Recently I was working with a client in redesigning and redecorating her home office. What I am sure seemed like it should have been a quick fix first required a lot of questions to be asked before I could even start looking into desks for her space!
Home offices are highly personal and have to be tailored to the individual. There is no one-size-fits-all, except the ubiquitous gray cubicle, which we unanimously hate. I always wanted to bring swaths of fabrics to pin over top of mine – my own form of upholstered walls. Unfortunately, such gross personalization of space was not permitted. Bunch of killjoys at that office!
Let’s start with some basic questions:
How much space do you need? Do you spread out when you work? Does your work take up a lot of space – rolls of parchment, stacks of papers or books, numerous samples of materials that need comparing? Or is it relatively compact – requiring little more than space for your notebook and pen, coffee mug, lamp, a vase of flowers, and laptop?
How do you tend to work? Do you file everything, or do you tend to leave stacks of papers out? Do you need extra-large sized filing cabinets, or just a box that can tuck away in a closet or under a covered bench when not in use?
How much surface area is needed for you to work effectively? If you find yourself needing to borrow “surface area” from your floor, that’s a sure sign you need more desk space to work effectively. Take note of how much surface area you are “borrowing” and see if an “L” or “U” shape is what you are secretly needing.
For myself, the L-shape is great. I can set papers or sketches to work on off to my right, and focus on computer stuff directly in front of me. Everything is within reach, so if I have a lot of things I need to reference back and forth between the “writing” area and the “computer” side, it’s relatively easy to do.
How much office space do you require? Are there lots of resources you have to be able to reach quickly and easily? Books, swatchbooks (or baskets to contain all those crazy fabric minnows), paint decks, and other resources?
What do you need in front of you? A view so you can daydream a bit? A motivational poster? Corkboard with inspirational items or to-do reminders on it? Do you spend a number of your hours meeting with clients and therefore need more of a “command center” style arrangement?
A few “don’ts” if at all possible:
Don’t have your back to the door or have the door anywhere outside of your peripheral vision – it’s distracting not to know who is coming in the room (and bad feng shui). You also really don’t want your back to a window – even if you aren’t prone to watching scary movies and jumping sky-high when a bird attacks his reflection in the glass.
The CPU Dilemma:
Most likely due to its undeniable hideousness, the CPU never seems to appear in shelter magazines. Nor do its ugly relatives, the keyboard, mouse, monitor, printer, scanner, fax machine (yes, some businesses like fabric companies still live in the Dark Ages and require a fax machine to operate), wireless router, etcetera ad nauseum. Wires can make the prettiest and neatest of arrangements look terrible.
The harsh reality is, your only bet is to hide these buggers if you have the misfortune of requiring them for your work. I’ve had luck hiding the majority of items in the office closet, and simply putting things that ordinarily would hide in the closet in more attractive containers on a bookshelf. Provided the CPU can get enough air circulation to remain cool, you can get away with hiding it in a cabinet.
Lighting - to me, natural light is an absolute must. I must have daylight, some sense of time passing during the day, some knowledge of what goes on with the weather, even on cloudy, dark, yucky days. Beyond that, it’s task lighting all the way. Working well requires focus, better to highlight just the things that need attention, and let other areas of the room be more softly illuminated.