The great advantage to working at home is that you can put your personal stamp squarely onto your daily work routine. You don’t have to rush for the 7:02 train every morning (or even be awake at 7:02). You don’t have to wear a dry-cleaned suit every day, engage in petty turf battles or drink bad coffee.
It means you can work uninterrupted for five hours and then take a lunch-time stroll with your dog or pick up your child from school. Yet, so often, people who work at home forget that their personal stamp also extends to the work environment they create. Few put the same thought and effort into their home office design that they put into organizing their day. To work at home means you can create your own comer office-a space that’s inspiring, efficient, yours. The key to a great home office is designing an environment that meshes with your work style and is a reflection of your tastes and your home-whether that’s French country, chock-a-block with collectibles, or chic, sleek and urban. So play Rachmaninoff (or rap) as loud you like. Hang a piniata from the ceiling if you want to. Create the space where you can work at your peak. After all, you’ll never be more in charge than you are now.
TWO ROOMS IN ONE
This home office was carved out of a high-tech, custom-designed family media room, The work space fits in neatly with the room’s overall design, using the same color scheme and artwork. At the same time, it is separated physically by a partition that is high enough to hide office clutter and low enough to avoid creating a feeling of claustrophobia.
Overhead lighting, task lights at the desk and sunlight from a window behind the desk area also divide the work space from the rest of the room, which has much more subdued and diffuse lighting.
A Wall of storage extends the length of the room on the right. At one end, it houses a copy machine, files and office supplies, and at the other, the family’s collection of audio/visual equipment. To prevent overheating of both electrical equipment and the room, a special air circulation duct built into the cabinets draws heat away toward windows and air-conditioning.
Architec: Nunziato Miuccio of Martin E. Rich Architects. Interior design: Bonnie B. Cohen. Desk accessories from The MoMA Design Store. Artwork on walls done by Tom Slaughter.
IS IT A TAX. DEDUCTION OR NOT?
Claiming a tax deduction for a home office has become so common that the IRS now has a form 8829) just for this purpose. An estimated 4 million taxpayers filled it out in April. The form and a publication to help you fill it out, Business Use of Your Home (587), clarify the requirements for claiming a home-office deduction:
Your home work space must be used exclusively and regularly as either your principal place of business or as your company’s second office, which you use to meet with clients, patients or customers in person (but not for record keeping or billing). A home office does not have to be a separate room in your house, just a separate area, such as an alcove.
- Exclusive use means that you cannot use the space for any purpose other than your business. (This does not apply if you run a daycare facility in your home, however, in which case regular use is the important issue.)
- If you are not self-employed, a home office is deductible only if its use is necessary for your employer’s convenience, not yours.
The new IRS form requires you to calculate the exact percentage of your home used for business (number of rooms or square footage) and base your rent or mortgage deduction as well as any other home-office deductions (utilities, insurance, repairs, etc.) on that percentage. You must list the full amounts spent on these items as well as the percentage that you are deducting. Be sure to keep careful records of all your expenditures. To order IRS Form 8829 or Business Use of Your Home, call 800-TAX-FORM.
ROOM WITH A VIEW
This home office is proof that a work space doesn’t have to look functional to be functiortal. Traditional wood paneling gives the room a country, house ambience. Antiques, rich pattern on chairs, wallpaper and curtains, and copious books lining the wall all add to the room’s warmth. The paneling and bookcases also insulate the room from noise-an important feature since doors at each end of the room open onto the front hallway and the kitchen. The antique refectory table-used as a desk-the wooden chairs and the area rug are all tag sale or flea market finds.
The tranquil view of the garden outside and personal touches like the birdhouses, family photos and flowering bulbs create a peaceful work environment. Late each afternoon this office becomes a study room in which the children of the household can do their homework.
Interior design: Lyn Peterson, Motif Designs. Fabric and wallpaper, from Recollections by Motif Designs
NOW FOR THE PRACTICALITIES
When setting up an office in your home, it’s easy to overlook some of the details, such as telephones, electricity and air-conditioning, that have usually been someone else’s responsibility. But now you have to be your own facilities manager. Don’t forget the following:
- TELEPHONES This is your business’s most basic and important equipment. Your professional credibility depends on clients being able to get through to you, or an answering or fax machine, when they need to. Yet failing to install enough phone lines is a common mistake. Order enough to support all your needs including a fax machine and modem. It’s less expensive to get three lines at one time than on three separate occasions. Also, if you request a business account from your phone carrier, it could cost you considerably more, but you are likely to get very prompt repair service when you need it, and you can list your number under your company’s name.
- ELECTRICAL POWER Take an inventory of all the equipment you plan to use, and make sure your circuits can carry the electrical load. A computer is likely to consume the largest amount of electricity. It’s often wise to devote a separate circuit to computer equipment. And think about getting an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) device, which will allow you to save items on disks if there’s a power outage. Determining which walls have properly grounded, three-pronged outlets will help you decide on furniture layout. Try to come up with a solution for keeping wires out of sight and under control, like drilling holes into a desk through which you can thread them.
- CLIMATE CONTROL Be sure the temperature and humidity of your work space can be maintained at moderate levels and that the ventilation is adequate-particularly if your office is in an attic, basement or garage. These precautions are for your comfort and well-being as well as the safety of your computer equipment, which will not function properly in extreme temperatures or high humidity.
- ZONING RESTRICTIONS Find out if it’s legal to work out of your home or if you need a special permit or license to do so. Zoning ordinances, landlords or co-op boards may restrict residential units to just that. Find out about any restrictions before you’ve spent time and money on renovations and advertising for your business.
- INSURANCE Contact your insurance broker to discuss any special insurance needs. While you may be able to extend your homeowner’s policy with an additional rider to cover your business equipment and protect you from personal liability, a basic small-business policy will provide much more extensive coverage and is probably worth the few hundred dollars a year it will cost you.
This home office was created by partitioning the master bedroom of an apartment with a floor-to-ceiling wall. The work space created is small (less than 50 sq. ft.), but a window cut into the wall above the desk lets in natural light from the bedroom windows and creates the illusion of more space. So do the all-white surfaces and a large wall mirror in the bedroom.
Every inch of the office serves a purpose. just behind the desk, which is made from a Large piece of chipboard set on tressles, is what used to be the bedroom closet (see close. up photo, left). it’s been converted, with shelving, into convenient storage for a fax machine and office supplies.
Shelves also line the wall be. side the desk for easy reach of the telephone, answering machine and reference books. A door in the wall to the bed. room and a separate one leading to the apartment’s hallway provide complete privacy and a quiet work space away from family activities.
Architect: Brian Burr File folders from Sam Flax, Shoe Box art files from Exposures. Recycled stationery and bed blanket from Terra Verde Trading Co.