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Fall Design Issue | Metropolis / snapshots from the
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Bringing It All Back Home

Talking Points From Workplace Design Maven Grant Seltzer

September 29, 2002|GINNY CHIEN

When they need the goods to create a stylish center of productivity, architects, interior designers and entrepreneurs go to the team at the airy Beverly Boulevard business furniture showroom of Jules Seltzer Associates. Starting in 1947, founder Jules Seltzer championed creativity-enhancing designs by innovators such as Charles and Ray Eames and George Nelson. Today the world's oldest Herman Miller dealer still showcases modernist classics along with contemporary lines, and the current owner, Jules' son Grant, has made the home office a focal point.--GINNY CHIEN

Tell us about some hot trends for home offices.

They're generally more casual with cleaner lines. It's what we call a "soft office," where a homey atmosphere blends into the corporate office environment. Lighter colors and whites are very popular today. So are smaller units, thinner styles and more curves. People also want finer materials, such as nicer fabrics and woods. And everything is becoming more comfortable. Many tables, for example, have eased edges so you don't have to put your arms against anything sharp.

What are the elements of a fabulous home office?

First it has to be aesthetically pleasing. Then it has to fit the space properly. Don't try to cram things in that won't fit. But most importantly, it has to help you work and be productive. Most home offices are despicable because piles of papers and books are everywhere. You don't see the office after a while. If it can help you organize by having places for trays, various compartments and things of that nature, then I think the office is great.

Any suggestions for organization?

Before people come to us, or anyone else for that matter, they need to ask themselves, "How do I live?" Where do you put your briefcase? Do you have a lot of reference books? Are you always losing your keys? If so, maybe you need a little stand with a drawer right when you walk in. Once you begin thinking this way, you can begin planning the perfect office and picking out the appropriate pieces. It's great if an office looks fantastic, but it's supposed to be a place where you can actually get work done, too.

Why not just go to Office Depot?

If you're design conscious at all, you'll want something that's pleasing to look at. People are in their offices a lot. It's like an automobile. Look at a Volkswagen today. The Bug features a little bud vase. Why do they do that? To make it nice for you to spend time in. Plus, people today are savvy to designers. Even Target carries lines by Michael Graves and Philippe Starck. And people know these names. A few years ago, they might've said, "Who's that?" Or "Who's Charles Eames?"

But don't the big office machines and wires mess everything up anyway?

That is a problem, but if you keep in mind what machines you use every day--graphic designers, for example, often need multiple computer monitors--you can plan places to put them. You can also get wire management troughs, which you put underneath work surfaces, so the wiring is out of sight. And there are these tubes now [in which] you can put all the wires. That way, you have a nice attractive tube instead of cords running all over. You have to search a little, but these things are available at hardware stores and home organization places.

How do you work with small spaces?

There's a great line called "Ethospace" designed by Bill Stumpf and Jack Kelley that was originally meant for corporate offices, but we're finding that it works really well in homes. It's systems furniture, so you can take different parts and pieces and put it together for any size room. By taking Ethospace and installing work rails on the walls where you can stick reminder notes and hang up trays for things like paper clips, you can make the most out of every available inch. Even if you only have a 10-by-10 space to play with, you can still get a total workspace, complete with lots of overhead storage.

How much would a great home office take out of your bottom line?

You can get a very nice home office for about $3,000. But we have people that spend up to $20,000 for larger spaces.

What pieces should people splurge on?

The chair is vitally important. It's going to determine whether you keep working, or stay for 20 minutes and then go watch TV or get a snack because you're uncomfortable. I'd say a good chair starts at $350 and goes up to $1,500.

Anything else?

The desk is the centerpiece of the room. When choosing one, you should go over and run your hand over it. Imagine yourself working there. People may like the look of a glass or steel top, but they may not like writing on it. You need to think about stuff like this before paying for anything.

So it's all about form following function.

Absolutely. It's a rule of good design. And you should always look for things that are well designed because those are the pieces that will continue to work for you. Any manufacturer can slap a chair together for $100, but sit on it for a period of time and you'll want to get up.

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What's Hot at Home

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Aeron chair from Herman Miller

DNA furniture by Richard Holbrook

Mag table from Offi

Acrylic "Skateboard" storage from Offi

Resolve System table from Herman Miller

Verso Collection desks from Davis Furniture Industries

Caper chair from Herman Miller

Wood-grain laminate wastebasket from Bentec

Feel Good Mat from ES Robbins

Philippe Starck Archimoon desk lamp from Flos

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