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It's not as if the average couple is going to spend languorous hours in their suites--not so long as the home office has anything to say about it. Architects now take it for granted that they will have to include some sort of work space in home plans. Says Atlanta builder David Chatham: "It's really almost a must. It may have started out with people telecommuting, but at least in the Atlanta area, with all the traffic, a lot of people are aiming to miss the peak-traffic times." The newest trend, for people who can afford it, is for each adult to have his or her own home office. Ahron and Sheera Solomont of Brookline, Mass., are sales reps for the same company, yet they have separate home offices. Their computers are networked so they can share files. Ah, modern romance!
Yet home offices haven't really found a natural home. Remodelers have placed them in the attic and the basement, in converted laundry rooms and maid's rooms, or in between, in computer nooks in hallways or bay windows. "The mom's office is usually very close to the hub of the house--breakfast rooms may have an office area for her. But office spaces are generally off the living area," says Peter Duxbury of Duxbury Architects in Los Altos, Calif.
That's true in the Berman house in Larchmont, N.Y., where Karen operates from a work space near the kitchen that matches its decor. For many families, this station is the household-management post, where bills are paid and report cards evaluated. Jeff Berman's office is an attic room that can double as a guest room. As technology has reduced the size of office equipment, many home offices have been getting distinctly homier and less spacious.
That is a good thing in an age in which television screens are getting wall size, and it's one reason media rooms have come into their own. "Everybody has to have their 50-inch plasma TV," says architect Matthew Gottsegen of New York City. The Solomont home has one such giant screen and four smaller ones. "On any given Sunday, we can have 10 to 30 people watching the games," says Sheera Solomont.
In media terms, that's a decidedly one-way experience. The PC and TV have not converged, not in the home office and not in the media room, where folks still prefer not to work. Heck, they don't even want to interact with the television. They're not ordering pizzas, they're not playing movie director and they certainly aren't going over last month's sales reports when the Patriots are playing. "The old idea was that computers and the Internet and phone and TV would all merge," says Adam Keiper, president of the Center for the Study of Technology and Society. "It's an assumption people aren't making anymore."