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Home office doesn’t have to be separate room

“If you look at life one way, there is always cause for alarm.” — Elizabeth Bowen (1899-1973), Anglo-Irish novelist and short story writer, “The Death of the Heart” (1938)

Over the years, I have gotten so much interest and mail about how to decorate, or redecorate, our homes to accommodate working from home — so we’re talking about home offices today. And, I think you’ll be surprised. Home offices are not what they used to be. Today it’s all in the attitude.

This week I had the privilege of addressing home staging to a great real estate group. I told them about a recent project in which the owner wanted a home office. And I was certainly happy to accommodate, but that doesn’t work for every place.

It seems that more and more of us have found a way to work at home and be just as effective as we would be in an office. There are mixed reviews on working at home, however; some say they would be entirely too distracted to actually accomplish anything at home, while others say they would love the opportunity.

I fall into the latter category. Having worked in a home office for many years, I’m a big fan. Even though the office never “closes,” the flexibility and convenience are great.

And what if you do throw the clothes in the washer or turn on the dishwasher while you’re at work? That takes five minutes and since the office doesn’t really close, you spend much more time working than not. Chances are you’re checking email at all hours, and if you can’t sleep, you can always go to the office.

Another awesome reason to work at home is that unless you actually have to be in touch with co-workers during regular business hours, your work schedule can be flexible. You can fill up your days or social schedule and still get your work done. You don’t have to be in your home office from 9 to 5.

For many years, furniture designers and manufacturers have turned out countless home office pieces — desks, credenzas, chairs, computer armoires and just about anything else you can imagine. The general idea seemed to be to re-create the real office at home.

Folks were so anxious to have a home office that every available space was converted, and if a home didn’t have a spare room for the office or a bedroom wasn’t available to use for that purpose, it just didn’t measure up. I still see house hunters on HGTV who have a home office on their wish list. And any real estate agent will tell you the same: They get those requests also.

Well guess what? The trend is changing. The virtual demise of the fax machine, the more prevalent use of laptops, the wildly popular smartphones and iPads, and the fact that a lot of homeowners don’t even have landlines anymore have all contributed to the fact that we just don’t need all of that space.

Not only has office equipment gotten smaller, but file storage has also changed. More of us are storing files on CDs or “clouds” and not keeping paper files. The need for awkward space-consuming file cabinets has greatly diminished. Most laptop computers have storage drives, and it’s not necessary for the paper copies.

Given these new parameters, it’s easier than ever to find a place to work at home. A smaller desk that doesn’t have to look like an old-fashioned desk will fit most people’s needs.

The computer armoire is now a more attractive option. When these units first hit the market they offered a place to hide a computer but didn’t provide much file storage. Now you probably don’t need a lot so this option is more viable. And if that is where you want to work you can close it up when you’re not “at the office.”

So, if you don’t need all of that space, where do you work? The simple answer is just about anywhere you want to. Laptops will fit, well, on your lap or on any available surface. Printers are so small that they fit in briefcases so when you need to print, bring it out, and then put it away when finished.

In reality, unless you feel the need to lock yourself in a room while you work, need a place to be by yourself or feel inadequate if you don’t have the big corner office desk, working at home has gotten a lot easier and more attractive.

In my world, I work on a laptop and move it all over my house or take it with me anywhere I go. When I moved into my current home I had my office in my guest room but decided recently I didn’t need to go to work in there and converted the room back into a guest/TV room.

And, the big lateral file cabinets I used to have in my home office are now in my garage holding serving platters and dishes I seldom use. Good storage.

We were seeking freedom when we wanted a home office, and now that you don’t have to worry about a large dedicated space in which to work, working at home is totally freeing. Change your attitude about space and move your work area around. With a laptop, Wi-Fi and a smartphone you’re in business anywhere.

The very portable, work-from-anywhere world doesn’t work for everybody. But for those it does, it can be grand. And remember, there are a lot of different ways to look at life and working from home. And as Elizabeth Bowen said, “If you look at life one way, there is always cause for alarm.”

Carolyn Muse Grant is a design consultant and creator of beautiful spaces. Questions can be sent to her at creativemuse@cox.net.

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