Whether you have a dedicated room, a corner of the kitchen, a converted outbuilding or are simply looking to squeeze an office in under the stairs, our expert Katherine Sorrell’s guide will help you create a work space that’s not just efficient and functional, but also inviting and comfortable.
Size mattersStart by considering the size of desk you require. The bigger the better – you will never regret having plenty of space on which to spread out. Do you also need a table and chairs for meetings, or perhaps a sofa or chaise longue on which to recline and read or think? And storage is vital, whether it’s a shelf above the desk, plan chests, filing cabinets, drawers or stacking boxes. Bear in mind that some things will need to be within arm’s reach, while less-used items can be stored on high shelves or deep cupboards, not necessarily in the same room. In awkward rooms, such as lofts, under-stairs or other small areas, built-in storage will make the most of the space; otherwise you may consider cheaper, free-standing options.Get technical
A good start is to count up your electrical appliances and ensure that you install enough plug sockets in the right places (about three inches above the work surface is good, plus some hidden lower down, too) to accommodate them all. Place electrical items together so you don’t end up with long stretches of cable between them, and clip trailing wires to backs of table legs where possible. Alternatively, going wireless eliminates some cables entirely, and gives you greater flexibility about where to site your equipment.
Good task and general lighting is vital to avoid eye strain when working at home. The more natural light the better – though beware glare from direct sun, and position your desk at right angles to a window if possible. For working on dim days and in the evenings, fit overhead lighting that doesn’t cast any shadows over your working area – track lighting, spots inset into the ceiling and wall lamps are all options. Desk lamps should ideally be adjustable. Alternatively, consider wiring one or two adjustable lamps into the wall above your desk.
Conventional office furnishings are great for efficiency, but tend to look out of place in a home. While ensuring that your desk and chair are comfortable, seek out furnishings that suit your home and your personality. Plenty of chain stores and independent shops sell home office furniture at a range of prices, but you could also consider hunting around junk shops, second-hand office furniture stores and salvage yards for interesting alternatives, such as old school lockers, a trestle resting on a pair of metal filing cabinets, a distressed kitchen unit or a desktop made from blackboard. Add functional accessories that will brighten up your day, such as colourful waste bins or funky pen holders, and some finishing touches, such as plants, pictures and scented candles that will make this a space where you really want to spend time.
If your office space is shared with your dining room, kitchen, bedroom or living room, you will probably want to conceal it as much as possible when it’s not in use. Build a large cupboard in a recess next to a chimneybreast, for example, and behind the doors you should be able to squeeze in a desk with some shelving above. In a kitchen you might consider removing a unit. That said, think carefully about whether the room’s two purposes will conflict – if you need to work with the children running around, or when a partner wants to sleep, it’s going to be a problem. You might be better off converting the loft, or fitting an office under the stairs, on a large landing or even in the garden shed.