No matter whether you're working on a laptop at your kitchen table or in a separate room, that space is your office. If it's a multi-purpose space, the demands and furnishings are going to differ, of course, but it's still your office. It should be furnished accordingly.
It's not easy sharing your office space with non-business functions - like refrigerator traffic. It might help to pick up a privacy panel or two to define your office space, at least when you're actually in it.
You've seen these privacy panels, they're what *cube farms* are made of. You can get freestanding versions with legs, so they're portable - sort of. The thickest ones are sometimes called *sound panels*, implying that they deaden ambient noise. I've never noticed that to be true.
Now add a file cabinet on wheels or a plastic file box, a clip-on light or two and viola! -- you have an office that can be assembled or stowed in just a few minutes.
If you're working in what used to be the extra bedroom, or den, or even the family room, good for you. Me, too. My first *real* home office was a smallish extra bedroom. Because I was reluctant to give up my *executive* desk, space was a problem with no place for files.
While I was busy being impractical, my long-suffering bride hit upon a great solution:
The closet, with double bi-fold doors, took up one end of the room, pretty much wall-to-wall. We took the doors off, painted the inside of the closet a bright white for light reflection, and installed a fluorescent fixture in the closet ceiling. Then we mounted three wall-to-wall shelves inside and put a lateral file cabinet under them. I had all the storage space I needed and didn't lose one square foot of floor space.
If you need to buy some furniture, you've got options between money-is-no-object and the ol' college bricks'n'boards trick:
>> Assemble-it-yourself - Many of these pieces are of decent quality, with parts that fit together nicely, and look fine when you're finished (if you're careful).
I've done well with the O'Sullivan brand, except for the *wood- look* file cabinets. The drawer slides are plastic, which are okay until you actually put stuff in the cabinet - then they can break or pull out. Once a screw pulls out of particle board, the only thing you can do is run a bolt through it, which isn't real attractive.
>> Used office furniture stores - It seems like just about every mid-size town has at least one of them. You never know what they're going to be getting in, so it pays to keep checking with them. Many will negotiate the price (so don't show your enthusiasm for any one piece too much).
Keep an eye on the newspaper. When you read about an office-type business closing or moving or merging, start checking those stores. That furniture has to go somewhere, and sometimes it's cheaper and better to replace it than to move it.
>> Furniture leasing companies - No, not the rent-to-own places. They specialize in cheap products at wildly inflated prices. I mean legitimate operations that provide varying-quality products on long-term leases to businesses.
Once the lease is up, the company wants to get rid of the furniture. It seldom has much residual value on their books, so they'll often negotiate. If you can stand some nicks, dings and scratches, you might get a real deal. And, if you're handy, you might be able to fix most of the blemishes.
>> Let your eyeballs do the walking through the classifieds of your local newspaper and the weekly advertising freebie - the Pennysaver, Weekly Advertiser, or whatever it is in your town. It's not unlike a garage sale on paper. (It's also not unlike a box of chocolates, so look the items over carefully.)
To paraphrase Ikea, it's your office, somebody's gotta furnish it! It can actually be fun (it's all in you head anyway). Good Luck!
© 2001 Kent E. Butler
Kent E. Butler has worked at home since 1994. He edits the Home Based Journal, a free ezine providing useful info on a wide range of relevant topics. It takes a whole person to wholly succeed. Are you a whole person? Join us! Read an issue and subscribe at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/HomeBasedJournal