In many families, working at home has become the rule rather than the execption. Free-lance professionals and women with small children often choose to work at home. Other do not, need or want the extra overhead of another "office" when their homes will serve the purpose.

If you don't have an extra room for work, cheer up! There are many ways to combine a working and living environment -- even in the parlor. And the combination need not make your living room any less attractive.

Combining a writing career with a living space is easy; all you need is a work surface and a typewriter. This can easily be built into a table behind a free-standing sofa.

I used this solution for a writer whose wife was practicing law; he elected to work at home, while she went to work each morning. A long, handsome French refectory table -- a real one this time, friends -- fit the back of the sofa perfectly. Table and sofa were placed at right angles to the long fireplace wall of the room providing plenty of work space for a swivel chair and typing table on casters, and ample work surface.

A designer who chooses to work at home has greater space needs than a writer. Designers need a lot of surface: a good drafting table for developing floor plans, details and sketches; another surface for paper work; and finally, a typewriter to handle correspondence, specifications and accounting procedures.

Fitting all this into a living room can be a real challenge. But furniture manufacturers are cooperating by producing workplace furniture that is as handsome and decorative as it is functional.

For two stage designers who preferredto work at home, I began with the seating group, selecting a comfortable, small scale modular group that could easily seat eight -- without moving any furniture -- in a loose, J-shaped configuration. A mirrored cube reflects the wall-to-wall carpeting and seems to disappear, making the space appear less cramped.

The drawing board is a conventional wood top on a tubular metal frame strong, yet not bulky. Placed in front of the square picture window at the end of the room, the board, covered with white paper, seems to float in the air. The upholstered swivel chair is a handy perch for an extra guest.

The desk is a white laminate envelope surrounding a white file cabinet. I substituted chrome wire pulls for those that came with the file. I chose the most elegant typing table I could dig up, a white top of laminate on a bright chrome-legged base on casters, and a work chair with arms. The chair, perhaps, is not appropriate for typing, but it's a wonderful addition to the parlor, serving as an occasional arm chair.