The Clutter Cleanse (Part Seven)
The Home Office
This can be one of the most interesting rooms to do in a house. It is an opportunity to personalize and make this unique 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.
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 a soothing sound.
Clutter is a culprit in home offices that is responsible for a loss in personal productivity. Clutter can create problems like late reports, overwhelm and missed opportunity.
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 her babysitter.
Many home offices that we see are a desk in the bedroom with a file cabinet and a closet. Home offices can be so much more than that, an excellent home office functions 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 for your height and weight and can save you from experiencing aches and pains from sitting all day in uncomfortable positions in uncomfortable furniture. One favorite is 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.
Make 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. Smart design can make it all function perfectly for you and still look attractive. Bulletin and chalkboards, as well as paper organizers, can be especially fun to work with and display in a home office.
If you have a hodgepodge of furniture from all over the place and time, paint it all the same color to unify the look of your office. Beautiful 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. My favorite ever was a big old library table that we had glass cut for to protect the table top. You can also use dining tables or boards with file cabinets as pedestals. A designer I know had a desk that could not be replaced when it started to show wear and tear. She loved the shape (a very large L or boomerang), so she had beautiful raw wood cut and finished in the same shape and put on the platform of her old desk. Such a clever idea.
Home offices can have work islands just like the kitchen. It can sit in the middle of the room, and the surface used for meetings, mailings, and special projects. It is a right height for counter stools so you can stand or sit while you work. Walls of bookshelves, modular storage and hanging systems can all be helpful. Credenzas and even furniture like you use in the rest of your home can work. Armoire’s, sideboards, industrial shelving, baker’s racks and china cabinets can be used in a home office for storage. I just inherited an armoire from my mother that she no longer wanted and am in the process of re-purposing it for office storage and organization.
A closet can be made into a perfect desk space. A correctly 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 critical to keep a space like this light in color and to add some 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 (but you knew that).
I love 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 chalkboard paint. Even an entire wall covered in cork or upholstery can be used, plus this doubles for acoustical privacy!
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.
Habits to get into if you work at home: 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 valuable storage asset in a home office. Do not rule out housing manuals and books in hall libraries outside the home office.
- 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 the potential for greatness.