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Home office needs addressed at annual home & garden show

| Thursday, March 9, 2017, 8:55 p.m.
James Knox | Tribune-Review
Crowds start to gather early at the Duquesne Light Home and Garden Show at the David Lawrence Convention Center Downtown on March 7, 2014.
James Knox | Tribune-Review
Bill and Gail Hughes chat with Brent Oliver (center) from Paradise Pools and Spas March 7, 2014 at the store's display at the Duquesne Light Home and Garden Show at the David Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown.
A Gate door opener (app. $300) allows the worker in a home office to check who is ringing the doorbell, let that person in and relock the door without leaving the desk.

Spending hours at the office can have some of the comforts of home these days.

Walls are going down, offices are moving and electronic devices are allowing multitasking in personal as well as professional roles.

“Families are changing all the time and so is the place you work,” says Kyra K. Tucker, who has put together an ”Office of the Future” presentation for the Duquesne Light Pittsburgh Home & Garden Show.

The display will run continuously throughout the event that opens March 10 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown. It will examine changes in office design and possibilities in traditional work locations and at home.

“It is for the budget-conscious client,” says Tucker, who is an assistant professor and director of the interior architecture program at Chatham University in Shadyside. “They make sense at home — and certainly employers always are budget-conscious.”

The look at the office is a new feature at the show, which is bringing in 1,789 vendors of products for inside and outside the home. It is one of the largest home shows in the country, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors during its 10 days.

With vendors of goods from appliances to yard barns, the show will again feature Lori Verderame, the caustic antiques appraiser. And it also will include visits by Curt Wootton, better known as Pittsburgh Dad

Boyce Thompson for the third year running is offering his Top 10 Life-Changing Products for 2017. He says he can see some of the changes in office function in devices he examines.

For instance, a Gate door opener (app. $300) allows the worker in a home office to check who is ringing the doorbell, let that person in and relock the door without leaving the desk.

Or a Mimo baby minder (app. $200) keeps track of an infant's sleep and activity from the office a few doors down the hall.

It is all part of a changing work scene.

Tucker says she put together the look at the office after some brainstorming with Nancy Sakino Spears, the president of the American Society of Interior Designers Pennsylvania West group.

They realized that offices are sometimes coming home, but always changing, Tucker says.

“Offices are a place for collaboration with people, to plan, to connect with technology and sometimes to relax,” she says.

To accomplish all of those tasks, she adds, “furniture is more important that construction.” A desk can hold a laptop, but also be the center of a meeting. A couch can be a seat for a client as well as a spot to have a coffee and go through the mail.

But, maybe more importantly in any setting, mobile walls can define the space but also have other uses, she says.

These days, the home office often is part of a room that also is used as a guest bedroom — hence the need for good furniture. Or it is in a corner of an open floor plan, where mobile walls can shut it off and then be removed to create useful family or entertaining space.

Those walls also are useful in other ways. They can hold pictures, designs or charts that are needed for projects.

“So many people don't think of the vertical element in their design,” she says.

Cubicles that replaced offices now are turning into even more-wide-open spaces surrounded by a system called sound-masking.

Tucker says sound-masking creates white noise above an area to keep outside sound away and interior sound inside. It can be a way of defining an area without even the low walls of a cubicle-cluttered office, she says.

During 15 years as a professional designer, she once used sound-masking in a 4,000-square-foot office project.

It is expensive — about $7,000 for that job, she says — so it isn't for everyone.

But offices at home and at work can share directions in design, she says.

Another important office design element, she adds, is the use of color to create a lively workspace.

She worked with PPG Paints in this project, using colors from a palette known as Biocentricity. It has some bright yellows and blues that are far removed from the beiges and grays often seen in work spaces.

“It is all about making the area right for you,” she says.

Bob Karlovits is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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