According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, more than half of small businesses within the United States are home-based. In addition, the practice of telecommuting is on the rise, even within traditional corporations. The 2010 American Time Use Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that more than 22 million Americans now work from home for at least part of the day, and industry experts are predicting that this statistic will increase significantly within the next five years. With more and more Americans utilizing space within the home for business purposes, it’s no surprise that the home office is quickly becoming an area of focus for interior designers and DIY'ers.
Regardless of the type of business being conducted in the space or the homeowner’s budget, today’s best home office designs are characterized by a blend of both function and personal style.
Home Office Essentials
“One of the biggest trends we’re seeing in home office design is for homeowners to choose unconventional furniture and storage options that serve the same purpose as traditional office furniture, but are much more stylish and personal." – Lori Gilder
According to Lori Gilder, CEO and founder of Interior Makeovers, Inc., the first step in creating a functional, productive work environment is to find an ideal office location within the home. “It’s best to try to separate your work space from your living space, which can prove to be a little tricky,” says Gilder. “Since most homeowners don’t have the option of working in a room above the garage or a guesthouse, I advise my clients to identify a spot where noise and traffic are at a minimum and privacy is optimum.”
Equally as important as the office’s location within the home is the selection of functional work surfaces, furniture, and storage. At minimum, the home office should feature a sizable flat surface for basics such as a computer, phone, and paperwork; storage space for office supplies, reference books, and paper files; and a comfortable chair.
“One of the biggest trends we’re seeing in home office design is for homeowners to choose unconventional furniture and storage options that serve the same purpose as traditional office furniture, but are much more stylish and personal,” says Gilder.
“If your home office space is stimulating and sparks innovation, then your creativity just flows... When it's dull, drab, and dingy, your work will suffer the same fate.” – Lori Gilder
Repurposing Adds Life to Your Workspace
For example, traditional desks are being replaced with decorative multi-purpose tables, credenzas are being replaced with trunks or armoires, standard office chairs are being replaced with modern yet comfortable seating, and wall units are being custom-designed to promote organization while maximizing space.
In addition, Gilder said that homeowners are now incorporating the latest color trends, textures, and accessories into the home office, making the space more congruent with the aesthetic of the rest of the home.
Amy Gray, owner of Gray Public Relations, used this approach when converting a former bedroom into her home office space. “As a business owner that works full-time from home, I wanted my space to be inviting,” says Gray. “To create a calm, comfortable environment, I used ‘real’ furniture – an old farm table for a desk, an armoire for storage, an oversized chair with ottoman, and even a chandelier.”
Gray had a closet removed in order to create a nook for her oversized chair and had an extra deep built-in bookcase made for additional storage. Other personal touches include seafoam colored walls and accessories such as shells to create an elegant beach vibe. “I spend way too much time in the office to have to stare at metal filing cabinets!” she says.
Gilder agrees that the home office needs to be reflective of one’s personal taste and style. “If your home office space is stimulating and sparks innovation, then your creativity just flows,” says Gilder. “When it's dull, drab, and dingy, your work will suffer the same fate.”
Lisa Taylor is a freelance writer and marketing consultant. She has more than 16 years of experience as a communications professional and has worked with a variety of companies in the home products and building materials industry. Originally from Memphis, TN, Lisa earned a BA in Journalism from the University of Memphis in 1995 and a MA in Journalism from the University of Memphis in 1997. She spent the first 11 years of her career working in account service for Memphis advertising agencies Thompson & Company, Oden Marketing & Design, and Carpenter/Sullivan. Lisa then spent five years in Nashville, TN, with The Buntin Group, an Adweek Top 100 U.S. advertising agency, and Louisiana-Pacific Corporation, a leading manufacturer of building materials. Lisa currently lives in Denver, CO, and is Principal/Owner of Wazee Marketing.Website: www.wazeemarketing.com