Home & Garden Design
Publication Date: Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Real Solutions
Home offices: First consider how you work best

by Rise Krag

Whether you are working from your home, are trying to juggle a busy school and family schedule or need space for your charitable and volunteer efforts, it is important to create a separate, functional work place in your residence.

There are many impediments to making this a place where you can efficiently get work done. They can range from the amount of space available, the location in the home or the systems in place to create a functional space. It may even depend on not sharing this space with other family members.

Basic requirements of a good workspace are office tools: the right equipment, adequate desk space, ergonomic seating and sufficient, controlled lighting. For many, the overall aesthetics may be very important to the enjoyment of the space.

You may have a current workspace that is not working for you. A fresh approach is to consider how you work best: Do you prefer a quiet space? Do you like to spread out? Are you primarily using a computer? What are your storage needs? Do you plan on sharing a space? Would you work best with a view of the garden, or do you like isolation or a dark room?

After selecting a space that meets those needs, it is helpful to make a detailed layout of your new office area. It may be part of a room or a rearrangement of your current space. Assessing storage needs is the key to a neat, uncluttered office.

If you don't have enough floor space, consider the wall space. The most valuable space is within arm's reach. Peripherals, less-used files and office supplies can be stored in the closet.

Often, more than one person will share a computer. Leaving room for two chairs to sit side-by-side to view a monitor is important.

The anticipated time spent in a workspace is also a key to good design. Ergonomic considerations include adjustable chairs and work surfaces, adjustable keyboard trays, monitor arms, etc.

I like to include a desk at standing height, if possible, such as a small drafting table. If there is enough room, a lounge chair is another way to give your spine a rest.

Music, a favorite painting or photograph and a splash of color on an accent wall may also add to the ambience.

Lighting is very important. A dimmed background and a desk task light improve visibility and relaxes the eyes. Window glare may contribute to eyestrain. Having your desk perpendicular to a window, or using a window shade or blind that can change the direction of the light is helpful.

While laptops have given us greater freedom to work anywhere, there is still need for a dedicated space to manage and organize your workflow. Creating a comfortable, inviting, functional environment may be an incentive to spend more efficient time in your home office.

Risë Krag, ASID, associate AIA, IESGG, is founder of RKI Interior Design, a full-service interior-design firm. She can be reached at 650-854-9090 or risekraginc.com. Design problems can be sent directly to risekraginc@yahoo.com.