Every home, no matter how small or large, has an area where you can go to work

Whether you're running a business from your home, telecommuting or just need a place to sit and pay bills, having a comfortable, functional workspace is a must. With careful planning and a little creativity, you can create a home office that is not only attractive but also will increase your personal and professional productivity.

Needs Assessment
First, inventory the tasks you'll be performing and your storage requirements. This will determine the furniture and equipment you'll need. Also consider how often you will use the space. What is your threshold for clutter? Will you receive visitors? Will you need privacy, or can you work with distractions? Will you need space to grow or a second workstation for kids or employees? At the very minimum, you'll need a flat work surface, file and supply storage, a comfortable chair and a computer. Once you know what you need in your office, carve out a space for it.

Where Will You Set Up Your Office?
If you don't have the luxury of dedicating an entire room to your home office, adapt an existing space. Aim to integrate or conceal the workspace for more visual peace in your home.

• Can you use your kitchen or dining room table? Keep your office supplies and files in lightweight caddies and store in nearby cabinetry; or, store them in a rolling cart that can be wheeled out of sight. Use Wi-Fi for portable communication.

• Fit a desk or library table under the staircase.

• Remove the doors from your guest room closet and replace with bifold doors. Create an inexpensive desk by laying a board across two filing cabinets. Install shelves above the desk for increased storage. Close the doors to hide clutter.

• Do you have a wide hallway or landing where a secretary or small, lidded desk could fit?

• For years my mother had her desk in our laundry room. There was just enough space for her sewing table, which she used as a writing station. Receipts and office supplies were stored in the cabinets over the dryer.

• Could your bedroom vanity perform double duty? Set up your vanity with pretty perfume bottles and a vase of flowers. Keep pens, papers and bills in the drawers and stash important papers in a plastic filing box in the closet.

• Can you take over half your garage?

• Seldom-used living rooms are usually spacious enough for armoires. Many furniture manufacturers are producing attractive computer cabinets that open to reveal multiple cubbies, a platform for a computer and a slide-out keyboard tray. With the doors closed these compact cabinets fade into the surrounding dιcor.

• Save space by purchasing multifunctional office equipment.

• If you rarely have guests, why not convert your seldom-used guest room, or even the dining room? Or, place your desk in the guest room and replace the bed with a couch/sleeper.

The One-Room Office
If you're lucky enough to have a spare room to dedicate to your home office, take the time to design the space with your comfort and aesthetics in mind.

• First, decide if you'll use furniture you already own, if you'll be supplementing these pieces, or if you'll invest in new modular and/or matching pieces. Do your best to limit the furniture styles and to create a one-level, continuous work surface for a more harmonious look.

• Make a scale drawing of the room and the furniture you plan to use and experiment with the placement of the room's elements. Try all the standard configurations: one continuous workstation along the wall, L-shaped, U-shaped, and parallel work surfaces. You also might float your desk in the middle on the room, like an executive office.

• Check the natural lighting in the room and consider how you will position your computer to avoid glare. Install proper window treatment if necessary. Include a desk lamp and/or floor lamp for nighttime work.

• Avoid clutter. Keep only essentials on your desk: the phone, computer, message pad, to-do list and mail in/out file. File completed work immediately or temporarily store in a “to file” folder in the front of your filing cabinet. Keep frequently used supplies in the top two drawers of your desk.

• Add beauty. What we see affects how we feel and think. Create a restful, creative, supportive environment for yourself. Paint the walls a soothing color; hang color-coordinated valances over the window; display a collection in the bookcase; hang art on the walls and place plants around the room. Why not set up your stereo, add a tabletop water fountain and treat yourself to a fresh bouquet of flowers every week?

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