Whether running a business from home or having some flexibility for home working, a dedicated workspace or room is becoming for our residential clients more and more crucial for preserving their precious boundaries between work and family lifestyle.
From the property development perspective, the convenience of having an ‘at-home’ set-up is making its way on to homeowners’ wishlists. Creating a different feel from the rest of the house through a layout that may help them to focus, is one of the main challenges – especially within an open-plan scheme.
#1 Clarify your needs
When designing a home office we always ask a series of questions to establish what is needed in the work area:
How much desktop space do you require?
What kind of storage space do you need?
What are your printing/phone/internet requirements?
Are you a “free-thinker” and must your clutter be left untouched by others?
Do you often alternate working activities with relax and quality time?
Is it important for you to be insulated from noise and disruption within the home?
Do you require any access to a library of books or records?
These – together with the allocated budget will help you arrive to the right size of the intervention.
#2 Optimise existing spaces
Dedicating an entire room to the ‘home office’ may not be an option.
A clever way of achieving dedicated office space is looking to unused circulation space or ‘dead’ corners, such as landings or available under stairs alcoves.
Workstations can be achieved around a picture window for instance, by a built-in bookcase, framing the view and providing scope for a window desk and a seat.
If the house lacks a suitable space for a home office “hub” you still might make good use of a multi-purpose bedroom with the introduction of a room divider… whether this is via a bookcase, bespoke shelving or even a colourful partition wall.
A “secret home office” can be even concealed behind a sliding mirrored door on the stairs landing as a great space-saving solution too.
Nevertheless, a cutting edge family home might also require a studio area for the kids; somewhere of light, playful, practical and fun. Storage is a key influence in the design of a contemporary family home and this can be provided in lots of fun and imaginative ways, such as hidden colourful desks and storage spaces in the walls, which, when open, create individual work stations for the children.
#3 Build or convert
The garden room office
If reorganising space inside the house is not the solution for your needs, you could consider the garden room option. If not a small ancillary building to the main dwelling, this can be designed and might require planning application or being constructed under permitted development. In this sense, the project will have to comply within certain dimensions and distances from the edge of the house, generally with maximum overall heights of 2.5m or 3m. There are many other variables in relation to planning that will need to be checked before embarking on the project. Architectural solutions in the timber will provide a naturally integrated outbuilding with a modern – almost Scandinavian/modern/minimalist look, whereas in some historical context brickworks in keeping with the existing might be a better design option.
Some existing garages are used as a general storage space and might have a double-height that would be suitable for a new mezzanine level. The existing garage elevations can also be slightly changed to achieve new openings, a more appealing facade and enhance natural daylight. This may require planning approval.
The house extension
In terms of layout, the office extension has to become a naturally integrated part of the residential building, the relationship with the garden and the house entrance and driveway or accessibility need to be well planned. Very exciting design outcomes can be achieved when differentiating the cladding materials and visual identity of the extension, rather than just keep it similar to the existing. Ideally, there should be a buffer zone to make the work area acoustically sound and functionally independent: particularly from the main living space.
#4 Don’t forget the tech side
If you’re spending long periods in your home office while every other member of the household is out at work or school, then ‘zoning’ is key. This is important to provide the freedom to control the temperature in the workspace. It is often easier to achieve if you’re fitting a new heating system while undertaking a whole-house renovation project.
You may opt for a separate heating system if existing controls cannot be retrofitted.
When it comes to artificial light, energy-efficient LEDs are a wise investment. Additionally, there’s a whole set of considerations. Layering light types are essential in a multifunctional room and for setting the scene for work:
- Ambient lighting: general lighting such as a main central light
- Task lighting: such as a desk lamp or similar light to work by
- Accent lighting: used to illuminate features for interest
With bespoke units, you can specify how many power points you want and the cabling options. Ensure you factor in lighting, computers, printer, TV, music system and charging points. You may also want a mini-fridge a nd tea/coffee making facilities.
Well-Planned office space can provide a pleasant welcoming and productive environment to work from – understanding the budget, ergonomic consideration and the available spaces are the keys for achieving this in the very heart of your home.