How to: Organize your home office
Maybe you're not running a Fortune 500 company from your basement, and you don't have employees punching in and making widgets at your kitchen table, but chances are, you and your family still conduct "business" at home. You need a place to sit and deal with bills and peruse your kids' report cards; you need a spot for the computer that's used for online gift-buying, e-mail, or checking out that novel you've always wanted to read. Even if you don't have a lot of square footage, you can carve out an attractive, functional work area for you and yours. Here's how.
Be realistic -- what have you got to work with? If there's not an entire room to devote to it, rethink smaller areas like a corner of the kitchen counter, a nook in a bedroom or a part of the living room. Consider a tall hutch with a pull-out or drop-down cupboard that can act as a writing surface when you need it and flip up when you don't. Even a small closet can be converted into a workspace by removing the door and installing a piece of sturdy melamine or painted particle board across it (for the desktop) and shelves above.
According to Sue Bennett of Bennett Design Associates in Uxbridge, Ont., it doesn't matter if you're planning a workspace for children or adults -- standard design principles still apply. The most important one: ample storage. "Plan the desktop over drawers that will accommodate hanging files," she says. And make sure your work surface is between 24" and 30" deep, because you'll need that space to comfortably fit a computer keyboard and monitor. Ideally, the desktop will have grommet holes along the back for electrical cords. Sue also suggests plugging a power bar into your electrical outlet, and then mounting that power bar to the underside of the back of the work surface. "When it comes to home office design, we've also started mounting an extra two electrical outlets high on the wall, behind a small cabinet or door, for all those electronic chargers we all seem to accumulate. This way, the chargers are always plugged in, and you can park your cellphone in a designated, yet hidden, place each evening."
Image courtesy of Pottery Barn
Do an inventory of furniture you already have. If you're not logging multiple hours a day in the space, an unused dining chair will suffice for your workspace; a small table with shelves or wall-mounted bookcases above makes a compact and efficient desk area; a board over filing cabinets is an economical and practical desk. Whatever you do, look up -- few of us maximize the vertical space in our homes and you need all of it to make the most of your home office.
Don't let drawers become a jumbled mess of inaccessible items. Consider a kitchen utensil tray to keep scissors, stapler, Post-its and other office essentials orderly and reachable. Pretty glass and ceramic jars work well for pens and pencils. For personal papers, mail, stationery and magazines, use magazine holders in a colour that ties in with the surrounding decor. Hang corkboard or a quilted piece of fabric on the wall above your desk, or on the inside of storage cubbies and between shelves: you can pin notes and papers to it, reducing the clutter on your desktop.
Colour affects mood, so give your workstation palette careful thought. If you need to slow down and focus on tasks, consider a soothing muted palette of pale shades; if you need to kick-start your creativity with a jolt, deep, vibrant colours may be better for you. You can add colour with paint and with desktop accessories. Besides the overall room lighting, you'll need task lighting, especially near the computer monitor (if you have one) and over the area where you write. If a desk lamp will eat up precious inches, consider a light with a clamp, which you can attach to an overhead shelf. Because the home office becomes part of your home decor, don't forget the small touches. Pictures and plants (a few short bamboo stalks in a small glass is low-maintenance and low-budget) go a long way toward making the space look inviting and flow seamlessly through the house.
Image courtesy of Pottery Barn