Desks find a niche despite tight space

A space of one's own, whether desk-size or room-size, is today considered one of the territorial rights of every member of the family. "Next to my wife," says a Princeton, N.J., executive, "that office room of mine that I had fitted up in the basement is the most important thing in my life." He was referring to his very own place in the house, for which he himself had designed the huge built-in desk flanked on two sides by cabinets, countertops, and shelves with measured compartments to hold everything from cassette tapes to leather bound volumes.

This special little hideaway is equipped with such electronic devices as tape recorders, radio, hi-fi speakers, and intercom for speaking to his wife in other parts of the house. It also has superb overhead lighting, a comfortable office swivel chair, a lounge chair, a couch for occasional naps, a high desk with slant top where he can stand to scan newspaperS, blueprints, and the like, and even a bicycle exerciser in one corner on which he can do a few turns when he gets through reading, writing, and cogitating.

The Princeton man's wife, meanwhile, ingeniously rigged out her own office-space-at- home, where she can simply close the double doors on messy work-in-progress if she needs to.She had no desire to be tucked away in the basement and preferred to be up where the action, the sunshine, and the convenience were. So she commandeered a closet off the family television room, had a carpenter put in a working desk counter for the typewriter and filing baskets, and shelves above and below for storing stationery, supplies, dictionary, books, files, and the like.

The 25-inch wide work shelf narrows to 21 inches in the center, where the typewriter is placed, which enables a small secretary's chair to be rolled inside the closet when office chores are finished. A long fluorescent tube fixture lights the work area. An antique trolley on wheels holds study and reference books and can be easily moved around the room.

Bob Collins, an interior designer for Good Housekeeping magazine, says he tries to put a desk in almost every room of the house. He believes every kitchen should have a smalldesk for note writing, looking at cookbooks, ordering , bill paying, and the like. He also thinks that putting a desk in a guest room is the quintessence of gracious hospitality.

Certainly, he says, every member of the family should have his or her own desk, and it should be respected as off limits by all other family members.

"In many space-deprived homes," says the designer, "the only square footage that clearly establishes territorial rights is the desk -- a piece of one's own, a private place, with locked drawers and all that if the owner wants it that way."

Such generosity when it comes to decorating with desks, and the fact that so many more people are working at home these days, has brought "the desk" into new significance and importance.Manufacturers are producing every size and style of desk today, from popular knee-hole types to tall secretaries, dainty lady's desks and austerely modern "writing tables."

Riverside Furniture Corporation, a Southern company that helped revive the old roll- top desk for modern usage, is even reproducing Nancy Reagan's favorite , a narrow, leggy, painted desk with a drop leaf that the company first made in 1966. It is being made again today because Mrs. Reagan, who has owned and loved it for a long time, moved it to the White House with her and intends to keep it in service wherever she lives.

Design Institute America is turning out new desks by the dozens, including desklike units that will house home computers in new wall systems.

Sligh Furniture Company, a large producer of desks, suggests placing a desk ( 1) in a niche created by surrounding built-in bookcases, (2) dead center in a room, or even in the open space where connecting rooms merge, provided traffic isn't blocked, (3) as the focus of a dramatic art or book wall, (4) on a dead-end wall that can be mirrored to give the illusion of enlarged space, (5) in a home office, guest room, or bedroom with filing cabinets doubling as night stands, (6) at right angles to a wall, at the end of a sofa, and (7) profiled in a window.

Jan Pinkston, interior designer for the Flexalum division of Hunter Douglas, had to put her own home office in her bedroom, as part of a built-in around a window corner. By running the built-ins wall to wall, she made not only a desk, but nightstand and headboard as well, turning an awkward architectural feature to advantage.

Mrs. Pinston says she has three "musts" for any office at home. First, there must be a place for everything. There must be room for files, books, reference materials, typewriter, and whatever other equipment the owner requires. Ideally , she says, built-ins are the most efficient space users. For renters, or those who don't want a permanent installation, she recommends modular units, particularly the unfinished variety, as economical substitutes.

Secondly, this designer says, good lighting is essential. She prefers a combination of natural light and lamp light, and therefore tries to put such working areas near windows, and to use narrow slat blinds for options of light adjustment and the opening of views. She feels this type of working space is ideal, too, for children who needs desks for homework.

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