Magazine article Sunset

How Do You Squeeze in a Home Workspace?

Magazine article Sunset

How Do You Squeeze in a Home Workspace?

Article excerpt

How do you squeeze in a home workspace? We all work at home, at least to some extent. Whether that labor involves sitting down at the kitchen table to pay monthly bills or running a full-time business out of a converted spare bedroom, more and more Westerners are coming home to work.

But how do you shoehorn an office into your house? We asked readers that question in our March 1990 issue. On these pages are ways nine Western families created, converted, or found shared space that let them set up efficient workplaces right in the middle of their conventional domestic settings.

Gauging your home-office needs:

how will you draw the line?

Almost all the examples you see here are self-contained and fairly compact. For the most part, they close up and are out of the way, or at least out of sight, when they're not in use.

These spaces set clear boundaries between home and office, from the simplicity of an open or closed cabinet draweer to the complexity of a hidden room. The break is critical> you don't want the home invading the office, or the office invading the home.

As you consider your own home office, first figure out how much space you'll need. Are you better off keeping things in a compact space that forces you to stay organized, like most of these examples? That may be better than a big room where you spread things all over, then can't keep track of the mess. Steve and Kim McCarrel say their compact kitchen office (shown on page 106) helped them clean up their act. "Before, everything always ended up in stacks on the kitchen counter," Mr. McCarrel says.

Ask yourself if the workplace can share space with other activities when you're not using it for business. Several of the offices here are part of other rooms. It may be all right to spread out on the dining table when you need lots of room, provided you can easily put work away when it's time to set the table for dinner.

How can you concentrate if your office is in the midst of the house with all its distractions, as several of these are? It depends on how--and when--you use it. Some of them are used when the house is empty or when everyone else is asleep. Others set rules: leave the worker or student alone> stay out of that part of the house. The rules should make it easy for the family to know when you're working, and when you--and the office--are part of the household again.

Setting up your workspace

How much stuff is going into your office? The short list might be just a well-organized file drawer, like Betty Laird's (shown on page 106)> a longer one might include desk, chair, lamps, files, computer, printer, copier, telephone, modem, and fax machine--not to mention paper, pens and pencils, reference books, charts, magazines, journals, and even a plant or two.

Most of these offices start with an efficient filing system. They're kept neat and up to date> it's a rare home office that has room to spare.

Though fitted into found space, the offices pay attention to work surfaces> each has counter space ample for the user's needs. Don't shortchange yourself here> if you need to spread out, plan for it. All these compact offices stick within their confines most of the time. But they expand when they have to--onto the dining room or kitchen table, onto the washer and dryer, onto the floor. …

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