How to Design a Productive and Profitable Home Office

Home Offices: Invariably the first thought that comes to mind is “do I want to work from home or in an office?’ Most entrepreneurs have this flexibility and more companies are providing flex time allowing employees the opportunity to choose this option.

I now have an office away from home. I find myself to be far more productive perhaps being away from the siren’s cry of dishes in the sink and laundry to be folded not to mention the countless interruptions by delivery men or the home phone was what led me to take a space. Primarily, I made the move because it’s hard to explain how I design corporate offices and not have one of my own. That being said, there are many who love working from home.

So how does one do this and make it work effectively?

Avery Design Interiors

1. Carefully choose your space. A computer in your bedroom is not a great option. Bedrooms are for sleeping. Either you are going to be falling asleep at the computer or awake late at night thinking about that screen beckoning you for one last email.

I have placed offices in under-utilized dining rooms, kitchens, spare bedrooms, shared guest rooms, basements and even reconfigured closets.

At our Silvermine (Fairfield County, CT) house, we had a large shared office in the spare bedroom (see above). In our current home, we have used the shared guest room technique – small desk, small daybed. My husband has a sizeable home office space in the lower level family room with a large project desk that any of us can use for drawing, fabric layouts or arts and crafts for our youngest office user. In a New York City apartment I created a desk area from a closet.

2. The family balance. Is there really work life balance? That’s a different post. But I know from personal experience that short of a padlock, it’s unrealistic for work at home moms (and dads) to keep their littlest ones out of their home offices.

Source: tipjunkie.com via Avery on Pinterest

Create a small area (if you have enough space) with a mini desk or table and chairs designated just for the kinder set. I love the little seat/nook shown above for a child to curl up in and read a book. This home office was tucked into a closet. Provide them with their own “office supplies” crayons, pencils, etc. so they can “work” too. Children love to help. Have some envelopes you need stuffed and stamped? You might just have an able assistant at your side. Can’t hurt to ask. And after a little while, they just might decide playing with trucks or Barbies is a whole lot more fun.

3. Be sure to invest in a proper chair and lighting. Balancing the laptop on your lap while you sit curled on the sofa all day is asking for hours at the chiropractor. As much as your local chiropractor would love the work, they value your spine and want you to value it too.

Source: houzz.com via Avery on Pinterest

Ideally, you want a sunny spot where the light does not reflect on your computer screen. In the absence of or in addition to natural light, Nikken makes a wonderful full spectrum light called the Kenko II, if you don’t want to bring in an electrician for an overhead electrical overhaul.

Want to learn more about setting up the furnishings in your home office? Click on Office Ergonomics for more details.

(From top: cartoon from Brad Shorr’s guest post on Spark Plug CEO, photo Avery Design Interiors, all other photos from Pinterest)

How to Wake Up Your Office: Lighting

On Thursday, I attended the Business Showcase at the Webster Arena in Bridgeport. I bumped into a business associate, James Sweeney of EcoTronics, who has expanded his business into eco-friendly lighting. We are scheduled to meet to discuss the latest in LED later this month.

One of the most important parts of designing your office is lighting. There are lighting designers specifically trained to provide you with the best installation features. As a graduate of Fairfield University’s Interior Design program, I was required to take a lighting course. But this is a field that is rapidly changing with the green initiatives springing to the forefront and designers are required to take continuing education to stay up to date on changes in our industry.

Under the Clean Energy Act of 2007, incandescent bulbs will be phased out by 2014. Incandescent are those every day bulbs you buy right at your local drugstore – the ones invented by Thomas Edison.

Why are they being phased out you ask? Because 90% of the energy emitted by incandescent bulbs is wasted as heat. Excess heat means more air conditioning means more energy means less green. Ok I boiled that down to the basics.

On to exciting things like how to light your office! The best projects have three layers of light: ambient, task and accent.

1. Ambient light is primarily the light available in the environment. It is uniform and should be diffused light. A big part of ambient light can be natural light, which is so important to the wellbeing and health of your employees and clients.

I am not a big fan of most fluorescent lighting. This is because it tends to be those fluorescent panels with standard cool light which is harsh on the eyes and skin not to mention draining. Those harsh bulbs can be replace with warmer bulbs or with daylight tubes.

When I am working at my computer, I prefer to leave the lights off and just work by the daylight from my window or I turn on my Ottlite, full spectrum lighting, for those darker days or intensive detailed desk tasks like drawing.

LED lighting has come a long way and they can last up to 10 times as long as fluorescent. Some LED tubes can replace fluorescent tubes. You can also dim LED lights and there is less heat buildup.

2. Task lighting takes into consideration primarily light for reading. Optimal lighting of a desk surface is 50 foot candles. A foot candle is the amount of illumination created by a candela from one foot away.

Good task lighting is not just about the amount of light but the contrast, so it’s important to consider where to place your task light. You don’t want it directly above your head where you cast a shadow on your reading materials.

Options are desk lamps and overhead lights, such as undercabinet lighting that pinpoints directly on to your desk surface. Julie Clark recommends the Kenko Light by Nikken shown below as it provides “Healthy Full Spectrum Natural Sunlight”.

Kenko Light II by Nikken

3. Accent lighting emphasizes an object or a specific area of a room. For example, these lights could illuminate art, accessories, books, your company’s sign, even a special textured material on the wall.

This light can be used to highlight a focal point in the room and helps to vary the light level which holds interest for the eye.

LED rope or strip lights are great for accenting the interiors of bookshelves.

Wall washers can be used to highlight a textured wall as shown on the stone behind the reception desk. Note how the front of the desk is backlit for visual interest.

Just because accent lighting can be fun…and don’t we all need to have a little more fun at the office?

I am passionate about bringing my client’s brand to bear through the design of their space. Not only do we improve employees’ productivity and the functionality of your space but we ensure that your clients experience your company’s brand through your office environment.

To see the rest of the photos on my Pinterest board, click here Office Lighting.

(Photos from Pinterest unless otherwise indicated)

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