Even the smallest home office provides an opportunity to establish a space custom-tailored to your personal tastes and work habits. Choose the furnishings wisely and arrange them efficiently to create an office you'll be comfortable and productive in.
Measure the room and make a rough blueprint, including locations of windows, doors, electrical outlets and heating ducts. Cut out paper shapes to scale for furniture and large pieces of equipment so you can experiment with different layouts.
Position your desk first. If space allows, an L- or U-shaped desk is ideal. Pair it with a good chair, preferably one that is ergonomically sound. If your chair's height is not adjustable, get a footrest to ease the strain on your back. Add a hinged drop leaf to the shorter end of an L-shaped desk. Flip it up when you need more work space.
Use several adjustable task lights in the room rather than relying on a single ceiling fixture. Reducing overhead lighting will cut down the glare on a monitor's screen.
Place a small table (one of the most underrated home office furnishings) alongside the desk. A two-tiered unit is ideal; use the lower shelf for reference material, the upper for a file of items you're currently using. If space allows, place a large table parallel to your desk. You'll find it incredibly useful for laying out research material or large projects in progress. Folding tables are cheap, portable and storable.
Track your workflow and arrange furnishings accordingly. Frequency of use is the key to location. Put those things you use most often closest to you and equipment you use less frequently on a credenza or bookshelf. Don't devote prime real estate in your office to a fax machine or copier that you need only occasionally, for instance.
Add a second comfortable chair, along with a good reading light, to the room. It's relaxing to get up from your desk chair occasionally and do some of your reading in a different chair.
Set a tiny table--or hang a single shelf--right next to the door to hold outgoing mail. Now you'll never leave the room without the letters and parcels that need to leave with you.
Tips & Warnings
- Mount your computer monitor on a swing arm to save space on a small desktop.
- Add a drafting table if you do much drawing or writing by hand. An angled surface for this type of work will reduce pressure on your neck.
- If you tend to cradle the telephone receiver against your shoulder during long conversations, you're inviting neck and shoulder muscle spasms. Keep pain at bay with a headset. When it's not in use, hang it from a small hook attached to the side of your desk.
- A hallway just outside the office door can be a good location for a narrow bookcase to hold reference materials or backup supplies.
- Add storage space inexpensively by mounting kitchen cabinets from a salvage store on the wall above your desk. Look for cabinets designed to go under the kitchen counter; they're usually more spacious than standard upper cabinets.