L.A. at Home

Design, Architecture, Gardens,
Southern California Living

Category: Home Office

The new house rule: No work at home

Wes BausmithOnly recently did Parrish and Tom Chilcoat realize just how bad the habit had become. As soon as they would get home in the evening and reconnect with the kids, they also would go back to monitoring work. “I'd be trying to check work emails while making spaghetti in between,” Parrish said. “Tom would be in the living room ‘playing' with the kids, but I knew he was checking emails, work projects, not to mention Facebook! It all felt wrong.”

The result, Tom said, was that “after long days at work we'd come home to this chaotic and unorganized time at home.” So a few months ago the couple agreed to ban all electronics in their Los Angeles home between 5 and 8 p.m. Now that time is devoted to board games, reading and making dinner with their kids, ages 3 and 6.

“No more checking email or Facebooking during that time,” Parrish said. “It's a work in progress, but I'd say we are more focused, unified and happy as a family.”

Families who declare laptop-free zones or phone-free periods have company. House rules may vary — no iPad at the breakfast table, no laptops during prime time in the living room, no BlackBerries in bed — but the goal is the same. Stop work life from seeping into family life and be fully present for one another.

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Spare closet turned into hidden home office

Closeted home office
Small home offices are big right now, according to the National Assn. of Home Builders, and when my colleague Lisa Boone wrote about the trend two months ago we invited readers to share photos of their pocket offices. Among the photos that rolled our way was this design sent by Katie McAuliff, a Chicago designer whose firm, LB Interior Design, converted a client's spare closet into a space-efficient work area.

Closeted home officeThe project was a reminder that anyone with a guest bedroom, kids playroom or TV room could equip the closet as a pocket office without losing the function of the rest of the room. It's an idea we saw done well when profiling the Studio City home of furniture designer Reza Feiz a few years ago (photo below).

For those DIYers among us, we posed some additional questions to McAuliff, who worked on the project with business partner Lindsay McDonell. We asked for specifics about how they put the space together for this edited Q&A:

Could you tell us a bit more about the doors? Are they powder-coated metal or painted wood? And is that a strip of wood delineating the colors?

The doors were made with three Wilsonart laminates and a raised piece of wood trim to separate colors. Laminate is a little tricky for the DIYer (and requires routers, files, etc.). To achieve this look, my advice would be to paint the colors onto existing doors, then add the trim pieces using glue and small nails. [McAuliff credits the doors pictured here to Brian Haughey of BH Woodworking.]

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Dog paper clips and other smile-inducers for the work week

Dog paper clip yellow

If only dog-shaped paper clips could solve all of the world’s problems. In the quest to bring a little levity to the desk or computer to which you’re no doubt tethered for too, too long, we’ve rounded up some of the latest home office novelties to cross our screens.

Bicycle Paper ClipsMoustache paper clipsWe'll start, of course, with the dog-shaped paper clips, available in a multibreed pack of five for $3.99 at the Container Store. (We've been debating the breeds; check out all five dogs at the end of this post and weigh in with your opinion.)

If canines aren't you're thing, mustache paper clips (five for $3.99) let you clip a little Ryan Gosling (circa “Lars and the Real Girl”) or James Franco (circa “Milk”) to your papers. And for the pedal pusher? Bicycles (four for $3.99) are also part of the Container Store paper-clip extravaganza.

Office-Plug-chargerJust out from the Monrovia design studio and web store MollaSpace: The Plug Battery Charger is a portable lithium ion battery that recharges Apple devices on the go, without having to plug them into a wall.

One end of the device is a USB port, so you can charge the device off your home computer. The other end is a twin-pronged cover that lifts off to reveal the Apple connector. Slip the charger into a bag or pocket as a portable power source, and in a pinch you can charge iPods to 100% or iPhones to about 30%, the company says. It's $26 and goes on sale this week. Keeping reading for more home office gadgets ...

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Petite prefab: Six designs for a backyard office

Prefab OfficePod Prefab-Modern-Shed Prefab Verana SummerwoodSmall prefab structures are near-instant backyard work spaces, a corner office that feels separate from home but still provides a commute measured in steps instead of miles.  We put together a photo gallery detailing six options, including the KitHaus modernist mini-manse, the Verana assemble-it-yourself studio from Summerwood and British OfficePod trying to make its way to a garden near you. For details on concept, materials and prices, keep reading ...

PHOTO GALLERY: Small prefabs as backyard offices

Prefab Studio Shed Prefab G-Pod Prefab KitHaus



The pocket office

Separating work from home

House remodeled for live-work efficiency

Photo credits, clockwise from top left: OfficePod, Modern-Shed, Summerwood, Nicolas O.S. Marques for Kithaus, G-Pod, Studio Shed


Pocket offices: The latest trend in new homes

Pocket office Wanda Weler SakaiOne of the biggest trends in new residential design, according to the National Assn. of Home Builders, is the pocket office — a small space devoted to paying bills, budgeting and other household affairs.

Pocket offices generally are about half the size of a formal home office. They’re often set up in high-traffic areas such as the kitchen or a great room, where family members interact. In the Ojai home of Kurtis and Wanda Weller Sakai, Kurtis’ separate work room is complemented by an alcove pocket office that Wanda uses just off the living room, shown above.

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Home office design: Separate space and a walk to work

Kurtis Sakai house

It happened by accident. When Kurtis and Wanda Weller Sakai went to remodel their 1971 Ojai ranch house, the original plan was to add a fourth bedroom for Kurtis to use as an office. “We realized that if we went over 500 square feet, the add-on permits would get very expensive,” Kurtis said. A new master suite consumed much of that square footage, so architect Darwin McCredie shifted gears and added to the front of the house a compact 14-by-14-foot office — no bathroom, no walk-in closet, to stay under that magic number of 500.

Kurtis SakaiThe result is a work space that feels apart from the rest of the house, a quality enhanced by the fact that the office is accessible only by an exterior door at the end of a long covered porch.

“It feels a little funny going out there in my pajamas sometimes,” said Kurtis, a designer of athletic footwear for clients such as Ugg, Teva and Patagonia. But as someone who always had worked out of a spare bedroom, he now finds the separation that comes with the new office configuration to be a revelation.

“The detachment feels serious,” he said.

And that is the point: At a time when so many people are bringing the office home, there’s a growing desire for more separation, physical and psychological, between work and personal life. One of the most recent surveys on the subject, released last month by Wrike, which makes online project management software, found that among about 1,000 people who responded 83% said they worked from home at least part of the day.

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Can I recycle floor mats?

It's a double dose of our recycling feature today, looking at the often confusing and contradictory recycling policies of Southern California cities. Case in point: Plastic floor mats -- the kind often used under desk chairs at home or at work -- usually are made from polypropylene or flexible PVC tiles, which can be recycled in Los Angeles' blue bins. Large mats, however, can block the sorting screens at the recycling facilities. If the mats can be safely cut into pieces that fit easily into the blue bin, they can be recycled. Mats that cannot go in the blue bin and that are too damaged for donation can be picked up free of charge through bulky-item pickup by dialing 3-1-1, but they will not be recycled.

Because policies and recommendations can vary from city to city, each week we ask a sampling of officials from various municipalities to weigh in. Can you recycle plastic floor mats in ...

Floor matsCulver City: No.

Glendale: Yes, if cut to fit inside recycling bin.

Long Beach: No.

Los Angeles: Yes, if mats are polypropylene or flexible PVC and if pieces are small enough to fit into the blue bin.

Manhattan Beach: Yes, if they are entirely plastic.

Riverside: Yes.

Santa Barbara: Yes, if plastic Nos. 1, 2, 4 or 5.

Santa Monica: No.

Recycling illustrationALSO:

The archive: Can I Recycle ... ?

Trying to reduce junk mail at home

Kids' party with no trash? That was the goal

-- Susan Carpenter

Photo: Los Angeles Times


L Conceal bookshelf: Umbra's new twist on a classic

L-Conceal Umbra bookshelf
No, it is not an anti-gravity book bookshelf. Umbra's L Conceal, shown as a pair here, is the latest twist on a minimalist design that allows books to be stacked on an invisible bracket, so they appear to float on the wall.

Screen shot 2012-01-12 at 1.34.07 PMIn 2005, Pratt Institute student Miron Lior won a competition sponsored by Umbra with the simple powder-coated steel hardware -- an L-shaped bracket with a clip that holds the bottom flap of a hardcover book in place, right. The bottom book creates a cantilevered platform upon which other books could be stacked.  

Nicely priced at $13, the Conceal was an immediate hit when it launched in 2006. Umbra has since rolled out three additional sizes, including one specifically created for stacking towels.

The newest addition to the line, L Conceal, uses the same apparatus placed on both ends of a bentwood shelf. 

"The beauty of this L-shape shelf is that it plays with the traditional and typical straight line shelf, and creates the unexpected," said Matt Carr, Umbra's director of design, in an email.  "The gentle bend in the shelf allows the user to make compositions on the wall." 

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Skullastic school supplies for boys and ghouls

When it comes to school supplies, Transformers and sports tend to be the themes for the lads, Justin Bieber or something equally fluffy and cute for girls. It's a convention that drove advertising creative director Don Rich to distraction. "I thought, if I see one more soft-focus picture of a kitten on a notebook cover, I'll puke," he said.

Aiming to "put the cool back in school in our own creepy, offbeat, rock 'n' roll style," Rich said, he founded Skullastic on Halloween 2008. Riffing on pop culture iconography and goofy wordplay, the company produces the edgy academic products pictured above, from left: a Buffy the Vampire Stapler notebook, $7.98; the Planner of the Apes calendar, $14.98; "Elm Street" white glue, $4.98; and the Decomposition Journal, a take on the classic composition notebook, $9.98.

Made for kids, they have a cult following among adults. (Full disclosure: I bought a Planner of the Apes at the Abbot Kinney street festival last month in Venice.) 

SkullasticThe 50-page Jekyll and Hyde notebook, right, is split down the middle with pages held by spiral binding on either side. It's hand-assembled by Rich in his living room. 

The Jekyll and Hyde notebook sells for $9.98 online and in stores that include Fred Segal; Vroman's in Pasadena; and Co-Op 28, an indie design boutique in Los Feliz, where Rich will be hosting spooky events this weekend.

Rich also peddles his wares in a vintage yellow school bus -- a drive-up, rather than pop-up, store. At street fairs, he can be found appearing as a character known as Headmaster in a white coat and goggles, part of a similarly attired crew he calls the Lab Ratz.

"Skullastic was created to celebrate the outcasts," Rich said. "The freaks. The geeks. The ones who have spent their lives being laughed at, kicked around, picked on and picked last.

"My parents were schoolteachers. I'm not sure if I'm doing this to honor them ... or to get back at them."


Halloween costume swaps

Adrian Grenier's SHFT pop-up shop

Tablet computer for babies

-- David A. Keeps

Photos: Katie Falkenberg / For The Times



New looks for the home office: Which desk is your cup of tea?

With the Milan furniture fair behind me, it's almost time to start thinking about real work again. Sigh. As a bit of a mental preparation, the Milan show included some interesting desk designs, many departing from the angular, glass and powder-coated metal models filling so many modern decor stores. The pieces premiering in Milan introduced shapely curves and organic materials for decidedly softer, warmer looks.

The Italian firm Ceccotti Collezioni introduced Omaggio, above, whose stack of four drawer boxes pivot, so they can be accessed from different angles. An open storage cubby lies on the left side. The wooden top rail angles away from the work surface, heightening the effect of a floating glass top; an aerial view photo is at the end of this post.


Need to block out distractions? Ligne Roset premiered the Rewrite desk, above, which enshrouds you in a soft, cloud-white dome of privacy.



Arco took its design for pivoting drawers and added a work surface to create the new Pivot desk, above, a space-saver with nesting storage compartments that pull down for access. The photo here shows the desk in lighter shades, but at the Milan show, Pivot looked better in walnut.


At an exhibition at the Triennale, Milan's design museum, the press check-in desk for Ceramic Tiles of Italy was a rainbow of teacups set under an acrylic work surface, above.

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