Houston designer builds out an office for our new normal

It was serendipitous that Dan Pederson and Scott Konitzer were already planning to build a new garage with a usable second story when the coronavirus pandemic began.

Construction began just days after Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo shut down the county in late March, with Pederson wondering if it was the right thing to do. People needed work, though, everyone stayed healthy and the project finished in early July.


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The smallish garage original to the home built in 1968 was demolished and a new, roomier, two-story structure with live-work space on top replaced it. Their home is in Nottingham Forest in west Houston but was spared the flooding that affected many of their neighbors during Hurricane Harvey.

Pederson, who will turn 50 in November, is an interior designer, launching his Dan Alan Design firm four years ago after spending several years working as a parks department liaison with the city of Houston.

“When I was young, probably fifth or sixth grade, my parents would go to dinner on the weekends and I would rearrange the furniture while they were gone,” said Pederson, a Houston native. “Remember when wallpaper borders were in? They went out to dinner one time and I put those up in the bathroom. When they got back I said look what I did!”

Until now, Pederson worked out of a guest bedroom but had outgrown the space and knew that an above-the-garage office would be perfect. Not only would it serve his own needs, but someday it could also work as extra living quarters.

While it was under construction, he noticed neighbors taking work calls while walking up and down the street or doing work in their vehicles in their driveways because it was the only place they could find peace and quiet as their spouses worked indoors and their children were scrambling to finish the school year virtually.

Pederson invited them all to use his new office space any time they wanted, and one neighbor took him up on it.

The space adds about 650 square feet to the 2,000-square-foot home, and Pederson designed it with durability and flexibility in mind.

Right now it’s his office, and niches in dormers hold client baskets and product samples. A large work table is positioned in the center of the room and a pair of skirted parson’s desks sit side by side.

One wall is lined with cabinets that include a small kitchen — a built-in microwave, sink and refrigerator — so they could someday use it as living space. (If it had a cooktop, too, the city would have required them to add two parking spaces to their front yard — a nonstarter for Pederson.)

Pederson’s style is influenced by the years he lived in California, so the office has a clean and casual ambiance.

Light beige European oak floors blend well with the sage green cabinets and Calacatta Gold countertop. A pair of tall cabinet doors are lined with cane — that’s where Pederson keeps computer equipment, including his printer.

A metal palm tree sits between a pair of Wishbone-style armchairs, Pederson’s nod to midcentury style and his love of Palm Springs. If someone needs a nap, an antique daybed has been outfitted with cushions in a coral-colored print in Perennials indoor-outdoor fabric.

The stairs are covered in an indoor-outdoor version of Sisal carpet, a sign that indoor-outdoor products have come a long way. You have to look closely to notice that it’s not a natural fiber.

It has a full bathroom, of course, and Pederson used a Phillip Jeffries vinyl grasscloth wallpaper in subtle green-beige tones, and it’s just as nice looking as the real deal.

Soapstone brings in some personality in the vanity countertop, and tile lines the floor and shower. The floor tile is really a simple porcelain, but it’s made to look like more expensive Terrazzo tile, and the subway-style tile in the shower has detailing on the edges to make it look handmade, though it’s not.

The trend toward two-office homes was just getting started in Houston when the pandemic broke out, but it can only grow, Pederson said.

“With the whole movement of working from home, I think it’s an advantage,” Pederson said of his new office space. “Looking to the future, it minimizes costs and has lots of advantages,” he said.

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