Put some work into a home office makeover

April 13, 2010

By David Hayes

When homeowners put a personal touch on each room of the house, designers caution not to forget one of the more important rooms — the home office.

Whether used for a home business, managing personal finances or just having a place to help children with their homework, more and more homeowners are setting aside a space for a desk, computer, cabinet and other office supplies.

Local experts weigh in on what to keep in mind when giving a room in your house a makeover into the ideal home office.

Kathy O’Neill’s home office, converted from part of the garage, features attractive window treatments, a functional shelf of wood file boxes, and her relaxing view of the backyard. By Greg Farrar

Location, location, location

Kathy O’Neill, owner of Kathy Jones Design, said the first key is placement.

“The biggest thing to keep in mind is to keep your home office away from the kitchen and other high traffic areas,” she said, “so mentally, you can leave the daily home life, even if you’re not leaving the building.”

O’Neill heeded her own advice when she designed her own home office — she walled off a section of her three-car garage, built a new exterior window and moved everything into that room.

If the budget is tight, she recommends converting an underutilized space, such as a formal living room or a dining room. She’s also seen guest rooms pull double duty as a home office. Daybeds are used, well, by day and a trundle pulled out for overnight guests.

One of the biggest mistakes many homeowners make, O’Neill said, is sharing a home office space with a bedroom.

“Mentally, you can never truly leave work,” she said.

Paint

If starting from scratch when designing a home office, don’t forget to put some thought into applying a new layer of paint.

While some designers recommend staying away from blues and reds, and instead using energizing greens, comforting golds or pale yellows, Shana Shott, of Sherwin Williams Paint, suggests sticking with the practical.

“I recommend using a washable paint,” she said. “These rooms tend to get a lot of use, get stuff on the walls and leave fingerprints all over.”

With washable paint, a simple wipedown makes it good as new.

When it comes to color, Shott said there are services, such as Sherwin Williams’ color visualizer, where a homeowner can take a photo of a space, upload it to a Web site and it will virtually paint the walls until an agreeable hue is found.

Furniture

When it comes time to actually find a place to put the computer, whether it’s a tabletop or mobile laptop, there are as many options for desks as there are opinions.

O’Neill said if you choose not to go with a traditional desk, a dining room table can fill in.

“Another popular trend is the credenza, with doors that shut out all the clutter,” she said.

Or if space is limited, a tabletop can be bolted to the wall and swung up or out when working and swung back down and out of the way when done.

But because so much time these days is spent in a home office, there are those, like Leathers’ owner Mitch Setlow, who recommend that above all else, you should have a comfortable place to sit.

“A chair should be sexy and ergonomically comfortable,” he said. “It’s the ultimate challenge, shopping for a chair, just like women’s shoes. It needs to be attractive, but comfortable.”

In addition, a good chair should have back support, be height adjustable and durable, Setlow said. Leather chairs tend to last longer than cloth models, as they breath and age well versus cloth, he added.

Does it compute?

Once all of the other elements are in place, the last thing to keep in mind for the home office is the computer. With so many options available, there are many key points to keep in mind, said PCFix owner Todd Blair. The first is clutter.

“Computers bought from box stores come with more and more software, so they have a lot of trial software,” he said.

The more trial stuff cluttering up a computer’s desktop, the slower its performance, Blair said. That’s why he recommends seeking a professional who can build a custom computer with just the applications you’ll need most, minus the bells and whistles.

Another thing overlooked in a home office computer is where files are saved. Blair said many people save their work to a computer’s desktop, rather than a predetermined Windows folder.

“Quite often, when they go to back up their computer’s hard drive, they don’t back up what’s been saved to the desktop,” he said.

With the growth in the use of laptops for the main home computer, Blair said he’s seen many homes go wireless. He recommends keeping in mind that hardwiring, although it has more cables in the way, tends to be more stable and faster.

One final piece of advice he has for the home office worker — back up, back up and back up again.

“Make sure your work is backed up. Then, hire an expert to come in and make sure it actually is,” Blair said.

David Hayes: 392-6434, ext. 237, or dhayes@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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