As telecommuting grows in popularity, the home office is no longer just a place to pay bills and file papers. No matter the career, a private, professional space within the home that promotes productivity and creativity is a must. Especially if receiving clients is part of the drill. The good news is that as our technology and devices become more compact, style and design can remain front and center. It’s a matter of six easy steps.
1. Plan for the Future
Even an awkward space can be usable. Robyn Baumgarten, senior designer and CEO of Interiors by Just Design in Woodbury, recommended hiring a professional to design custom pieces instead of purchasing retail or online. “This is an investment in your business. Hire a consultant, make a solid plan and establish a budget up front.” Ready-made furniture may be less expensive but with the wear and tear that comes with constantly opening drawers and doors, that bargain won’t last long. Baumgarten also said a realistic budget helps her clients stay grounded—it’s easy to cave on a beautiful antique desk, only to discover there’s no money left for equally lavish coordinating accessories.
2. Take a Seat
The two most significant pieces in a home office are the desk and the chair. Don’t make the mistake of choosing a seat solely for its looks. “Chairs must be comfortable. You spend nearly the entire day in it,” said Mary Meyer of Nesconset-based Mary Meyer Interiors . A good chair must be solidly built, adjustable, ergonomically correct and fit to a desk’s height. And don’t forget a plastic runner for beneath the desk—it makes it easier to move and protects the rug. If fitness is a factor, consider combining a workout with work by using an exercise-ball chair.
3. Define Your Turf
The right desk is a personal choice. The airiness of a glass-top piece works well in a small room because seeing the flooring through it gives the impression of more space. But if a larger work surface is required, consider floating a table in the center of the room in lieu of a desk. Another option that is growing in popularity is the standing desk. Studies show that sitting all day increases the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease even with regular exercise. Most models can be adjusted for both sitting and standing. If possible, the desk should face a window. Natural light is a great mood-booster and positioning the back of the monitor to the window eliminates glare on the screen while keeping the outdoors within view.
4. Light It Up
Task, ambient and overhead lighting all play a role in the home office and must be carefully considered. Pot lights bathe the room and fill the space, Meyer recommended supplementing them with a floor lamp for warm, atmospheric light. Dafna Adler, of Interiors by Dafna Adler in West Hempstead, suggested that lighting should be as close to daylight as possible to promote productivity. “LED is very much like natural light. And you should never use a light directly above your head or the computer.” Adjusting the brightness on the computer screen also helps lessen strain on the eyes
5. The Importance of Storage
An organized home office is key for concentration. If floor space is limited, Adler recommended selecting storage units that stack upward, instead of low and wide. Installing wall cubbies and wall shelving is also a space saver, suggested Patty Barr of The Elegant Organizer in Babylon. But she added that a home office should be as paperless as possible, with important documents stored on an external hard drive. Even after a system is in place, be sure to reevaluate if it’s actually working. Are papers still piling up? Then it’s time to come up with a new solution that’s easier to use.
6. Find the Room
Storage is especially critical in a home office that isn’t in a separate room. Not everyone has a spare bedroom or den that can fit the bill. “Any space will do if it’s neat and organized,” said Adler, who likes using a beautiful desk in the living room or family room so it fits in with the furniture. Baumgarten suggested repurposing an armoire if the office is in a bedroom, using the lower shelf to house a small laptop and the upper shelves for a printer and supplies. Simply close the doors to put work out of sight and out of mind. And if space is really at a premium, as it might be at a vacation home or pied-à-terre, Meyer’s solution is to attach a fold-down table to the wall. When not in use, return it to the folded position and turn the chair around for extra seating.