• Thomas Russell

Smaller, flexible designs spark office sales

In the past, having a home office setup required having a designated room in the home known as —well — the home office. This room typically had a large executive desk, credenza and deck, and file storage. Just as many homes still have a formal dining area, many still have a dedicated home office with this type of set-up.

But nowadays, particularly with the increasing use of the laptop, the home office can be situated anywhere in the home. This has given rise to more modular types of setups that let the user not only build the home office to their specifications, but also place it in any room in the home where they see fit. This could range from the bedroom and dining area to the living room, den or kitchen.

For this reason, items like secretaries, which have a small footprint and are often elegant and formal in their design, are making a comeback. These space-efficient pieces are laptop-friendly and their stylish looks enable them to be placed in just about any part of the home.

Home office sources are giving the consumer greater options and more flexibility at a time when working at home has become a necessity for many. The products featured here, a mix of hot sellers and well-received intros at recent markets, show today's home office can be fashionable and fun, too.

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Product: Kinston by Hooker Furniture.

Launch date: April 2009.

Key features: This L-configuration includes a 64-inch credenza and hutch, 24-inch corner unit and 48-inch desk with separate file cabinet shown underneath. It is made with bamboo veneers and has a black rubbed-through finish. The leg desk has a center drop-front drawer, while the computer credenza has a center drop-front drawer, two utility drawers, an adjustable shelf in the printer area and a pullout shelf for a printer. The hutch has two utility drawers, including one with a tray insert, two compartments with removable partitions and a charging station with three electrical outlets and a live USB port.

Price: The desk, mobile file and credenza and hutch retail for about $2,900.

What retailers like: Jennifer Martin, a buyer at Star Furniture in Houston, said she likes the eclectic use of hardwood frames and bamboo veneers on the door and drawer fronts. “It's simpler, more urban styling for the younger consumer,” she said. “It's not stodgy executive office furniture and is definitely more designed for open living.” She also likes the storage and function capabilities of the credenza unit. Alan Kramer, vice president of merchandising at Star, said that the group fits a nice niche for those who don't have a huge home office room in their homes. “It is nicely scaled but has the full function for anyone who needs a home office. He also likes the contemporary look of the group, which he believes is enhanced by the bamboo veneers.

Product: Flex Origin by Aspenhome.

Launch date: September 2009.

Key features: Origin is made with hardwood solids and bamboo veneers. It comes in multiple configurations, including the U-shaped configuration shown here. The credenza has a drop-down, felt-lined keyboard drawer with an organizer tray, pull-out keyboard shelf and double pedestal file storage and utility drawers. The hutch has a charging station and additional utility drawers, while the 48-inch and 64-inch laptop desks have wide drawers and ample space for a mouse, keyboard and other accessories.

Price: A desk and return retails from $799 to $999, while the U-shaped configuration retails from $1,999 to $2,299.

What retailers like: “We are not a staid product line — we put as much fashion in home office as we do in bedroom and dining room,” said Bryan Edwards, vice president of sales for Aspenhome, noting that dealers like the convergence of fashion, form and function of the Flex Origin line. “It's not just another writing desk or an L or executive desk.” He added that dealers especially like the multiple configurations, which allow pieces to be used anywhere from the great room and kitchen to the sunroom or bedroom.

Product: The Sterling desk and mahogany secretary by Jasper Cabinet.

Launch date: 2005.

Key features: Shown here in a red mahogany finish, this secretary and desk combo is made with crotch mahogany veneers and maple solids.

Price: $2,995 retail.

What retailers like: The big reason for the success of the product is having a piece of furniture for home office use that is functional and handsome,” said Robert Cribbs, president of Jasper Cabinet. “There has been a resurgence in secretaries because the baby boomers are now downsizing and want nice, more traditional furniture in their homes. Both our computer and laptop secretaries are functional, and after use, when company is over, the secretary can be closed so no one is aware that it is a home office. He said that the piece has added versatility in that consumers are buying just the bottom portion without the hutch top to be used in kitchens and added dining areas. Retailers, he said, like the idea that it is a domestic product available in multiple finish options along with hand-painted or laser-engraved options that let the consumer buy a piece of furniture that fits their personality.

Thomas RussellThomas Russell | Associate Editor, Furniture Today

I'm Tom Russell and have worked at Furniture/Today since August 2003. Since then, I have covered the international side of the business from a logistics and sourcing standpoint. Since then, I also have visited several furniture trade shows and manufacturing plants in Asia, which has helped me gain perspective about the industry in that part of the world. As I continue covering the import side of the business, I look forward to building on that knowledge base through conversations with industry officials and future overseas plant tours. From time to time, I will file news and other industry perspectives online and, as always, welcome your response to these Web postings.

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