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Designing Your Ideal Home Office

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Make Your Space Functional, Aesthetically Pleasing, And Productive

By Suzanne Kearns

Nowadays, it makes more sense than ever to work from home. After all, most small business owners do everything they can to cut expenses, and working from home is perhaps the best way to do that. And it may help with the resell of your home. The National Association of Home Builders says adding a home office is one of the top ways to add value. The key is to make your space functional, aesthetically pleasing, and conducive to productivity.

Here are four major areas that you’ll need to consider.

Find the Perfect Space

Because different businesses require different types of spaces, it’s important to think about what would best suit yours.

· Spare Bedroom. This is most people’s first choice, because it’s often only used when guests visit. You can close the door for privacy, and it likely has closets which can be used for storage. On the other hand, if clients visit your office, they will have to walk through the rest of your home in order to reach it.

· Your Bedroom. If all of your bedrooms are in use, or you live in a small home with not much room, combining your bedroom and office may be your only choice. By using a corner desk, and mounting shelves above it, you can create an efficient space in a small area. To ensure that you don’t lose sleep, cover up or turn off light-emitting and noisy equipment such as computers and printers.

· Shared Space. Sometimes, it’s not possible to dedicate an entire space, but you can still create a work area. Look around your living room, dining room, kitchen and laundry room. Is there a space that can be partitioned off? Think about using a portion of the shelves in your living room, and then adding a small work surface. Maybe the laundry room has a tiny corner not in use, or the alcove under the stairs is bare. If positioned correctly, your clients could be escorted directly to your office without having to pass through your home’s more private areas. If you have an active family, you may have to deal with noise and activity while working, which could affect your productivity.

Think About Remodeling

Sometimes you simply won’t be able to find that perfect spot in your home, or your business may require a specialized space. In scenarios like this, you may have to think about remodeling an area of your home.  Here’s what you need to know about the most commonly remodeled areas.

· Basement. The great thing about a basement remodel is that the major elements are already in place — walls, ceiling, plumbing and electricity. What’s more, it’s estimated that homeowners will recoup about 70 percent of their remodeling costs. A basement office can provide a separate space for the home office worker. It can be damp, and dehumidifiers, fans and space heaters will be necessary. In addition, the space will need a subfloor installed underneath the finished flooring. The laundry equipment, along with exposed pipes and wiring, will need to be dealt with. You can use partitions or build walls to section them off, or simply make them a part of a bold, modern décor by painting everything.

· Attic. Remodeling an attic can give you an office full of character because of the architectural lines unique to the space. But there could be some obstacles to overcome. There must be at least 7’6’’ of clearance space from the floor to the highest part of the ceiling, which may require that you raise the roof. The amount of weight that the floor was designed to hold must be sufficient, and you’ll need a professional to determine if you need to install floor joists. A way of entry must be installed, such as a circular staircase. Attic temperatures can reach 140 degrees. Space heaters and window-unit air conditioners are a must for this space.  Fiberglass installation can also help stabilize the temperature.

· Garage. If you’re looking for an office with an entrance of its own, consider converting a garage. Because a typical garage measures 500-600 square feet, you can retain enough room to park a car.  You’ll need to add heating, air conditioner, and insulation. It’s illegal to use the garage door as an entrance, so you may need to replace it with a stud wall and create a separate side entrance.  You’ll want to cover your floor with carpeting, but before you do, have a professional check to see whether or not it’s level. If not, you’ll first need to install a wood-framed floor.

· Patio/Porch. Many people think of converting a porch or patio into a sunroom, but it’s also a great space to put a home office. Although this is the most expensive of the remodeling options, if you need a separate space with a private entrance (and a view!), this might be the perfect solution. Contact your homeowners association to make sure that it’s allowable.

Address the Noise

Studies show that the average worker loses two hours a day because of noise and interruptions. When you work from home, you have to deal with noises from your family as well.

Here are some ways to address this problem.
· Set up your home office far away from household noises.
· Silence the alerts on computers and cell phones, and instead, schedule times to check your messages and emails.
· The rings, beeps, and constant humming of your equipment will reduce your productivity.  Silence them by turning off the sounds.
· White noise can block out noise and allow you to more fully concentrate on your work. You can use a fan, or buy one of the many white noise machines available.
· Reduce sounds coming in from windows and doors by hanging heavy curtains, and replacing the windows with double-paned glass. Use weather stripping on both the windows and doors. If you replace a hollow core door with a solid one, you’ll also reduce noise.
· Noise also enters from the floor above or below. Install thick-piled carpet and acoustical ceiling tiles, which put a barrier between your office and the other floors.
· Reduce the noise coming in through walls by blowing insulation into them, adding acoustical paneling, or installing cork or fabric panels over them.

Make it Yours

You’ll be spending a lot of time in your office, and so it should not only be functional, but aesthetically pleasing. You have to make the space your own.

· Color. Color can affect your productivity, your mood, and how you interact with your clients. Many people automatically think of black and white when it comes to home offices: black because it represents power, and white because it makes people feel peaceful. But too much of either of those colors causes headaches. The key is to combine soothing colors, such as blues and greens, with a touch of energy producing colors, such as reds and oranges.

· Style. The décor you use in your office will also help set the mood of you and your clients. A sharp sophisticated look will make you feel in control and let your clients know that you mean business. A more casual look will help you relax, and set the mood for a no-stress workday.

· Storage. With the latest technology, it’s possible to have a paperless office, and either store everything on your hard drive or in the cloud. But if you must have paper copies, it’s important to keep them organized. Use traditional filing cabinets, or get creative and stack colorful decorative boxes neatly on top of one another.

Your home office is where you’ll spend the better part of everyday. It’s up to you to make sure that it’s a place you want to spend time in! HBM

Suzanne Kearns has been a full-time writer for more than 20 years. She specializes in writing about small and home-based business issues and writes website copy, articles of all types, and books — both under her name and as a ghostwriter. In addition, she blogs and ghostblogs for numerous sites. She can be reached at mypersonalwriter@gmail.com.

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