When women complain about this being “a man’s world,” their grumbling extends to of_ ce design and the furniture and furnishings within. Despite the large number of females in the work force, better than one third, most offices do not take into account the female executive’s or secretary’s unique needs, particularly when it comes to desks.
Contract went to four top female designers and asked the question: “Has the office furnishings industry really considered the needs of the female executive and office worker in the design of desks?” All of them felt strongly that femininity is nothing to be ashamed of, and, although it does not have to be flaunted, both a woman and her surroundings should reflect her sex.
Here are the thoughts of Maria Bergson, Maria Bergson Associates; Marjorie Michaelson, Montgomery, Winecoff & Associates; Emily Malino, Emily Malino Associates; and Ellen McCluskey, Ellen L. McCluskey Associates, all in New York.
Shaped desks for the shapely
Maria Bergson admits that some women do feel they must compete with men, and, therefore, prefer a heavy, more masculine desk. “However,” she says, “most women, who simply enjoy being women and professionals, are more prone to favoring an open or rounded desk.
“Many women enjoy the enclosed feeling that a shaped structure gives them.” All of these top designers agree that a desk should serve as a frame for the woman, and Miss Michaelson and Miss Bergson feel that a woman should be a woman first and a designer or whatever, second.
To meet this criterion, they feel that storage room for personal items in a desk must be carefully considered. There should be room for make-up, shoes, and pocketbooks.
Vanity, thy name is…
Nylon snags must be considered
As far as functional storage space is concerned, Emily Malino feels that movable files are more satisfactory. She suggests that everything be on casters so that everything simply can be moved out of the way when not in use. The others favor a storage room consisting of files, drawers, and shelves in units either behind or to the side of their desks.
Mrs. McCluskey suggests that the middle drawer to a woman’s desk be removed so that she may cross her legs more easily. This would minimize the possibility of tearing nylons, an eternal problem of all females. Another and more practical suggestion is that the files and shelves be of varying heights and sizes to conform to various needs. Chairs could be adapted to each facility with needed adjustments.
“It is important for a woman executive to have a drawer with front openings, such as pigeonholes,” says Maria Bergson, “to facilitate and to expedite getting such things as pads, pencils, or other items that she or her visitors might need in the course of a meeting.”
Miss Michaelson’s choice of a desk would be a small French one, cabriole, and therefore, very feminine and fragile looking. Additional working space would be behind her.
Mrs. McCluskey is partial to an island structure that would include the desk, storage space, and additional work room. The desk would be between 4 and 5 ft. wide.
“The desk should be narrower than that of a man, due to anthropometrics,” agrees Miss Bergson, who points out that the work and storage space should be in separate units, so that they could be used for long-term applications. The island setup would permit open communications between several people working together, a characteristic of landscaping that
these designers, as women, all favored.
For practical purposes, Miss Malino likes the Designcraft Departure II line of landscape furniture. She admires its versatility and the fact that it would satisfy the need for comfortable conferences, yet look good. “For a more formal office,” she says, “I would choose the Unimark International Modulo line designed by Assalucci. This would be more elegant.”
No modesty panels
All these female designers feel that it is important to be accessible and exposed so that there is no barrier between herself and her callers. Consequently, there is agreement that the modesty panel is on its way out of vogue. A woman’s legs are nothing to be ashamed of, and there is no reason for hiding them behind an obstruction that serves only to tear stockings and add to discomfort and inconvenience, they agree.
For ornamentation, Emily Malino suggests beautiful containers, such as decorated English tea cracker boxes, in which she could store her personal items, thus making them practical as well as aesthetic. A personal touch increases the feeling of friendliness and openness that Miss Malino and most of the other designers feel is so important in an executive office, particularly that of a woman.
Flowers also ranked high for decoration and a touch of femininity. Miss Bergson has plants on the wall unit behind her desk, and Mrs. McCluskey likes fresh flowers on the desk itself.
Shouldn’t contrast with occupant
Glass and plastic are Mrs. McCluskey’s preferences; Emily Malino prefers laminates for their huge variety, and wood, such as oak, for its lovely appearance. But, ideally, Miss Malino would like all of her office furniture to be of a soft material, other than the desk surface, which, obviously, would have to be hard for writing purposes. Miss Malino agrees with the others that color should be flexible in decorating an office, particularly a design office, since designers deal with so many colors that the color scheme cannot be distracting.
Another point of unanimous agreement is that there is not enough call for a line of desks specifically designed for the female executive, since there are so many modifications from which to choose in existing lines.
They also feel that in their positions as designers, individuality should be paramount consideration, and therefore, either a one-of-a-kind desk or one that is custom made is preferable