If you're going to be spending many hours working at home, you might as well treat yourself to a home office space that will make you feel comfortable, motivated, efficient and creative. Philadelphia interior designer Donna Hoffman suggests that rather than think of it as a "home office," you think of it as a "home office haven."
You have to admit, spending time in your home haven sounds a lot more enjoyable than sweating it out in your home office. Perhaps it's a mind game you can play with yourself -- and with the IRS. Most home office expenses are tax deductible, if you're making any money at all there.
"Today's high performance virtual executive craves better life balance, which now includes home work environments that are not only high function, but also high octane for enhanced productivity, and high pleasure for enhanced focus, creativity and satisfaction," according to Hoffman.
"In other words, a computer, a swivel chair and writing desk just don't cut it," she adds. She gives the following interior design tips for creating high-output, high-satisfaction home offices that will make work a pleasure.
1. Beauty counts.
"Aesthetic pleasure" is a key driving force that compels our desire to spend time in any environment. Ignore this truism and you will have a nails-on-the-chalkboard-bad experience every time you go to work. Hoffman takes great care to load the office design with the precise colors, textures and ambiance that the owner craves.
"Enhance the aesthetic, and watch productivity and focus rise as well," she explains. One female client wanted a feminine, almost romantic quiet space in which to inspire writing creative copy. Meanwhile, a couple of college professors wanted their his/hers study to be all about creating high function in a lush, luxurious library feel, where their book collection became art.
2. Function comes first.
Yes, in today's savvy home office design the aesthetic needs count big, but as with all design, function must come first. Determine exactly the tasks that need to be supported and how the furnishings can accommodate that. Note precise activity zones, storage access for both long- and short-term storage. Identify clear organizational needs right down to whether the owner is a righty or lefty.
Remember to add pleasurable function too. Need a mini-coffee station in the office? A second workstation for the kids to sit at when they bounce in after school and want to do some homework nearby?
"One client asked for a chaise in her office rather than the predictable club chair for when she wanted to take a break and stare out the window. Function should be viewed as operational and pleasurable," says Hoffman.
3. If possible, have a door to close.
Boundaries in a home office are important, as is the ability to walk away from the job. Otherwise, the temptation is to sneak in to check one more thing, and before you know it, you're really working 12-hour days. In darker spaces, Hoffman suggests adding French doors with ruched fabric to create the sense of boundary and window at the same time. For apartment dwellers who are working with alcoves, consider a beautiful screen placed at the threshold when it's quitting time.
Hoffman says that some her clients who follow these guidelines admit to "sneaking into the office after hours just to relax," because the space feels that good. Do it right, and your "home office can double as an inner sanctum," she concludes.
Stories from AARP