Converting space into a home office

How to keep clutter, distractions away
2012-06-10T00:00:00Z Converting space into a home officeGabrielle Fimbres Special To The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Millions of Americans climb out of bed each morning, saunter down the hallway and roll into work in their jammies.

For many, it's a new world, officing at home.

According the U.S. Census Bureau, 5.9 million Americans worked from home in 2008. That number has likely grown in recent years.

Corporate layoffs, downsizing and buyouts, combined with technology that allows many of us to work remotely, has resulted in more Tucsonans converting that spare bedroom or corner into a home office.

"A lot of people have been cut loose from a corporate environment and have branched out on their own," said Maurice Brantley, interior designer at Copenhagen Tucson. He said Copenhagen is seeing more clients looking to convert a home space into a full-time office.

Modular furniture components make it easier to plan your space, from very small to spacious. Depending on your needs, an office can be furnished for a few hundred dollars to a few thousand.

Brantley's best advice when it comes to office furniture?

"The most important thing is to make sure that you invest in a really good chair, something that not only looks good in your home but also provides lumbar support," he said.

"It's like trying on a pair of shoes," he added. "A chair is something you don't want to order online. You want to come in and try it out."

Chairs can cost anywhere from $150 to $1,200. "You are going to be in it for eight hours or more a day. It makes a huge difference in how you perform and feel. A good, comfortable chair can help you stay focused. If you are not comfortable, you can find a million excuses to not stay put."

Distractions can be a big problem for home-based workers, with daytime television, laundry or kids and pets tugging at your attention. Anything you can do to make your office engaging and professional is helpful.

Color - and lack of it - can impact your work mood, Brantley said.

"If you are really dedicated to making a home office work you must have a good color sense, a color that will empower you," he said. "Steer away from staring at a white wall, even if you paint just one wall that makes you feel good when you look at it."

Blues and greens are calming while a color like purple is empowering, he said.

Brandy Holden, design consultant with California Closets in Tucson, said home-based workers want to ditch the office cubicle they came from. They want it to be their space.

One common challenge comes with dual-use spaces. Many share space with a play room, guest bedroom or - like Holden - a craft room.

"People often combine a home office with a hobby or craft, such as scrapbooking," Holden said. "How do you put this all together without it looking like a tornado hit it? How do you keep it all neat and organized?"

She recommends buying color-coded storage systems that allow you to categorize by color. Office stores and other big-box chains have organizing essentials that can help your office get and stay organized.

She suggests spending the last five minutes of every day cleaning your desk.

"If you can walk into this space with a fresh start to the day and not have a cluttered mess, your day is likely to go well," Holden said.

Erika Dattner, owner of Erika the Home Organizer in Tucson, works with clients who are setting up - or improving - a home office.

Clutter-busting is the key, she said.

"When you walk into your home office, it has to be pleasant and calming," Dattner said. "When you have papers all over and clutter, you don't feel comfortable."

Her best tip? "Open every piece of mail immediately. Don't let it stack up. Don't put it in a corner. Whatever is unimportant, get rid of. Chuck it."

Ditch the sticky notes and scraps of paper, and use instead a notebook or computer file, keeping notes of all you must remember and do.

"When you have clutter and chaos, it clutters your mind," Dattner said. "I can live with a little dust, but I cannot live with clutter."

Since your home office likely combines work and personal papers and records, labeling and filing is critical.

"Label, label, label," she said.

Make managing clutter part of your daily routine.

"Keep on your desk only what you need and store the rest," she said.

Tips on creating a home office

• Lighting is critical - overhead and on your desk. Position your computer to avoid glare from a nearby window.

• If your office serves a dual purpose - a play room, craft room or bedroom - consider minimizing distractions with a decorative room divider or curtain hung from the ceiling.

• Consider putting pictures of the kids in the other room, separating home and work.

• Purge files regularly.

• Allow yourself breaks during the day.

• Try to schedule at least a couple of meetings outside of the home each week. Dress professionally and get out of the office.

Sources: Maurice Brantley, Copenhagen Tucson; Brandy Holden, California Closets; Erika Dattner, Erika the Home Organizer

"If you can walk into this space with a fresh start to the day and not have a cluttered mess, your day is likely to go well."

Brandy Holden,

designer consultant with California Closets

Contact local freelance writer Gabrielle Fimbres at gfimbres@comcast.net

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Home improvement video

Most Popular

Deals, offers & events

View more...