Interior Designers Seeing More Home Office Trends As Workers Transition

NEW YORK— Interior designers working before and even through the COVID-19 crisis, even if remotely, are among those who have seen interest in home office installation and upgrades as they help clients deal with remote work and school challenges.

Dan Crepps, Wayfair Professional general manager of interior design, said the professionals who use its services shifted pretty much in step with the mass market to support people transitioning to home-based labor and study as the coronavirus pandemic spread across the U.S.

“In early March, as many businesses transitioned to working from home, Wayfair Professional saw interior designers shift focus to home offices and organization,” he noted. “While the category of home office has always performed well with interior design clients, it saw double-digit growth in key categories during March and April as designers worked to provide their clients with dedicated work spaces that foster productivity while working remotely.”

Crepps said that desks, filing cabinets and bookshelves saw the greatest sales gains, with office sets including those items also experiencing a notable rise in demand, along with other product segments.

“With many Americans on their second or third month of working from home, Wayfair Professional is observing that clients are optimizing their living spaces in other areas of the home,” he said. “In more recent weeks, interior designers have broadened their remote projects, driving higher demand in outdoor, lighting, upholstered furniture and more. Across outdoor spaces specifically, designers have been working with clients to extend the comfort of their indoor living aesthetic to the outdoors, with deep-set patio couches, earth-toned rugs, vertical gardens, cement fire pits and more.”

In the interior design context, home office trends as observed by Wayfair Professional already were tending towards styles that can serve to enhance the function and aesthetics of shoppers crowding work into the residential environment.

“Glass-top desks and all-white desks have been popular, which has remained relatively consistent over time” Crepps said. “In smaller spaces, clear console desks and foldaway or wall-mounted desks have seen an increase in demand as they occupy less space and are often multi-functional, characteristics that clients are looking for to quickly solve their recent work from home needs. Filing cabinets and bookshelves have been of particular importance in dedicated home offices as clients looked to organize their space under new working conditions and with extended time being spent working from home.”

Storage for task-related materials and office supplies can help consumers in remote settings remain organized, reduce clutter and end a day or a week neatly, said Crepps.

Many home office pieces have multiple purposes.

“Bookshelves have been efficient, multi-purpose pieces as they also provide space for personal items, framed photos, and decor, to add a personal touch to a home office,” he pointed out.

Liz Morgan, creative director of JHL Designs, Portland, OR, said that the company’s clients value flexibility, such as the ability to move around during the day, but they also want a space where they feel comfortable, so even in relatively open environments, they want to set boundaries both psychological, with the use of noise cancelling headphones, and physical, by delimiting spaces through the use of barriers or the creation of designated spaces, even if only in a corner or niche. People want to feel secure, she said, and not feel, for instance, that no one might come up or circle behind them as they work.

Simple desks may suit many, particularly younger consumers, but that doesn’t mean full home offices have disappeared. Some, especially older and perhaps more senior, home workers want a room lined with books, heavy with storage or arranged to accommodate visiting clients and colleagues. However, even in situations where storage is a major consideration, as with architects and engineers who work with blueprints, more of what they do takes place digitally, so functionality is important. Yet functionality, in this case, may just mean the ability to mount a full-sized monitor to supplement a laptop screen and provide access to electrical connections.

At the same time, aesthetics remain important, not only in terms of consistency within the household but in creating lighter, brighter, more natural workspaces with soothing colors such as blue and green, and even houseplants.

Moreover, consumers, who generally have more knowledge of domestic design and working remotely today than would have been the case 10 or 15 years ago, and who lately have been looking to set up household workspaces quickly, recognize they can make home offices more functional and personal as they establish routines.

“People know that you can make the space on your own with any budget,” Morgan said “People who find they are working from home now may buy a desk for $99, but they also may find it’s worth something to get a nicer piece of furniture they can have for 10 years or longer. When you amortize that, it can be totally worth spending the money.”

Going forward, home office furniture purchasers, whether working with interior designers or on their own, will probably rethink and revisit initial purchases made under pressure— and in circumstances where they had to address an immediate need in a market where inventory has been eroded by heavy demand— as they recognize the value of function and style that suits their specific working challenges.

“The solutions will probably get more sophisticated as people are beta-testing ideas,” Morgan said.

—Mike Duff