This can be one of the most exciting rooms to do in a house. It is an opportunity to really personalize and make this special space productive and functional. Whether your office occupies one bedroom or an entire floor the floor plan should allow for storage, work space and sometimes meeting space. An organized space also provides health benefits. An uncluttered space provides a sense of relief and can help relax the mind. Removing all possible toxic items will keep the air clean.
Acoustical considerations are primary here. You do not want to be talking on the phone with a client or vendor and have dogs barking or kids playing in the background. Clever ways to offer acoustical privacy include wall upholstery, special wall treatments that insulate against sound and water walls that provide their own kind of soothing sound.
Another major consideration is zoning and city regulations. Some cities require a separate entrance for home offices. To fail to consider this when planning your home office space could end up to be very stressful and costly.
In office design we take into consideration a place that promotes spontaneous collaboration. This may or may not be an issue in your home office but almost guaranteed you will want to be sure that you do not leave yourself open to spontaneous collaboration with a 6 year old who got loose from the babysitter.
Many home offices consist of a desk in the bedroom with a file cabinet and a closet. Home offices can be so much more than just that. A good home office will function as well as any office in any other corporate setting. Ergonomics are important here too. Don’t just pull a kitchen chair in to sit at your desk. There is furniture that is designed specifically to your height and weight and can save you from experiencing aches and pains from sitting all day in uncomfortable positions in uncomfortable furniture. You can go with an old classic; Herman Miller’s Aeron Chair. It is pretty basic and if it is not “executive” looking enough, there are leather chairs that are ergonomic too.
A good way to begin is by making a list of everything you need to conduct your business.
Desks, chairs, work tables and chairs, meeting tables; storage needs like samples, sample and price books, industry reference manuals and books and office supplies, forms and stationery all require a different type of storage. Clever design can make it all function perfectly for you and still look attractive. Bulletin and chalk boards as well as paper organizers can be especially fun to work with and display in a home office.
If you have an assortment of furniture from all over the place and time, paint it all the same color to unify the look of your office. Nice custom furniture is a plus, but it is not a necessity. Some of the most interesting office pieces have come from used office furniture stores. You can also use dining tables, or boards with file cabinets as pedestals. If your desk can not be replaced when it starts to show wear and tear, you can replace just certain parts to maintain the look and shape of your desk.
Home offices can have work islands just like the kitchen. They can be made the right height for counter stools so you can stand or sit while you work. Bookshelves, modular storage and shelves, hanging systems, credenzas and even furniture like you use in the rest of your home can work. Armoires, sideboards, industrial shelving, bakers’ racks and china cabinets can be used in a home office for storage.
A closet can be made into a perfect desk space. A properly placed shelf for the desk surface and shelves above and to the side can make into a perfect little mini office that can be closed off at will to hide clutter or just to offer multi-functional purposes to one room. It is very important to keep a space like this light in color and to add some kind of artificial light to keep from feeling “closeted in.” Under cabinet lighting and a nice task lamp can solve this problem. Closets can also be a nice place to hide electronics like printers, faxes, copiers and credit card terminals. It can also hold forms and office supplies.
I personally love whiteboards, chalkboards and bulletin boards for home offices. They hold notes, memos, art display, vendor notices and can be attractive and contain clutter all at the same time. They can be hung on the wall or place on an easel or art shelf. Closet doors can be upholstered or painted with chalk board paint. Even an entire wall covered in cork or upholstery can be used, plus this doubles for acoustical privacy!
A drawing workspace that can be moved around can double as a display!
Office systems are expensive, however they offer many ideas for simplifying and offering a safer environment. One of them is “smart” furniture where wiring and multiple plugs are enabled within the piece for all of the electronics we have on our desk. This can be replicated at home with clever planning.
You can use all of the clever boxes, containers, baskets and jars that you use elsewhere in the home to help keep things organized. Shelves are the most important storage asset in a home office. Do not rule out housing manuals and books in hall libraries outside the home office.
Habits to get into if you work at home:
- Keep office and home mail separated.
- Do not take business papers out of your office into the living area.
- Label all computer discs and tapes immediately.
- Keep business stationery at a handy location on your desk.
- File daily
- Have a spot in your office specifically allocated for placing the things you need to take with you when you go.
Home office design should also take into consideration your industry. There will be different needs for a teacher, physicist and architect. As in all things, it is the differences that add potential for greatness.
I’d love to see your home office. Post pictures on my Facebook site and let me know your best tips for office organization.