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Mr. Millholland said that while homeowners in the Washington area are moving to a more transitional style, they still are fairly traditional.

“Homeowners don’t want to mess up their resale value, so even when they lean toward a contemporary look, they use it in a traditional way,” Mr. Millholland said. “For example, they will have built-in cabinetry in the home office, but they will choose to have a less fussy, cleaner finish, such as a flat-panel front, that’s not overly elaborate.”

Ms. Gross said traditional home offices used to have lots of sturdy bookcases and heavy furniture, but some people today have fewer books because of the prevalence of e-readers.

“Some people like the look of books as a decorative item, but others prefer very clear, clean spaces with just a desk, a small file cabinet and a sofa,” Ms. Gross said. “Most people want a space for hanging files, but now you can get a cabinet or even a box that looks decorative in place of a traditional file cabinet.”

Mr. Proctor said there are subtle differences even for homeowners who want a traditional home office.

“Wood still means power to a lot of people, so we still see a lot of walnut or cherry cabinetry mixed with leather furniture, but in a hipper way, with the leather having a vintage feel and a Mick Jagger photo on the wall,” Mr. Proctor said. “People who really use their offices also want them to be comfortable, so they’ll add a false armoire that hides a refrigerator or a wine cooler for bottled water. I had one client who loved frozen pudding pops, so we added a freezer drawer to the office.”

Personalization of the office space is especially important if you are using the room for unpleasant tasks such as paying bills, Ms. Gross said.

“The trend is away from office-looking furniture toward having something in the shape of a desk but with a special finish or unusual hardware,” she said. “Even if you use an office-looking desk, it’s best to mix it with other pieces rather than have a matched set of a credenza, a desk and bookcases.”

Ms. Gross designed a study for the 2012 DC Design House with paintings, a small soft sofa, a lush rug with a lot of texture, and soft drapery. While the room has a large desk for paperwork, the pops of color and the soft textures make this space a pleasant private retreat.