Change is good but not always easy. Whether your home office is a dedicated room or an area open to family activities, these recommendations will elevate your at-home workspace to ensure privacy and comfort while encouraging productivity.
Workers travel light these days. A laptop and cellphone take up minimal space, but the essential desk and chair still lay claim to a certain amount of square footage. Furnishings can be purchased or repurposed with evolution in mind. That hall table might work well as a desk, lamps and shelving can migrate from other parts of the home to your new business location and then rejoin the household decor later.
“You want your space to allow you to focus and also bring you joy. When planning your home office, be sure that your desk/table height works well with your desk chair. If your desk is too high or your chair sits too low, you will end up with tired arms and a sore neck,” says Caitlin Mancini of Hoff Miller, whose showroom is located at the Denver Design District. “Another thing to keep in mind is your computer screen height. Ideally, it should be at eye level to help achieve good posture.”
In addition to ergonomics, resourcefulness contributes to making almost any home setting workable. An idea Mancini proposes is an office on wheels. “You can use a cart to store your supplies and computer, and then roll it away at the end of the day,” she suggests.
Scale and proportion, which provide balance, are fundamental when combining pieces already owned with new additions, notes Mancini. Eclectic design is good and often necessary when adapting existing areas to temporary office spaces.
Gwendolyn Smith-Ehrlich, owner of G. Marie & Co Interiors (with locations in Denver, Vail and Fort Collins), recently designed a concealed half-desk for one of her clients that cleverly converts from workstation to drinks station. Removing the original doors from a floor-to-ceiling built-in and placing them on metal hinged arms, the unit pulls out easily and slides back into hiding when not needed. To begin with, the top bookshelves were all open. By constructing new doors to match the original ones, the built-in was creatively transformed into a multi-purpose, customized cabinet.
“An extension is stored in a shallow opening and is easily attached to the permanent portion of the desk (same as a dining room table insert). We lowered one of the original shelves in the cabinets to fit the printer, which sits on the low shelf under the desktop when it’s closed,” says Smith-Ehrlich. “The front legs of the unit are on wheels for easy movement in and out. Then the unit is slid snuggly against the cabinet.” When it is used for entertaining, barware can be conveniently accessed from both sides.
The adjacent garden provides natural light. “The light source is in front of the surface and the computer screen. The sunlight doesn’t throw a shadow onto the computer at any point in the day,” she emphasizes, adding that drapes over sheers ensure privacy.
TAKE A SEAT
The National Institutes of Health, as well as other health-related organizations, have published studies on the ill effects of prolonged sitting at sub-optimal workstations and the importance of a good chair. Chiropractors and physical therapists have weighed in on the importance of good fit when it comes to choosing an office chair, citing considerations such as adjustability and preferred materials. Even the Bureau of Labor Statistics says “days lost from repetitive strain injuries” have decreased because of ergonomic design.
“Your biggest priority spend should be your desk chair,” Mancini says. “Desk chairs have come a long way, and you no longer have to sacrifice style for a comfortable, ergonomic chair. Our go-to company for ergonomic and stylish office chairs is Hancock & Moore, which has crafted executive chairs and other seating for the last five presidents of the United States for the Oval Office. Their mechanisms include adjustments for height, tilt and swivel.”
Smith-Ehrlich points out that partnering a contemporary ergonomic chair with an antique desk not only creates a unique pairing but also incorporates the human engineering necessary to work comfortably and efficiently. “Design Within Reach has an amazing desk chair called the Sayl Chair. This modern office chair features an innovative Y-tower armature and a ventilate elastomer back that flexes with each sitter,” she says
BASICS AND PERSONAL TOUCHES
Essentials are just that—the things one needs to make a home workspace work. Add a decorative light or pharmacy floor lamp, but don’t ignore the importance of localized task lighting. Position your computer on a riser with a shelf for papers, but remember eye-screen alignment is critical. Additionally, artwork and amenities can take a space from dull to surprising, calming and even exciting. “Bring in plants and great art for instant gratification to an office décor,” advises Smith-Ehrlich. “Add a touch of wallpaper and the room has personality and function wrapped up.”
Mancini goes for pops of color on walls, bookcases and furnishings. “If your space is welcoming and cheerful, it’ll make working from home that much more enjoyable.”
Marge D. Hansen writes and edits from her home office in Broomfield. Her articles appear online and in a variety of magazines. She will be ordering a new ergonomic chair soon.
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