The cure for hunching over a desk for hours on end? A quick, invigorating sweat. In creating a productivity-inspiring home office for our 2021 Whole Home, Baltimore-based designer Laura Hodges of Laura Hodges Studio decided to make it double as a no-pressure workout room. “Having the two-in-one room is not only dual-purpose, but it also makes sure that you’re using the space,” she explains. “It’s not just a home office that you sometimes use and otherwise goes unused.”
This one is meant to actually be good for your mental as well as physical health: Hodges designed it as a biophilic space, adding plants in every little corner and materials like wood-veneered wallpaper and a natural hemp rug. Velvet cushions can be tossed on the floor for a blissful midafternoon meditation, while the custom desk (made by Grothouse) easily comes apart to function as a set of aerobic steps. The room is intentionally Zen—and noticeably free of any guilt-inducing treadmills or bikes. “We brought in pieces that you want to look at, even if they do remind you to work out,” says Hodges.
Fresh white walls and simple upholstered cushions frame the greenery outside. Bookcase wallcovering: Phillip Jeffries. Metal cabinet fronts: Architectural Grille. Pillow and cushion fabric: Fabricut. Window treatments: The Shade Store. Paint: Farrow & Ball.
This solid pine piece is part suspension trainer, part plant holder, while the top of the custom desk can be removed to create aerobic modular steps. Shelves: Shelfology. Shelf art: Maddie Moritz. Desk “steps”: Grothouse.
House Beautiful: What is biophilic design?
Laura Hodges: Biophilic design is all about connecting back to nature. As humans, we are naturally very connected to nature, so it really makes sense to create an office and a gym that brings in those elements, whether through views of nature, natural materials, natural textures, or literally bringing plants into the space. You want to make sure you're sensing different materials.
HB: How did you incorporate these elements into your space?
LH: We brought in lots of plants, different materials, and really made sure the views were a big part of the space. Nature, which of course is a lot of green, neutral colors, browns, and a lot of texture is really the main thing. We also have all these different lovely textures that really make you want to go and touch and feel them. The rug is a woven grass material, which if you have bare feet, feels fantastic underfoot and reminds you of being in nature when you're walking across the surface—it's not exactly smooth or perfect, but every step feels like a discovery.
HB: What was the goal for this space?
LH: I wanted to make sure that it was multi-functional, it served a dual purpose for the homeowners, in that it was a space that really felt like part of the house. I have to admit that I initially wasn't super excited about doing the home office, but that's just because in the past, I think home offices haven't been quite as interesting as say, the living room or the kitchen. But I definitely feel like these days—especially with more and more people working from home—that having an office space that speaks to the aesthetic of the house, rather than just having a desk and a chair, really makes it feel like it's part of the home. And having the two in one room ensures you're actually using the space.
HB: What did you have to consider when designing a space that serves two functions?
LH: We wanted to make sure that not only were all the pieces multi-functional, but that they actually really look good, too. We brought in pieces that you don't mind looking at, even if they do remind you that maybe you need to work out. It's one thing to have some step equipment or to have something that converts from one thing to another, but it really needs to look good when it's not being used as home gym equipment; it needs to look as good taken apart as it does put back together again.
Here, we designed a custom Grothouse desk, which is the main feature of the room. It's completely modular so it can also be used as gym equipment. You can do step class with it, make your own little obstacle course, or you can put one step out and do pushups.
HB: You really value sustainability. Tell us what designing sustainably actually looks and feels like.
LH: Designing sustainably isn't just a one-size-fits-all situation. There are lots of ways that you can be sustainable other than just making sure everything's made from recycled materials, for instance. We start with FSC Certified woods, or we talk to furniture manufacturers who use naturally felled trees—it's a wonderful way to use trees that are going to be cut down anyway, whether they're about to fall on a house or they've naturally fallen on their own. We also source vintage and reuse materials. Then, of course, we're asking, 'Okay, what is this made of? Is this off-gassing? Is it bringing any bad materials into the air?'
HB: How can the average person recreate the feel of this space?
LH: It's surprising, but a lot of people actually have more windows than they may necessarily be taking advantage of. Even if you're not seeing an amazing view out the window, the natural light itself is very restorative. Another thing you can do to bring that biophilic feeling into a room is to think about all your senses when you're in the space. It's not just about what you're seeing—it's what you're smelling and hearing. You can actually bring in scents, whether it's through a diffuser, like a reed diffuser, or something that actually puts off a mist.
Credits for opening image: Lighting: Circa Lighting. Bulbs: Cync. Paint: Farrow & Ball. Rug: Fibreworks. Plants: Bloomscape and Walmart. Desk and console: Grothouse. Chairs: Chairish. Woven accessories: Kazi. Other accessories: DOMAIN by Laura Hodges Studio. Architectural drawings: Alyssa Dennis. Desk chair: Ikaria Design.
For more shopping info on pieces in this room and the rest of the 2021 Whole Home, click here.
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