DEAR GAIL: My husband and I are setting up a home office and will be sharing the room. The room is not very large, so we’re not sure how to set it up. We also want to use it as an occasional guest room, maybe four to five times a year. I know that’s asking a lot from a small room, which is why we need your help. — Virginia
DEAR VIRGINIA: It’s good to use your square footage to its maximum potential, but sometimes it can pose a challenge.
First, let’s look at your office situation with your husband. I do have a couple of questions for you to think about. Do you both need separate desks, or could you share one larger desk? Do you share equipment that needs to be near each of you? How much office paperwork are you storing in your office that doesn’t need to be there? How are you utilizing the closet in the bedroom? For office items or personal items?
When setting up a home office, functionality is key. Not having the right space or enough space can be frustrating and make you nonproductive. I always feel that you should have as large of a desk that you can fit in a room, since most of us need room to spread out when working. When you’re trying to fit in two work areas, you have a couple of options.
A standard option is to put a desk on opposite walls. This gives each of you your own space. Not everyone likes this, since you’ll both be looking at the walls.
If that is the case, and depending upon your window placement, corner desks can probably give at least one of you a view outside.
There are many office furniture options available in stores that may work perfectly for you. If not, I’d make the investment and have your desks custom made. A custom office will let you design it to meet your individual work, storage and filing needs.
Since lots of open floor space is not as important in an office, one option that I’ve done many times is to bring one large desk out perpendicular from the wall into the room. The wall the desk is coming out from also is usable space. Each of you can have additional desk and storage space. With this situation, you and your husband would both be working at this desk. To make this work the desk needs to be large, I like at least 48 inches wide by at least 72 inches long. So what you’re looking at is something the size of a dining table, which I have used. I like this look better than butting two desks together, but you could do that if you don’t want to have it custom made.
Another thing that is key in any office, but I find especially important in a home office, is clutter control. With two people sharing an office this can become a problem. There is no way my husband and I could ever share an office. I need everything to have a specific place, and he just needs any horizontal surface for his things.
Consider what you really need accessible every day. Only have those items that you use many times a day out on your desk. There is no need to have small office items, such as stamps, scissors, rulers, paperclips or rubber bands on your desk. That is what your top drawer is for. Keep the items on your desk to a minimum so that you have a large workable area. Try an experiment. For a week remove everything from your desk, except your computer, phone, light and calendar. See if you really miss anything or found it inconvenient to get something; then place only those items back.
And don’t forget the closet for storage. This is a place I would really consider bringing in a closet designer to help get the most out of the space.
For your sleeping arrangements I can’t think you have much space for a sleeper sofa or love seat since you mentioned the room is small. If you went with the wall or corner desk option, you could put a Murphy bed in your closet. You’d lose your storage space but wouldn’t be taking up any floor space in your room for an occasional guest. A second option is a twin sleeper chair and ottoman. They are perfect for a small space and also give you a spot for someone to sit and visit.
Virginia, I hope these suggestions help in setting up for home office/guest room.
Gail Mayhugh, owner of GMJ Interiors, is a professional interior designer and author of a book on the subject. Questions may be sent by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, mail to: 7380 S. Eastern Ave., No. 124-272, Las Vegas, NV 89123. Her Web address is: www.GMJinteriors.com.