You Are Now The Boss - So What's Next?
You have decided to start your own business as your main source of income or as a sideline. Or, you intend to put your artistic hobby to good use and make it into a business. You have given careful thought and consideration to everything you need to do for your new business. You may already have some clients and know how to get more. You have developed your own brand, and you know how to expand on it. All these details have found their way into your business plan.
There are great benefits and some drawbacks to working from home as a business owner. There is the prospect of making more money than if you were working for another company. You will have tax advantages. You will have freedom (at last…!?). All of this is exciting. You know you will need a dedicated space for your business. You have drawn up a budget for your home office. So, what to do next? How and where you set up your home office depends on the type of business you have. If you have to meet with clients, or partners, you will need a place for meetings. If you intend to hire employees, you will need space for them. If you handle a lot of paperwork, you will need a lot of filing space. If you are an artist you will need a studio.
For the past 20 years I have been working from home. It was hard at first. I missed the camaraderie, the coffee chats, the lunches and yes, the gossip. When I started working from home it really was out of necessity. I had been working freelance as a contract interior designer for a few years and I really wanted to strike out on my own. I wanted to implement my own design visions rather than those of others. But as you guessed: striking out on your own carries risks and a lot of stress. In order to keep the costs down and the financial and personal risk as low as I could, I decided to work from home. I was fortunate to have an extra room I could convert into an office, using an older dining table, some Ikea bookcases and my drafting board. I was all set.
I have moved a few times since those early days but my office has always taken center stage in the way I have occupied my home(s). Today the desk has shrunk in size: so much work is done by computer and I no longer need a 2 x 1.5 m desk. No more phone system. My cell does just fine and takes up no room. No more fax, no more separate scanner. No more large filing system. There really is something to be said for technology and becoming an almost paperless office. My last two offices have had serious good views though. I have placed my desk in front of a window whenever I could. In Vancouver I looked out over the mountains and the city and here in Ontario I look out over a hill with so many different kind of trees and a river with Canada Geese flying by - and I am in a downtown area. Inspirational and easy.
More and more people are working from home these days than ever before. The shortest of all commutes has become very desirable. Employers are becoming more flexible. Technology has made this all happen. Whether you are a professional with a home office, or an artist or crafts aficionado, there are multiple ways to ensure that the space you work in, is suited to your needs. However, a professional home office has different requirements than a home office for personal use or an artist’s studio.
SETTING UP A HOME OFFICE
Dedicated Space Or Not
At first you need to determine how much space you actually need. Can you separate your business space from the rest of your home? Can you dedicate a room or your basement to your business? Do you have a garage you can convert into an office? Do you have a garden shed you can renovate into a business space? Will you hire employees right away or in the future?
It is important to avoid household distractions. Work is work and there needs to be a flow to get it all done. Ask yourself where you will be most productive.
Do you need lots of natural light or can you work from a closet space or basement with limited natural light and more artificial light? What kind of lighting do you already have? Do you need to purchase additional lighting?
Do you need to meet with clients or suppliers? Do you have a partner or employee(s) you need to conference with? You might need to set up an area to have these meetings. How much privacy do you and others in your business need?
Set a budget. With a larger budget you could renovate or build something in your garden. You could have custom millwork made to your needs. If your budget is small though or even non-existent, you will have to make do. You may have to visit some flea markets or second hand shops. Ikea is also a good option.
Do you like working in clutter or not? Some people thrive when they surround themselves with stuff, whereas others cannot tolerate visual distractions too much. Yep, these issues will also determine how you set up your office. You will have to decide to have open or concealed storage. You will need to figure out what type of storage you need. A library needs bookcases, whereas drawings need drawer systems. Files need file drawers. If your business involves selling product, you may need some display space.
Make sure you have enough electrical outlets in your existing space. Of course, if you plan to renovate or build you can prepare for plenty of outlets. Nothing is so distracting as having wires and cables running throughout the space! Hide as much of the wires as possible by either running them behind furniture or through a cable management system.
How will your brand be reflected in your home office? Is this even important in the first place at this point? Can you incorporate your branding at a later point, to safe money at first? For instance, as a designer you will want to have an appealing office that reflects your design style. As an architect does your office reflect who you are? As a lifestyle blogger, do you have a fun office with inspirational items surrounding you? Different jobs need different environments.
The Point: PLAN
Plan, plan, plan and plan again! On paper, on your computer or with a measuring tape and pieces of paper or cardboard. Lay out these pieces in real size on the floor and play around with them. Now, make a list of things you need to get to make it all work. And, do it!
All sounds logical right? Surprisingly though many people just go ahead and wing it as they go along.
Inspirational Home Offices for Larger Budgets
Here are a few examples of home offices that I really like. They all look good in their own way, they are functional yet very different. The first one is a converted attached garage. The office was created for a design firm by architects Architecten|En|En in the Netherlands. The roof on this garage was lifted to insert an angled clerestory window across the width of the space (see the sectional drawing) to allow for sunlight to penetrate the space. I like this clean, empty space with the built-in storage unit at the back wall. No clutter to distract!
The basement office below by the firm Quatre in Belgium allows a lot of light to penetrate the space by creating a large light-well. Would you feel claustrophobic here? I also like the modular and movable storage space. Inexpensive, yet functional and visually light. They provide a worktop area if necessary. The apple green chairs add some fun to an otherwise somber and hard looking environment.
Skylab Architecture in Portland, Oregon designed the office in the next image. The skylight and the window seamlessly reflect the shape of the walnut dovetailed worktop. This top is carried out right to the glazing, eliminating a potentially ugly window sill. The creative play of the angled lines with the simple, horizontal ones of the white shelves is striking. Lots of filing space is provided along the wall and the worktop is large enough to function as a workspace and meeting area. This space looks and feels smart. The wood provides warmth. A good balance of elements here.
The French always offer loads of flair and style with few elements. Take a look at what you can do if you occupy an older home with high ceilings decorated with medallions and mouldings. The Parisian meeting space below has a grey-toned chevron-patterned hardwood floor which forms a solid anchor for the visually light looking table and contemporary club chairs. The oversized chandelier and the drapes soften the space. This type of space could double as a dining room. A good thought to ponder when not enough room is available. Multi-purposing at its best!
Moving to the other side of the world, where East meets West in Japan and where space comes at a premium, Yuko Shibata (Japan) designed a modular and movable office space for a small apartment. In this image you can see a wall which moves from left to right, increasing or decreasing the space as required. By moving the wall toward the wall unit, the space becomes a meeting area. By moving it away from the wall unit a second working area sprouts up! The Japanese are very good at creating rooms with multiple purposes where none were before, by moving walls, doors, built-in units and furniture. Really clever and functional at the same time.
For those of you who do have a spare room which can be used as an office here are some ideas of good workspaces. They each have a different feel albeit both feel rather feminine.
This office to the left was created by Reno in the US. The white environment really showcases the walnut chairs and cabinet behind the desk. The white chair behind the desk is not my favourite style but in this environment it provides a solid feeling to the space. This is a look that can be easily duplicated with inexpensive furniture in any environment. Even adding colour to the walls or floor would not distract from this arrangement. Clutter would though!
The arrangement to the right (Source Pinterest) is also easy to duplicate. The L-shaped desk top rests on a drawer arrangement under the window while being supported by a millwork column at the other end. I would have preferred to see two columns here, although I realize that with one the worktop can be used at the short end as well (as witnessed by the two stools). Two simple white bookcases flank the desk and window. The dark window frame finish is seen back in the dark desk top. I really like the pop of colour in the fuchsia upholstery of the contemporary wingback. A colour that complements the room and gives it some real personality. All other elements (above the floor) are quiet, even the books which are organized by colour. If you like colour this is a great way to give a room personality.
Home Offices on a Smaller Budget
But what to do when you have a small budget or little space? Or, your business does not really need a fully equipped office. You could be a blogger doing most of your work on your computer and you have no clients to work with. Or, you are an editor for Fiverr. There are a myriad of jobs and professions these days that require little in terms of an office. A laptop, a chair and a cellphone and you are set.
For those of you who need more, here are some clever ways to create a beautiful, inspiring work area in a closet or a hallway; in a forgotten or awkward corner.
If you have a closet you can give up, make it into your office. If you remove the doors you can create an inviting open space. If you want to leave them on you have the advantage of closing them and hiding your work clutter. Place a worktop along the width of the space and mount shelves above it. Floating shelves are very appealing, but if they have to carry a lot of weight, you will need to make sure they are properly supported inside. An Ikea floating shelf is inexpensive, will look good, but will not hold much in terms of weight. Add wiring inside for puck lights and you will not need a desk lamp.
If your space happens to be an alcove, install a deeper worktop and have it straddle the wall to create some interest (see the left image - Source Pinterest). Paint the back wall a contrast colour to make it more appealing, or apply a cork board to the back so you can put notes or reminders nearby. If you paint the back wall with a blackboard paint, you can use it to write notes and reminders on it! Another great feature is a back bead board wall, painted in a great colour. Add a drawer or two under the top for small items. Place a filing cabinet in a corner and you are set. Reminder: make sure you have easy access to an electrical outlet so you can plug in some lighting and your equipment. I like how the left part of the worktop straddles the wall. It allows for a deeper worktop in a shallow space.
And then there are the forgotten or awkward corners in our homes. If you have a wide entry you could add your desk and some cabinetry to it and make that your office space. Take a look at the first image below (Source Pinterest). I like how such good use is made of the entry here. And what about the end of a hallway? People often put some art work or a mirror against such a wall. But, what if you placed a shallow desk with shelving in such a spot like Simple Joy Studio did! How clever is that!
Next time we will take a look at some great office accessories, inexpensive alternatives to costly office furniture and cool storage solutiona.