Once humbly called a study, the home office now may range from an alcove in the kitchen to a designated area in almost any other part of the house to a separate wing or floor. Regardless, it has evolved into a sophisticated, high-tech workspace.
When Russell and Rame Hruska, both of Intexure Architects, decided it was time to build a new home, they wanted a space where they could both live and operate their business. The two set out to design the perfect live/work environment, one that made the most of the pricey Museum District lot they had chosen.
“We’re committed inner-Loopers,” Russell Hruska says. “But especially in the area that we moved into, the Museum District area, land prices are expensive. Part of the design is to capitalize on the land purchase. By stacking needs, we are able to maximize the land use.”
The result is a 1,500-square-foot first-floor office, accommodating the Hruskas and their staff, combined with a 1,500-square-foot second-floor living space.
The office furniture is custom built — designed to make the most of the space available. Some of the pieces contain storage underneath the large layout space on top. Tables are designed to be dual use; a conference table can become one for formal dining, or a kitchen counter can also be the breakfast table.
The overall layout of the building is created with flexibility in mind. The building could also be easily converted into a fully residential or fully commercial space.
The building itself is designed to be green. It features a gravel driveway, water collection in the front of the building and is oriented to make the best use of natural sunlight.
There is one aspect Russell Hruska would change, though. In their next live/work building, he plans to design the layout to make the occupant step outside in order to get to their office space.
“Every good thing has its distractions as well,” Hruska said. “I can get up in the morning and go straight to work, and never go outside and never realize it’s a beautiful day.”
For the husband/wife team of Houston architects, the goal of combing live and work spaces led to a design which garnered a recent award from the Houston Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.
Russell Hruska says that live/work spaces are a growing as the price of both transportation and urban lots climb ever higher. And as technology makes it easier to work from home, the idea will become more and more appealing to professionals.
Today’s home office may include amenities such as wet bars, mini-kitchens and even exercise equipment, says Realtor John Daugherty, whose John Daugherty, Realtors office lists and sells high-end homes with some of Houston’s most beautiful work spaces.
Book-lined shelves, massive desks and Oriental carpets provide settings for executives to work at home in elegance and comfort.
Traditional or contemporary in design, the office is sure to include proper piping and wiring for technology — at the least, extra outlets to accommodate multiple computers, copiers and appliances such as mini-refrigerators — and, as Daugherty has in his own home office, a flat screen television.
An increasing number of new homeowners are requesting high-speed data cables for multiple A/V displays, networked printers and a host of computers, says Terry Jones of Edis Systems, a Houston-based audio/visual installation company that installs home technology for local builders such as Kickerillo Cos.
Jones has installed two to eight flat screen monitors in home offices so occupants can watch television through one, and operate their computer through another. The systems may be housed in custom-built enclosures so they are flush with the office wall. The company has also installed media servers inside the home so the user can access movies, music and other entertainment.
Additionally, with a larger reliance on the home office to do business, there’s an increased interest in security, Jones says. As part of the computer/home integration, office users can watch security camera streams directly from a terminal or computer while in their office. They can even keep an eye on things while away, viewing the cameras via the Internet.
While complicated to set up, these new systems are simple to operate, Jones says.
“Most of this stuff is integrated into part of the overall package,” he notes.
“As the office becomes more flexible, and the ability of technology will afford people to be able to work from any place,” Hruska notes. “I think more and more people will look to at least using some of the time to work out of the home. The ability to not actually have to drive around town and fill up the gas tank, but be able to go straight to the office is very nice. It’s a good, comfortable way to live.”