In the past six months, the home office has gone from the status of luxury to urgent necessity. The world has gone topsy-turvy, and with uncertainty comes a need to focus on the “controllables”. I am a strong believer that our interior environment critically affects our well-being. One aspect over which we have control is our interior spaces - what we choose to be surrounded by. No matter the size of our bank account, we can bring joyful touches of beauty and meaning into our interiors. And, whether we are an employee, a contract worker, or an entrepreneur, creating a home office merits that kind of intentional creation.
The Practical Stuff
How to start? First, identify your needs for space, privacy, natural light and/or a view to the exterior. Your workspace could be virtually anywhere in your home. But setting up an office in the middle of your dining room would be challenging if you need privacy, don’t want to clean up at the end of the day, or work odd hours. Likewise, officing in an attic or basement space might not be ideal if you need to keep an eye on young children or monitor the mail or package deliveries.
Consider how large of a work surface and how much and what kind of storage you need. Do you meet with clients or co-workers? Do you require an adjustable height desk? Can you leave your work out at end of each day, or do you need storage with doors where everything tucks away neatly? Once you’ve identified your needs, decide whether a corner of your living room, a walk-in closet, your sunroom, a spare bedroom, the space under the stairs, or a corner of your finished lower level could meet them. Would you capture valuable space (and add value to your home) by finishing your attic, lower level, or 3-season porch? Or are you ready to go further? An addition that serves as an office today could be converted to guest quarters down the road if necessary. In any case, consider your needs for lighting, electrical power, technology, and office equipment. If you crave natural light, consider adding a window, or a solatube or skylight (if you are on the top floor) if budget allows. Buy the best chair you can afford, especially if you are going to be sitting for long periods.
The Fun Stuff
Creating a home office haven is an opportunity to take a stylistic “U-turn” from your usual décor. Surround yourself with colors, textures and personal, meaningful keepsakes that inspire and motivate you. In this time when you might not be travelling, why not hang photographs of your favorite get-away or another place you dream of visiting? If you love coastal style, bring that into your new space and revel in that! Or make your office into a joint work and meditation space. One caution - If you need to carve space out of a well-trafficked area, choose furniture, colors, light fixtures, and accessories that blend with the style of the rest of your home.
The drawings below are a home office design for a colleague and friend – a general contractor with whom I regularly partner on residential projects. My friend had launched into finishing his lower level – then hit pause to ask my help with space planning and cabinetry design. Once I understood his and his wife’s objectives and style preferences, I created a plan featuring an expansive, u-shaped work surface, a desk facing the rear yard, a balance of open and closed storage, Shaker style cabinetry, solid surface countertops and wood shelving, and a separate desk for home-schooling or gaming. Construction is underway!
Remember - whether your plans include converting an existing space or building an addition, a professional designer will be a valuable partner to guide your process!