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Why Compact Pocket Offices are a Big Trend

As the line between work and home life continues to blur, it’s no wonder that the housing industry is abuzz about pocket offices. It’s one of the biggest trends in new residential design, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

Having a pocket office with a small space devoted to work or household affairs can save money and space. Pocket offices are generally about half the size of a typical home office in a medium sized-house and usually range from 16 to 80 square feet, says Sean Canning, principal architect at Ten Seventy Architecture in San Diego.

Why Now?

Pocket offices are trending in large part to the increasing popularity of technology. “A decade ago your office was a destination,” Canning says. “Today you carry your work with you.”

Many homeowners also want to maximize the use of the square footage in their homes, and creating compact offices is one way to do that, says Matt Butterfield, principal at Butterfield Custom Homes in Austin, Texas. An extra bedroom that might have been used as an office in the past may now be used as living space for extended family members. That means some homeowners are now trying to find a new place for their office.

Find the Right Location

To create the perfect pocket office, consider re-purposing an existing space like a large closet, says Cathy Schwabe, an architect and owner of Cathy Schwabe Architecture in Oakland, Calif.  Or optimize space in a home that would normally be forgotten by adding a pocket office under the high point of a homeowner’s staircase, she says.

To find the right location for your client, make sure to ask the following questions:

  • Do you like being near your family or by yourself when you work? Clients who want to keep an eye on their kids might like a pocket office connected to the kitchen or living room, Butterfield says.
  • How neat or messy do you keep your work area? If clients have tidy work areas, the location isn’t as much of an issue. But, if their offices tend to have piles of papers and books, an area that has enough room to accommodate doors is important, Canning says.

Make it Functional

It’s important to make a pocket office as functional as possible. Adding a built-in desk that has a spot for a printer and drawers for office supplies can be an efficient use of the small space, Butterfield says. The pocket office should also include outlets that are ideally built into the inside of the cabinets to hide Internet and phone wires. Add recessed lights to save desktop space in an already cramped area.

Consider the Client’s Work Style

Before choosing a door it’s important to consider the homeowner’s work style first. Most pocket offices use pocket doors because they can slide into the wall and make good use of limited space, Canning says. There is one downside — pocket doors require a more complicated wall assembly and generally don’t operate as well as regular doors, Canning says.

Instead, consider installing a sliding door. It’s a similar option, but it is easier for homeowners to maintain and use because the door hangs from the wall or ceiling without a bottom track, he says.

If the homeowners are looking for quality quiet time in their office, sliding doors might not be the best option because they don’t seal well when they’re closed, Canning says. In that situation, if space allows for it, a hinged door made of solid wood is a better alternative because it closes into the frame, which helps to block out noise, Schwabe says.

Glass doors are another option, but they aren’t always a great fit if the homeowner keeps a messy desk or wants to separate work from home life. If the homeowner is still set on having glass doors, Schwabe suggests putting a twist on the concept by using frosted glass or two panels of glass with rice paper in between.

Adding any type of pocket office to a home lets clients get work done in the comfort of their own home without taking up too much square footage. “Most of the time, people aren’t looking for a fancy office to bring people into but a workstation to get things done,” Butterfield says.

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