Creating a home office

The Drawing Board

The right place for expert advice on all aspects of renovating a home, large or small.

Once upon a time, home was home and work was work. With the advent of technology, the journey from home-mode to work-mode is often no longer than the walk from the breakfast table to the spare room. Home Office

And even those who do go out to work seem to need an office at home too because work follows us home at the end of the day.

Of course there are great advantages in working from home. No commuting, no road rage, no office politics! But there are disadvantages too. It can be difficult to create a distinct boundary between work and home. Anyone working from home will tell you that it's important to be able to shut the door on the office at the end of the day, but equally important is the ability to shut the door (physically and mentally) on home life at the start of the working day. It can be difficult to concentrate on ‘work-work' when you are confronted with ‘house-work’ every time you go into the kitchen to make a cup of tea.

Another big consideration when you are planning a work-from-home space is whether clients will be coming to you for meetings. While clients may appreciate that your low overheads result in lower charges to them, they probably won't appreciate having to sit on the spare bed for meetings or tripping over toys in the hall.

Ideally, a serious work-from-home office should be completely separate from the main house with its own entrance; for example, a studio space built over the garage or a converted shed in the garden. Alternatively if you’re building a new house, you can create a designated office space with its own entrance, ideally as far as possible from the noisy end of the house.
If you don't have the budget or the space to create a separate office space, a spare bedroom, basement, or attic is ideal, but even a small space on the landing, or the dead space under the stairs can be utilised. If you are forced to use a corner of the living room, consider using screens, or a sliding door so that it can be closed off at the end of the day.

If the office is incorporated into the living area consider the look and style of your furniture, lighting and storage so that it doesn't seem incongruous with the rest of the house. For example, a simple wooden table or an antique desk may look better than a high-tech office desk. If you're on a tight budget, a door resting on trestle legs or on the top of filing cabinets makes a perfectly good desk.
Be sure that the table or desk is the right height to accommodate your legs and the arms of the chair.
When it comes to choosing a chair, ergonomics should always prevail over aesthetics. Although it might not quite fit the décor, a well-designed office chair that can be wheeled away at the end of the day is preferable to something that looks nice, but costs you a fortune at the chiropractor.  

The maxim of organising your office space is simply this:

'A shortage of storage space will result in an excess of clutter.'

Don't make the mistake of thinking that your computer filing system will remove the need for physical storage, especially if you need a lot of reference material on hand. Magazines and brochures are best stored in open-sided files in a shelving system. The more you categorise, the easier it is to track material down later.

Here are a few storage tips:

  • Decide what needs to be kept on hand and what can be stored behind closed doors
  • Hide files in cupboards or on shelves behind translucent panelled screens
  • Hanging file systems avoid using up valuable floor space
  • Where storage is visible, use coloured storage boxes and files that keep everything uniform and have Old metal filing cabinets can be transformed with a new coat of enamel spray paint
  • And finally, think forward. Will you still be working in the same way in a year's time? Will you need more storage, more equipment, more phone lines or power points?

If you have teenagers who monopolise the phone or are constantly on the internet, you should consider putting in a second phone line, or look into the advantages of wireless broadband. A wireless connection allows you to work with your laptop in any room without having to plug in to a phone line.
On a nice day, you could even work in the garden. After all, isn't that what working from home is all about?

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  • CEZ33 says
    As someone who works from home, if I had the chance to design my own home, there would definately be alot of planning going into an appropriate home office - I think it should have a feel that you are in a work environment - but also the added luxury of making it feel (with decor etc) like a sanctuary with the perfect mix of calm and stimulating - if that makes sense :) I have ideas of what my perfect office would look like... sigh....
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    • KH says
      I'd actually really like to be able to work from home.
    • Anna says
      i like it... but i dont think id get much work done!!
    • Cinty says
      What a great article! Now I think I might be able to sort something to be able to work from home so I won't have to find childcare and I'll be able to spend more time with my son! Thanks :)
    • Wice says
      I've worked from home for many, years. There are advantages but it cuts both wasys. The worst thing about the home office - especially as the years pass, is the social isolation that becomes inevitable. The more dedicated you become and the more you enjoy your work, the less time you take to see friends or go out.

      As for organising office space, my office was once quite large room but now I sit on my chair at my computer with just a few feet of spare space in which to move around. I certainly can't walk across the room any more. One day I might simply disappear!
    • Starlite5 says
      Like the idea but I'd certainly think about a separate area from the main living space.
    • Rosie says
      Our office is in our lounge & it's fine. The kids use the computer too so we want to see what they're looking at - security for them etc.
      I try to get to the bottom of the paperwork once a week.
      • KH says
        Ours is too and I think given all the time I spend online I would actually feel a bit isolated if I was tucked away in an office away from the living area. I don't think I could work from home from an office in a main living area though.
      • Wice says
        My office is off the lounge through six foot french doors so I can still see what's going on there - more of a hinderance thaa help as no one respects my need to concentrate when I work in the evenings or weekend. Also I see clients in the lounge so it means that this room always has to look good too - well tidy anyway!
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