How to create a workable home office in a small space
Many people spend an increasing amount of time on home-based work. Even if you're not actually working from home, you'll probably need an area for a computer, somewhere for paying bills, a place for kids to do homework or a space for hobbies or creative pastimes.
Find a niche
The good thing is that you don't need a big space to create a workable home office and it doesn't need to be dominated by chunky computer equipment. With technology becoming increasingly miniaturised, cordless and portable, a slimline computer can fit neatly on something as small as a wall-hung shelf.
So think creatively about where you can squeeze in an office space.
Under-used "between" spaces, such as mezzanines, nooks under stairs or a good-sized landing can be turned into a compact work area or creative space.
Or you can set up a home office in part of a larger multi-purpose area, such as a kitchen, and separate it with a partition or close it off behind doors when not in use.
A butler's pantry can be a good spot to include a mini home office, with room for charging electronic appliances, space for a laptop and storage for school notices and bills.
Wherever it is, take advantage of every available inch for storage – above and below eye level. If you take some time to set up a storage system, not only will it look better, but you'll always know what's where. Label boxes and files, divide up drawers with drawer dividers or little boxes and pop odds and ends like paper clips in dedicated containers.
If you can, build in drawers and shelves customised to fill all possible space and to suit your particular storage needs. And don't forget ergonomics; when planning your work space make sure that your desk, chair and screen are at the right levels.
If you're tucking an office space in an unused corner, think about light. Natural light is best, but if that's not possible, make sure you have some well-placed lighting installed. And if too much sun on your computer screen is likely to be a problem, blinds can be a good option, especially in a small space where curtains would be too bulky.
Don't forget decoration
You're more likely to enjoy spending time in your office if it looks attractive.
Sometimes the tools in your workspace can create a beautiful display in their own right. Think colour-coordinated file boxes, as well as interesting containers for pens and other paraphernalia. You can stamp your own style on your space with a bold wallpaper, a quirky lamp or a framed print.
Where an office is set within a multi-purpose space, keeping decor colours the same throughout will help blend it in seamlessly.
Even in small spaces it's possible to have fun with colour and pattern.
The key to success is not to overwhelm. One or two surfaces picked out in a strong colour can be enough to add vitality; drenching an entire area can be over-powering.
If you're messy
An office that can be tucked away behind closed doors is the ideal solution for those who use their workspace often and find that tidying up after each session is impractical. A tall cupboard or wardrobe that is surplus to requirements can provides enough space for a built-in desk, along with wall space for posting notes and reminders. If there's no room for doors, a solid blind that can be quickly pulled down to hide the chaos may do the trick.
- NZ House & Garden