Decorating Your Home Office

Twelve years ago, I set up my first home office, and many of my friends and family members were a little puzzled. “What will you do in there?” they asked, seemingly confused as to why I’d need a whole room instead of just a corner table where I could pay bills and store mail. I explained to them that I would be telecommuting, and they didn’t quite get it. It was 1995, the term was little known in the business world, and people’s reactions to it ranged from confused to suspect over the whole notion of combining home and work space.

Within a few years, all this changed. Most people learned more and more about telecommuting and home-based businesses, until it was accepted as a legitimate (and for many people, a preferable) way to work. Now, more than a decade after I set up my first home office, most people I know also have a fully equipped workspace in their homes, whether they work at home or not.

Today, people set up home offices for a variety of purposes, and many find that decorating these rooms can pose unique challenges. For instance, are there affordable yet attractive ways to contain inherently unattractive things like office supplies and files? And what kind of desk do you really need?

To begin decorating (or redecorating) your home office, think through some of the basics concepts important to this (and every) space:

Location. Will you need an entire room or just a portion of a room? For the heavy use home office, an entire room (if you have one to spare) may be warranted. Or you may want to create a combination home office/guest room using a spare bedroom. Also consider the type of space you’d like to work in. If you crave natural light and views of the outdoors, try to select an area where you’ll have easy access to a window. Also make sure you’re near electrical outlets and a phone jack, so you won’t have long cords running all over the place.

Furnishings. A desk and chair will likely be at the top of your list of furniture needs. You may also need a filing cabinet, a printer stand, and bookshelves. Go for double-duty furnishings if your space is small. For instance, forgo a printer stand and place your printer on top of a short filing cabinet or on your bookshelf.

Lighting. Proper lighting is crucial to every work environment. You’ll likely need overhead lighting (a fixture on the ceiling that throws bright light over the entire space) and task lighting (a lamp on your desk, e.g., to simplify reading).

Accessories. This may be a workspace, but don’t forget: it’s in your home, so you can decorate it in any way you please. Forget traditional office accessories like boring, Lucite desk clocks and bland art. Accessorize your home office with things that you love, whether that means framed Picasso prints, a collection of Cabbage Patch dolls, or sports memorabilia.

Storage. Things, things, and more things–where can you put them all? Think outside the box–the plastic black in-box, that is. Try baskets for files, books, even supplies. For a printer stand, consider using an old bench painted in the shade of your choice. An armoire (snagged on super clearance, of course) can house all your office supplies, and your filing cabinet can get an easy makeover if you toss a beautiful tablecloth over it. Business cards don’t have to be slipped into a boring card file. I keep mine in a whimsical coffee mug a friend gave me one Christmas. They’re neat, organized alphabetically, and always within reach.

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