Whether you’re CEO of your own household or work 40-plus hours from a corner in the kitchen, home office space is vital for today’s fast-paced, multi-tasking families.
Like many independent contractors, my “home office” evolved very slowly over the years.
I started writing sports copy in long-hand while lounging on my bed; I quickly progressed to the aged black Remington typewriter (note: items like this are now considered “vintage”). Not sure how I feel about that.
Once out of college, I moved to the dining room table with a laptop computer (I skipped the short-lived standalone word processors with frugal college-honed “borrowing” skills) and feverously wrote any and all assignments I could contract outside of my daytime job, earning extra money to furnish our new-to-us house. After the babies arrived, I moved to a corner of the basement laundry room—warm and quiet, but shared with the litter box.
Then, 20-some years after my byline first appeared in a newspaper, it finally happened. I secured my own space—my very own room dedicated to my craft—in a corner of our newly-finished lower level. And it has a door!
My home office voyage had come to an end.
Wait…now that I have the space, what am I to do with it?
If you share this saga, read on to learn from area experts.
Function and form
Tiff Davidson Blades, owner of Davidson Design and Home Furnishings, has been helping area homeowners design their space for more than 20 years. She stressed the importance of having a dedicated office space, whether it is for a home-based business or simply the organization of household bills, activities, schedules and chores.
“When creating the space, be thoughtful of how you work and what functions best for you,” she said. “Make a warm, comfortable environment. Figure out what is energizing and what is distracting.”
Some parents she knows even make the office a kid-free zone. However, defining how the space will function is essential.
Western Office, at 514 N. 32nd St., has been serving area clients since 1954, providing everything from paper clips to desks to complete computer set-up, installation and service. Rod Hankel, a partner at Western, noted that home office owners should ask themselves a few questions when establishing their space, such as:
How do you work? Do you have a dedicated room or space, or do you need a mobile workstation? Do you want a traditional look or something that fits the décor of your home? What is your budget?
Davidson Blades adds: What are the tasks I complete in my office? Who will use the space? What are the storage needs?
For those home business owners who do not have a dedicated space, Henkel recommends a portable workstation that can be wheeled away when the office is “closed.”
“You are automatically talking multi-function these days,” Hankel said. “We offer a roll-around work cart that holds a PC or tablet, monitor, keyboard and printer. Bring it out to work, lock it in place, and then put it away when you are done.”
We’ve helped set up a lot of situations where it doesn’t look like a home owner actually works from home, he added.
“My favorite spaces are the ones that don’t really look like an office,” said Davidson Blades. “Try unique pieces instead of those that scream ‘office.’”
Davidson Blades believes that comfort is another key element of the home-based office. The plethora of mobile electronic devices available today has severed the ties to the traditional desk.
“We are finally realizing that we work most of our lives—in one way or another—and it’s nice to have freedom in our work space,” she said. “You can sit or stand or move to a comfy chair to read or do some research.”
Davidson Blades points to a counter-height desk that looks more like a piece of warm living room furniture than a traditional desk from a corporate office.
Hankel agreed that in-home office owners often want their furniture to look like it fits in their home, not in a standard office cubicle.
“You don’t have to use typical office furniture,” Davidson Blades added. “You can be creative in how you set up your home office. Maybe a funky table and some baskets with works just as well as a traditional desk with drawers.”
Hankel went on to explain that in terms of large data storage, sometimes less in more. Western Office consults with clients with everything from PC purchase and setup to establishing remote data storage and automatic data backups.
You don’t necessarily need a huge tower taking up space anymore, he said.
Yet, the work space is still exactly that—a space to produce a product or service. While some prefer a more utilitarian environment, Davidson Blades encourages homeowners to personalize their space.
“You have the freedom to make it your office, so put your favorite colors on the walls, kids’ artwork or family pictures—make it fun,” she said. “This is where the decorating comes in. Incorporate things you love, things that inspire you—it speaks to who you are and how you work.”