Flexi Storage Clever Cube 76 x 39 x 76cm 2 x 2 Cube Unit - Oak
With one in three Australians regularly working from home, it's not surprising the home office is now a family staple. And even if we don't work at home, the role of technology in our everyday lives means a permanent space to do admin, emailing and studying has become a modern must-have. The question is, where should it live?
While some of us have room for a study, many need to find office space around the house. But before you pull up your swivel chair, Ruth Francis, design director of Forever Home Design, suggests starting with a situation stocktake. “I ask people what they want to connect to and disconnect from,” she says. “Do you want to get away and have privacy and quiet? Do you love spending time in a space that opens out to the garden and want to connect to that? Or maybe your priority is to have one family workstation positioned where you can see the children study when you're cooking.”
“We have advances in technology to thank for small home office nooks,” says Ruth. “The beauty of smaller devices and more people working with laptops, rather than fixed monitors, is that we don't need as much space as we used to.” If you don't have an obvious location, Ruth suggests, “Look for small, lovely spaces around the house: on the landing, in a corridor or under the stairs. Perhaps you have a beautiful spot with a view or lots of natural light.” Beware of cramped spaces, though. “A width of 900mm is ideal, but don't go any less than 700mm,” adds Ruth. “You need enough room to put your elbows out, or you won't feel comfortable and you won't use it.”
A home office nook in an open-plan kitchen/living area is a great choice for family connection. A spot at the end of cabinetry often works well, with vertical storage to keep work mess contained. It can also double as a family organisational hub. “Use a pinboard or whiteboard for messages and reminders. They won't get lost under piles of paper and you won't have a monitor covered in Post-It notes,” says professional organiser and property stylist Anita Birges.
The dream – and a necessity for many work-from-homers – is a private, dedicated office you can close the door on at the end of the day. Decorate in a similar style to the rest of your interior to create a cohesive look and to make it easier to turn into an extra bedroom if you sell up (bedrooms are more appealing at auction time than studies). To be more connected, consider sliding or folding doors, and add a sofa bed and use it as a bedroom when you have guests. Anita suggests two easy ways to swap from work to welcome. “Find a small, simple desk or table that works with the decor (and could even masquerade as a dressing table) and get under-bed storage on castors, so you can quickly hide away paperwork and office equipment.”
Your desk or work surface is the first essential ingredient of the home office, but before you buy one, think about your needs in terms of size, storage, style and location. When your work hub shares living space, style is really important. Anita says, “You don't want a clunky, corporate-looking desk sitting in a gorgeous room. Think small and simple, with at least one drawer (and an insert to avoid a jumbled mess).” Ruth points to the trend towards minimal home office spaces that connect to surrounding areas. “It's popular to use the same benchtop throughout your home, in the kitchen, laundry and now the home office,” she says.
Invest in an ergonomically correct and comfortable seat, especially if you sit for long periods. If you don't, there are plenty of stylish and less ‘upholstered' office chairs that still offer great support and will work well with your interior colour palette. Depending on the amount of time you spend sitting, you might even want to consider a standing desk, which can save your back – and space.
Expert tip: “If it's doing double duty, create a stylish integrated desk. Match with your kitchen benchtops or bedroom cupboards rather than having a separate desk” ~ Ruth Francis design director
Everyone's storage needs are different, but make sure you have enough, and the right kind of storage, to keep your area tidy and organised. Think about your workflow, what you need within arm's reach and what can be hidden or archived. Choose paperless options for admin if you can. Jessica Haslem of Flexi Storage says, “We often forget that storage can be maximised by going upwards, not just outwards.” For storage that can be changed up as your needs evolve, look for wall strips, which can hold a flexible configuration of shelves, drawers, trays and baskets. Of course, storage also comes down to personal preference. “If you want to go minimal and paperless, you can simply have a beautiful desk and lamp ,” says Ruth Francis.
Natural light makes for a happier and healthier working environment, but to prevent glare on your screen, it's best positioned to the side, rather than directly behind or in front of the computer. Not all work nooks can be next to a window, but if you find the perfect spot on a landing or in a corridor, Ruth suggests installing a skylight. “Introducing natural light from above will really make it a lovely space to work in,” she says.
Task lighting is essential. “A desk lamp, if beautiful, can be a feature. If you don't have much space, strip lighting or an LED downlight integrated into the cabinetry saves on desk space,” says Ruth. You will also need general lighting; warm, dimmable light helps counteract the blues of electronic screens and is less disruptive to your sleep cycle. You don't want the bulb to create heat, especially in a desk lamp or small space, so LEDs are the best choice.
Steal your style: “Use colours and textures around your home in the office. It creates a cohesive look. There's no reason why your desk can't have a white marble top with bronze legs because it complements the furniture in your living room,” says Ruth.
Go green: “Green has a calming effect, so introduce flowers or plants into your space. Even artificial greenery or a picture of plants and trees will create calm,” says Anita.
Double duty: When sharing a space, choose office storage that looks like regular furniture. Anita suggests Flexi Storage ‘Clever Cubes' for this reason, adding, “Try to keep things within the boundaries of your furniture. Putting things on top looks messy.”
Tame your tech: Create mellow mornings and screen-free nights by keeping the family tech organised at a multi-port docking station. Your dream home office space
Photo credit: GAP Interiors (Rachael Smith), Bureaux, Alamy Stock Photo & iStock
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