One of the most popular amenities in today’s home is the home office. Whether it’s used for running a business or just paying the bills and writing up a grocery list, home offices provide a central place for a myriad of paperwork chores. And just about every house has a few unused square feet you can convert to an office with a little imagination, as the following examples will demonstrate.
The spare bedroom: Spare bedrooms typically offer the most logical choice for a home office. They are spacious enough to provide ample work space; they have at least one window for good natural light; they have a closet for storing papers and supplies; and for privacy and quiet they can be closed off from the rest of the home simply by shutting the door.
Using a spare bedroom doesn’t mean that you need to take over the entire space. Unless you’re running a business out of your home that requires a lot of desk space and file storage, it’s often sufficient to simply have a small desk or computer table that can be accommodated within a relatively compact area. That means that the spare bedroom typically still has ample space remaining for setting up a bed or perhaps a futon for guests, or for a sewing machine, hobby table, exercise equipment, or other multi-use equipment and supplies.
Kitchen: Kitchens offer another very popular and practical place for setting up a small home office. Many kitchens have ample space for a built-in desk area, and a compact office arrangement can often be set up with minimal disruption to the work space. For a larger and more efficient space, a desk area can typically be incorporated into your kitchen remodeling plans.
If you are trying to accommodate a desk area in an existing kitchen, you may need to work at one of the existing 36-inch-high counters. This can be done by removing a cabinet at the end of one of the counters – to keep the desk away from the food preparation areas and to provide an open space to sit at – then utilizing a stool instead of a standard chair. If you are remodeling to create the desk space, plan on a separate counter set approximately 30 inches off the floor, with at least 24 inches of open space underneath to accommodate a chair.
Basement: If your home has a basement, you may find just the space you need for an office. The key to creating a home office in a basement is to make it separate and cheerful, which requires a little planning.
First, you’ll want to take care of all your basic structural needs. The space has to be dry and well-ventilated, and needs heat, power and telephone. Next, install one or more walls as needed to partition the space off from the rest of the basement area. This not only makes it private, it also makes it easier to heat. Finally, make it bright by adding sufficient lighting – a combination of overhead fluorescent lights and incandescent desk lights works well, and make it cheerful and less utilitarian by covering over pipes, ducts and rough framing with paint, drywall, suspended ceiling tiles, or even just by draping fabric.
Attic: Like basements, attics can offer a great area for a home office by using a little imagination, although it might also necessitate some structural work as well. With an attic, you have several considerations. First is access, which can be by a traditional staircase, or through the use of a set of spiral stairs, which take up less floor space and can be purchased in wood or metal to accommodate any floor height. The next consideration is structural support – are the existing joists of sufficient size to handle the weight of people and furniture? And the third is headroom, which may be already be sufficient, or which may need to be increased through the use of dormers. Unless you have an attic that is already intended for occupancy, you’ll probably need to consult with a qualified remodeling contractor.
Attached Garage: You can often create a convenient and efficient office space by stealing a little room out of the garage. Select a corner of the garage that is adjacent to the house, then enclose it with two additional walls. Raise the floor up in this area with new joists to put the new room at the same level as the existing house, then install a door in the common wall to provide privacy and easy access between the house and the office space.
Closets: An unused closet is an often overlooked space that may be able to be converted into an office area. A walk-in closet of sufficient square footage would be the obvious choice, but even a standard three-foot deep closet can be used. The trick here is to construct a desk in the closet with one or two fold-up wings. To use the desk, simply open the closet doors, fold down the wings, and you have your desk space. Keep your phone and computer situated on the fixed part of the desk that’s in the closet so that they don’t need to be moved each time you fold up the wings, and use the wing areas for paperwork. Because of the limited space, when folding up a closet desk, remember to unplug any heat-producing equipment before closing the door.
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