"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)
I have seen so much interest and gotten so much mail about how to decorate or redecorate our homes to accommodate working from home that I’m talking about home offices today. But, I think you’ll be surprised. Home offices are not what they used to be. Today it’s all in the attitude.
It seems that more and more of us have found a way to stay at home and be just as effective as we would be in the office. There are mixed reviews on working at home, however; some say they would be entirely too distracted to actually accomplish anything at home and 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 — 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 e-mail at all hours and, if you can’t sleep, you can always go to the office.
For the last 10 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.
Well, guess what? The trend is changing. The virtual demise of the fax machine, the more prevalent use of laptop computers and the wildly popular BlackBerry, and the fact that a lot of homeowners don’t even have land lines anymore have all contributed to the fact that we just don’t need all of that space.
Not only has office equipment gotten smaller, file storage has changed as well. More of us are storing files on CDs and not keeping paper files. The need for awkward and space-consuming file cabinets has diminished greatly.
Given these new parameters, it’s easier than ever to find a place to work at home. A small desk that doesn’t have to look like an old-fashioned desk will fit most people’s needs. The desk I featured a couple of weeks ago looks about perfect.
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.
If you don’t need all of that space, where do you work? The simple answer: just about anywhere you want to. Laptops will fit, well, on your lap, or on any available surface. Printers are also so small that they fit in brief cases; 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 or feel inadequate if you don’t have the big corner office desk, working at home has gotten a lot easier and more attractive.
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 and a cell phone or BlackBerry, you’re in business anywhere.
Oh, and if you don’t have a laptop or BlackBerry, get one. That’s cheaper than outfitting an office.
Carolyn Muse Grant is a founder and past president of the Architectural & Decorative Arts Society, as well as an interior design consultant/stylist specializing in home staging. Her Inside Spaces column appears weekly in the Home section of the Review-Journal. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.