Double duty kitchens offer work-at-home space in condos

kitchen nook 1

A built-in desk provides workspace for a telecommuter, but can double as a bar or serving station for guests.

A DINING TABLE, Chicago – By any measure, telecommuting is on the rise. According to a recent New York Times article, the percentage of Americans who work outside the office at least part of the time could be as high as 30 percent, but at a minimum, account for some 3.2 million workers.

While those reports tend to focus on productivity and benefits, there’s another angle – if you’re going to work at home, where do you work? I am using a corner of the dining table for my “office,” but the typical two-bedroom, East Lake View condo scarcely has room for a stamp collection, let alone a full-time dining table.

One solution, says kitchen designer Emily Mackie, owner of Inspired Interiors, is a kitchen re-do that includes double- or even triple-duty spaces.

“Areas that have multi-functionality are popular,” Mackie says. People who work at home part of the time want a space, such as a breakfast bar, that can also double as a work desk. “They want an island that has a tiered area to plug in laptops. They sit on a bar stool and work at the counter.”

Clients are also asking for the latest technologies, such as cordless charging stations in the kitchen, or a flat screen TV against the wall so they can watch food shows while cooking. Others want appliances they can control from an iPad.

Some condo clients have asked for a space that can be an office desk and a dining table. It’s unusual to find a condo with a full-fledged dining room, so it can be a problem to figure out where to seat guests.

Mackie’s answer for one client was to install a kitchen table that slides out from the wall to accommodate guests or a work space, and then slides back into place to save floor space. For another homeowner, she reconfigured a wall between the dining area and living room to accommodate a built-in desk. During the week, it’s a desk, but on the weekends, it could become a party bar.

“We have done a lot of different layouts with a breakfast area convertible to a dining area,” Mackie said. “[Many] condos don’t have room for a dining table. It’s nice to have a convertible area.”

Most of her clients are recent homebuyers who want to update or re-do the kitchen in their new home. Currently the most popular kitchen color is gray, with gray cabinets taking center stage from the former white, painted cabinets and coffee-stained woods.

“It’s a little more contemporary,” she said. And those breakfast bars that double as work desks are either granite or perhaps a quartz-based marble. “It looks like marble but performs like quartz,” Mackie said. “It’s a little pricier, but it’s worth it.”

On average, the buyer of a $400,000 condo might spend around 7 percent of the purchase cost (around $28,000) on a kitchen remodeling if there is no need to move walls, plumbing or electrical. Bigger projects could cost up to 9 percent of the purchase price, Mackie said, or around $36,000.

While appliances are still usually stainless steel, she is installing a lot of Thermador refrigerator and freezer columns instead of the usual full-size refrigerator. In some condos, people are putting in smaller refrigerators and cooktops, since they are shopping more frequently for smaller quantities of the freshest produce.

During those 4 p.m. work slumps, just think how easy it will be to reach for an organic strawberry (or the Cheetos).

Kitchen Barsky Table

This sleek Eurostyle kitchen offers built-ins that provide room for work and play.

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