The 2-in-1 Home Office
Home offices tend to be occasional rather than permanently used (as say a living room might) and so many people combine it with another ‘occasional’ room — such as the dining room or a spare room. If your home office is part of a multifunctional room, it is vital that you provide enough storage for any associated paperwork to be put away when not needed. A computer console – which can be closed up when not in use – is perfect, hiding away clutter at the same time as all thoughts of work.
Alcoves can be transformed into work spaces with the addition of a deep shelf with space for a chair beneath, wall shelves above, some extra sockets and ideally cupboard doors to shut it all away. Fitted wardrobes and cupboards under the stairs can be given the same treatment.
Get the Lighting Right
Ceiling-based spots tend to cause unwelcome shadow — which is why desk lamps are so popular. In terms of natural lighting, beware window positions. Avoid placing your desk in such a way that your computer will face a window — on sunny days the glare can make it hard to see the screen. Likewise, desks up against south-facing windows can be practically unusable during the day. Rooflights work well in home offices, providing a good clear light throughout the day.
“Storage is Key”
Henry Saunders, Designer, Neville Johnson
If you work from home on a daily basis, it is advisable to have a home office designed specifically around your individual needs. Consider what it is you will be storing in your home office, and what is the minimum amount of storage that you feel you need now — and in the future.
The main item of furniture required within a home office is a desk with enough room for your monitor and keyboard. It is also imperative to include cabinets that house all the computer hardware out of sight, as well as peripherals such as cable management.
The items that you use on a daily basis should be within arm’s reach of the desk seating position. There should also be adequate working space either side of you.
A consultation with an experienced home office designer is recommended to overcome the challenges. The designer will be able to assist in defining your storage requirements and then create a room design that meets those specific requirements — utilising the space available in your home and making the most of any awkward spaces such as sloping ceilings and alcoves.
When working from home it can be hard to stay focused when surrounded by the hustle and bustle of home life. For this reason it is a good idea to aim to locate the home office somewhere away from noise hot spots and everyday clutter.
A loft conversion is ideal, or a dedicated study ideally situated away from the living room or children’s bedrooms.
If you have the space, a room located close to or with an adjoining WC helps to minimise the risk of household distractions, as does keeping tea or coffee making facilities in the room — you will be less likely to wander off to do something else if you don’t have to leave the room to make a drink.
Finally, although it is tempting to place your desk or workstation opposite a window, if the view or sight of people out and about enjoying a sunny day is likely to interfere with your work, then it may be best to situate the desk elsewhere in the room.
“Depends on the Job!”
Hugo Tugman, Architect Your Home
Everyone works in a different way and requires different equipment, conditions and resources and as a result there really cannot be a ‘standard’ solution that would suit everyone. In fact, there will be as many different solutions as there are different types of job.
Ask yourself a few questions: How do you prefer to work? Do you like to be shut away or is disturbance not a problem? Would a view distract or inspire your work? Do you need to meet colleagues or clients? Will you require lots of filing space or is your work all computerised? Do you use any special equipment that needs to be stored for off-site use or do you need to have lots of tools at hand? How might your home circumstances play a part? Do you have noisy neighbours or small children?
If you need to shut yourself away from the rest of the house, a loft space is a good candidate, but unless it has already been converted, this is a relatively expensive solution. If you want to create your own space, a cabin-style outbuilding in the garden is a great addition to your property and can be alternatively used as a home gym or guest room if you stop working from home.
If you have the space in the garden and you are serious about working from home, then do make use of it for a dedicated home office — it can be the perfect solution. It could be a kit summer house, a modular home office building from the likes of companies such as OfficePOD, a small log cabin or a proper small building.
Good insulation is a must if you want to use it all year round, as is lighting (your electrician should be able to connect an outbuilding to the electricity in the house fairly easily), sockets and a heat source. Think too about double glazing and good security measures.
You can usually build a garden room under Permitted Development, but check first with your local authority.
“Artificial Light Needs Thought”
Rachal Hutcheson, Home Office Design Expert, Sharps
With space at a premium in many homes nowadays, home offices are being incorporated into even the most awkward of spaces, such as under the stairs, in corners of bedrooms, and in alcoves.
Unlike freestanding furniture which doesn’t always make the most of the room available, using a bespoke solution means each inch of space is used well. Another way in which you can ensure that your work area is kept clutter-free and maximise the space available is to select a home office that incorporates a sliding door design — these give you the option to display or hide away your work files, laptops and printers as required.
The traditionally unconventional spaces in which home offices are increasingly being positioned in around the home may not have natural light readily available and therefore it is integral that artificial light is properly utilised to illuminate work spaces so that you can work comfortably.
The style of your home office furniture can also give the illusion of a larger space. Choosing fitted furniture in a light grained wood will ensure that your work area looks light and clutter-free, while cupboards with high-gloss finishes will reflect light to again give the appearance of a larger space.
While the layout of the room will very much be dictated by the space you have available, remember that a desk does not always have to face a wall or window. If you have the space, locating it more centrally in the room makes the room feel much more professional and leaves space behind for storage and in front for seating. Desk-based working is less effective (in this world of laptops and smartphones) so informal seating should be considered too. If you can’t make yourself comfortable on a sofa while working at home, when can you?