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Keys to Creating a Flexible Home Office Space

The definition of a home office is broader than ever before. With a few creative ideas, any space can become a home headquarters that works as hard as you do.

From laptops and iPads to smart phones and Kindles, today’s top tools are all about tuning in. But while these technologies can turn us on to performing faster and smarter, they also mean we’re putting in later days and longer weeks. And overtime often means working from home, so it’s important to set aside a functional workspace in your house where you can focus your thoughts and file your papers.

Think you don’t have room to spare? Think again. Just as the parameters of your workday have been stretched and twisted, the definition of a home office has been broadened. You don’t necessarily need an entire study sealed off from the rest of the house to get the job done. With a few creative ideas, your bedroom, dining room, or den can be converted into a serviceable home headquarters that works as hard as you do.

Bedroom

Don’t hit the snooze button on your sleeping space just yet — with some clever conversions to an old armoire or TV cabinet, you can awaken a smart workstation.

  • After clearing out any clutter, install a desk-height (about 29.5 inches from the floor) sliding shelf that can be rolled out to hold a keyboard or laptop (the necessary hardware can be found at most big-box retailers), and then cut out a small hole in the rear wall of the unit to allow cords to pass through to your outlets.
  • Upper shelves can be used to organize reference materials, while the bottom shelf is an ideal location to house a printer. And to keep your seat from getting underfoot when not in use, opt for a small folding stool that can be stowed on hooks inside the cabinet. When you’re ready to grab some shut-eye, simply shut the doors of your workplace.

Dining Room

Spice up your work-at-home world by dishing up desk space in the dining room. If you don’t host formal dinners regularly, this makes everyday use of a typically unemployed area.

  • Utilize any windows in the room by situating a long dining table-turned-desk near a sunlit wall.
  • For a novel twist on traditional décor, install built-in bookshelves around the perimeter of the space. You can incorporate a mix of barware and books on the shelves (add sliding cabinet doors here and there to hide any unsightly files) that serves the room’s dual purposes. And capping the shelves at mid-height (34 to 38 inches) means you can easily utilize the top as a buffet table when it does come time to dine.
  • Install a dimmer switch on your chandelier so that the light can be brightened for functional laboring, and then toned down for festive functions.

Den

Sure, it’s a place for kicking back on the couch, but with a few adjustments to your den’s furniture arrangement, you can kick up some workspace at the back of the couch. By pulling the seating in your family room away from the wall by several feet, you establish a more intimate, conversational atmosphere at the center of the room and gain enough space behind to incorporate a long, narrow sofa table and seat.

  • It’s best to select a furniture piece with drawers for storage, then insert a slim stool that can slide underneath when not in use (bonus: you acquire an extra seat for when guests gather).
  • If you need added storage space for files and office supplies, outfit a wooden toy box or blanket chest with a hanging file folder frame and organizer trays, then make it work overtime as a coffee table. If you’re really crafty, you can affix cork panels to the underside of the lid to create pushpin displays of important notes and numbers when the box is open.

Entryway

Many foyers already contain all of the elements for a welcome workspace — a sizeable surface for typing and writing, a comfy chair, and ample lighting. So have you thought of repurposing your front entryway as a front desk?

  • Most table types, be it a simple Parsons table or a fold-down secretary, can operate as a landing pad for mail, keys, and a purse and then be cleared of clutter to accommodate small work tasks. (I recommend placing a large decorative basket on the floor nearby as a place to stow the tabletop items while you’re working).
  • Situate an upholstered-seat armchair against the wall next to the table — here, it acts as a perch for slipping on shoes before making your way out the door then, with a simple pivot to face the table, becomes a desk chair. I’ve even seen designers install drawers in the wall beneath a staircase (often as part of the foyer), pulling out the perfect hideaway for files and office supplies.

Have you made your home office work harder through the resourceful repurposing of a room? Feel free to share your big ideas for small yet serviceable spaces.

Chris Long is a Home Depot store associate in the Chicago area, where he has been helping customers since 2000. Chris also contributes to Home Depot’s Home Decorators.com website. His home-décor interests range from home furniture to advising on home offices.

 

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