The Home Office Incorporating Work and Living Space

The Home Office

Who wouldn't love the opportunity to stay at home instead of schlepping into work every morning?

Today, more and more people are given the opportunity to avoid the trek into the office and work at home. With babyboomers wanting to stay home with their children, offices downsizing and the development of new technology, there is greater need now than ever for an attractive, user-friendly home office. Combining home and office is especially popular in Manhattan, where the percentage of people who work at home is up to 20 percent from ten percent two years ago, according to a recent survey conducted by Curtis Furniture.

Who Does It?

The gamut of people creating home offices runs from therapists, writers and consultants with full-blown offices to bankers, lawyers and even doctors who work at home part time. We need to rethink what we mean by the home office, says Michael Love, president of Quantum Design Group in New York and president of the New York Metropolitan Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID). It really isn't one market. The needs, requirements and attitudes of the home office user are really divided.

According to Love, the first group to establish the home office were doctors, lawyers and accountants. These people have had home offices for generations. The offices were usually in the home but with separate entrances. The design for these offices usually went along with the personal preferences of the owner. They have also only looked at their offices as just that: offices. But for many, an office doubles as living space.

How to Do It

Designing a home office is a lot more complicated than people think, says Love. There are many questions to consider before setting up shop at home. First you need to determine how much space you have available for your home office and where it is going to be located. What kind of atmosphere do you want to createformal or informal? You must also determine where you work bestby the window or away from the window.

The best thing to do before setting up your home office is to consult with an interior designer. Even if you don't hire a designer to do the actual work it is still worthwhile to consult with one. This way the two of you can go over exactly what you need before you spend a lot of money, says Love.

Herb Roberts of Curtis Furniture on East 19th Street says there are some basics that everyone setting up a home office will need. The basic requirements for setting up office space at home are a desk, chair and storage space, says Roberts. It's important to know where you are going to put the office equipment and how big that space is. You don't want to buy things that are too big for the room. It is also important thing to find a chair that you are comfortable with. Don't buy just any chair. It should be adjustable because people require different positions each day. But the most important thing to remember is what your needs are and the amount of space you have. Once you do that you're all set, explains Roberts.

Who's Done It?

Joseph Brooks took everything into consideration before he converted his breakfast nook into an office in his Midtown co-op. Brooks' company moved to New Jersey at the beginning of the year and he was given the opportunity to work at home three days a week to avoid a long commute. It was great that I was gi ffb ven the opportunity, but I soon realized that I didn't really have any of the materials to do this, explains Brooks. At first I was using the small kitchen table as a desk but found that things were piling up. I then looked around at places like Staples and The Door Store and found a small desk and filing cabinet to fit into my nook. Instead of putting a separate door to close off the area I bought a curtain rod and a long curtain that matched the decor of the kitchen. This way I would be able to keep the nook open when I'm working and closed when I have company over.

Love feels that one of the biggest problems with a home office is managing files. A good designer can help solve the paper management problem by helping the client get the right equipment and even educate them on paper and time management as well as how to use what's available in their home style to integrate their work environment into their home, states Love. Being able to do all this is the most important aspect of setting up a home office and the right designer can help accomplish this.

Brooks agrees that being able to manage time and paper is crucial. One needs to be organized to have a success. After I got my file cabinet I decided to organize it the same way I had it at my office in Jersey. I also got desktop organizers to keep loose papers in one spot. On top of that I also try to keep the same work schedule that I would if I had to commute into work every day, says Brooks.

Kristi Bennett, a midtown attorney who lives in a 57-unit co-op on the Upper West Side, had different home office needs. When I found that I was working at home a lot after I got home from the office, I decided that it was time to set up an environment instead of working on the sofa, she explains. I had a small room of my apartment that I used as a guest room only I never had any guests stay there. So I decided to convert it to an office. I called up a friend who is an interior designer and asked her what she would suggest. Together we assessed the space I had available and decided to put together an office that incorporated the design that would be consistent with the entire apartment, says Bennett.

Working with her designer, Bennett decided to get a mahogany desk to maintain the traditional design of her co-op. She also purchased new carpeting and lighting for the office. I had to call in an electrician because the room did not have many outlets and I didn't want to overload it with the computer and other lighting I had installed. It has evolved into a nice place where I can be comfortable without the feeling of being cooped up.

Technical Considerations

Love also stresses the point of making sure that the electrical outlets and circuits can handle all of the new electrical equipment that is often needed for a home office, such as a computer, a fax machine and a copy machine. Sometimes you do need to have this checked out because some apartment buildings just don't have adequate power available for all this equipment, says Love. This is why it is important to know exactly what kind of equipment you need. Sometimes, even when you have a surge protector, if the power is not up to speed this can cause problems.

To have this office at home has proven to be a life saver, says Brooks. It saves me from having to commute to Jersey. I'm able to work at home, talk to my clients and, most important, I am much more productive.

Ms. Cooper is Editorial/Internet Coordinator of The New York Cooperator.

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