to think of innovations to help draw a line between our work and non-work selves.