Creating a productive space.
Story by Tracy Dickinson
Featured in September/October 2020
Work-from-home restrictions, students educating at home, and uncertainty about the long-term consequences of the coronavirus have all made a home office a necessity for many homeowners.
To make sure your new space is as productive as possible, do your homework first.
You can’t succeed in school if you’re sleeping, and you can’t create a productive workspace if you snooze through the planning stage. Paying attention to your specific needs and the parameters in which you’re working will make the process smoother.
“Home offices have become valuable real estate,” says Deb Pudenz of AIM Kitchen & Bath. “The most important aspect is being able to separate work from home, whether that means physically closing a door or just carving out some space.”
An important part of defining your needs is asking the right questions up front.
Woodharbor’s Jill Lampe says, “I always ask the client what kind of work they do. Are they on the phone a lot? Do they need privacy? Is their work paper-intensive or all online? Will they be participating in Zoom meetings?”
BLC Projects’ Nancy Ruzicka recently designed a home office that required this focused attention to the client’s needs. “The homeowner had downsized and needed to create a workspace in the laundry room,” says Ruzicka. “She needed a desk area, space for an oversize computer screen, and storage for office supplies, all within a 45-inch-wide framework.”
Keelie Lawson from Moehl Millwork says, “I start by looking at the homeowner’s needs and categorizing those. What type of work area do they need, do they require storage, and, if so, are there unique storage demands? It’s like a puzzle, and we have to find a way to put all the pieces together efficiently.”
Once you have a clear understanding of your home office needs, it’s time to take a lesson from the professionals. Consult an expert to help you make the most use of your space. An experienced designer can take the limitations you’re working with and see its possibilities. As Pudenz says, “You can convert a closet, a built-in cabinet, even a spare bedroom.”
Repurposing existing furnishings helps maintain the look of home while providing the tools for work.
“Old TV armoires can easily be repurposed into desks or storage pieces for printers, paperwork, and supplies,” says Lampe. “Using the closet in a spare bedroom or a kitchen pantry could offer an interesting spot that’s easily converted and closed up when not in use.”
“Something as simple as bifold or bypass doors can make this work, even in a kitchen,” says Ruzicka. “It may involve extending flooring into a former closet so that you have that continuous look.”
Planning those details and arranging the pieces of the puzzle to meet your needs, as Lawson says, can create a workable space where before there was none. A professional’s eye and computer software can help you with that. “Seeing the design possibilities on computer can be really helpful for clients,” she explains. “It helps them envision everything more clearly.”
Make the grade
The only score that matters is yours. The success of your project is determined by whether it meets your needs, not whether it features all the latest bells and whistles.
“Sometimes what weighs people down when they’re debating a home office project is the dollar value. But the real value is in what it does for your life,” says Lawson.
Ruzicka says she hasn’t seen a significant increase in home office projects since the quarantine began, but that has come as a surprise. “Many homeowners may be waiting to see how long the present circumstances will continue. But incorporating a dedicated workspace is certainly a growing trend.”
“Prior to the quarantine, my clients were families who already had one person working from home on a semiregular basis. What’s changed is that now many have to accommodate a second adult working from home, plus a space to school their children,” Lampe says.
She says designing the right home office space is a very individual process. A cookie-cutter plan or one that worked for a prior client doesn’t typically translate to the next. “What you do has to be conducive to the work that client is doing” she explains. The flooring is dependent on the type of chair the client uses. The chair and the desk or work surface are dependent on the type of work and the length of time spent sitting there. Lighting, storage, technology, and communications all play a part in that personalized design (see “To-Do List”).
“Utilizing pieces of furniture that can be purposeful after the pandemic can take some of the hesitation out of the project,” says Pudenz. “Adding cabinetry that can be just as useful when not part of an office setting or choosing furnishings that can do double duty, like a narrower desk that could become a sofa table, and choosing materials that suit the home’s decor can make the space more adaptable for the long term.”
Because the rise of remote working has also resulted in an increase in employer support, Lampe also recommends talking to your employer before beginning an extensive project. “Some companies have predetermined plans for remote workers where they provide basic essentials like a nice office chair, a simple desk, and storage. Your employer might be willing to provide funds to help maximize the space with ergonomic furniture that suits your needs and eases your budget.”
Taking care of your homework before you get down to work will ensure that your finished project passes with flying colors and that every moment in your custom office space will be even more productive. •
- Deb Pudenz AIM Kitchen & Bath
- Jill Lampe Woodharbor
- Nancy Ruzicka BLC Projects
- Keelie Lawson Moehl Millwork