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Designing a home office

Creating a comfortable, efficient, environment in which to work is the ultimate goal in designing a home office. If you take time to carefully integrate elements of function and personal flair, you will be motivated to get the job done and can enjoy many years working in a room that is uniquely yours. Whatever your needs may be, take note of the following tips when designing your home office.

Consider who will use the space. You may need to accommodate two people with more than one workstation. Perhaps you will only need a side chair in addition to a desk chair.

Take inventory of your office equipment and supplies. A typical office will need a place for the computer, printer, scanner and monitor as well as a copier, fax machine, filing cabinet, and storage unit or closet.

If you purchase a desk, make sure it is an appropriate size for the room so you can maneuver around it comfortably. Also, be sure that the style is not too heavy for the size of the room. Desks built to the floor are visually heavier than those up on feet or legs.

Create aesthetically pleasing surroundings by making sure that you can easily look out a window while working. If your work space doesn't have windows, hang a favorite piece of artwork above the desk.

Overhead lights will give your office good general lighting. Whether they are fluorescent or recessed high hats will depend on your budget and the type of business conducted in the office. Fluorescent lights offer an even, but sometimes harsh, effect. Incandescent high hats give a much warmer glow, but also cast shadows, cost more, and are expensive to operate. If costs are a concern, you might consider the recessed fluorescent high hats that are typically used in commercial settings. They are inexpensive, economical to run and produce much less heat than the alternative incandescents.

In addition to overhead lighting, consider task lighting such as a desk lamp or under-cabinet lights that will not take up needed work space.

Evaluate your electrical requirements. Install plenty of outlets and power strips for multiple pieces of equipment. Remember you will need a spot to plug in the phone, calculator, pencil sharpener, scanner, answering machine, and paper shredder besides the computer.

A dedicated phone line for your fax machine is nice to have so that you don't have to get off the phone to receive a fax.

Wire management can be challenging. Some desk models are constructed with holes designed to conceal wires. If your desk isn't so equipped, try drilling a hole in the desk surface to help feed and hide wires. Grommets are available at hardware and office supply stores and are a nice finishing touch for the rough edges made by the drill. An important tip: purchase the grommet first so that you can measure the hole for an accurate fit.

Carpeting your home office will make your private space more inviting and comfortable. Whether you choose a cut pile or a Berber, plan to purchase plastic mats to protect the carpeting from chairs with rollers. Choose a carpet color that you like, but be certain it will not show ink and newspaper print.

Paint, wall covering, paneling, and moldings are a matter of budget, but they will determine the overall character and ambience of the room. If your children will also be using the office, create a style that is kid friendly. Your home office is a great place to hang family photos or display memorabilia and collectibles.

The drapery treatment of the windows will have a great impact on the style of your office. But, it will be the shades on the windows that will be the most important aspect. Natural light must not interfere with visibility of the computer screen. Mini-blinds will give you the most flexibility in controlling sun glare.

Published in Montage Magazine - Spring 2000, updated 12/09.

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