Many people have discovered that the best way to keep work from invading a living space is by setting up a home office; the ones featured here share a few key elements, including well-organized files and shelves, and an overall design that is both efficient and elegant.
The essential components of a home office are a desk, shelving, and file drawers. If you don't have an entire room to spare, consider using an alcove or a corner of the attic for your office. Or better yet, outfit an armoire with all the necessary accoutrements, as we have done. The desk insert, made of medium-density fiberboard (MDF), has a hinged front that serves as a desktop when open; the surface is spacious enough to hold a laptop computer, which could be stored inside the cabinet when not in use. The original top shelf and pegs were left in place, and new shelves of 1 1/4-inch poplar were stained to match.
A bronze lamp illuminates the armoire, its cord running out of sight through a gap between two boards (cords can also be tucked away through holes drilled for that purpose). Crisscrossing ribbon creates bulletin boards with a minimum of holes. Wide cubbies, were designed for letter paper, others are just right for envelopes or pencils.
Five Ways to Organize a Home Office
If you're using a table as a desk, chances are it won't have enough drawer space. Try using an old spice box to organize small office supplies, such as paper clips, tape, scissors, and stationery.
The wires dangling from computers, printers, scanners, telephones, and lamps can easily turn into a tangled -- and mysterious -- mess. To keep the snakes in a cage, hook a plastic basket beneath the desktop, and use tags to identify the cords.
An open-shelf rolling cart files immediate paperwork in cane baskets that function as in and out trays. Prop the telephone on top to allow for more workspace on the desk.
Wooden cubes, usually used to hold CDs, can also store CD-roms and other computer components. Paint the cubes if you wish, and be sure to label the sections so you can easily identify stored work.
Keep track of important notes, invitations, and bills to be paid with binder clips hung from cup hooks screwed into a wall.
Metal Office Furniture
Durable steel and aluminum office furniture was a mainstay of the American workplace from the Depression through World War II and into the sixties and seventies. Designed with practicality rather than style in mind, it was taken for granted in its day, then dismissed as clumsy and heavy. Now, after years of neglect, vintage mass-produced office furniture is being reclaimed, restored, and repurposed -- and it's finding a comfortable place in home offices.
The vintage medical cabinets and side tables were wet-coat painted, and the swivel-chairs, manufactured in the forties or fifties, were recovered with leather. Wet-coat painting is done at an auto-body shop with a high-powered spray gun. Although expensive, this method allows you to obtain the exact shade you want; the painters will match any color sample you give them. Having several pieces painted at a time may help to reduce the per-unit cost.
The steel, aluminum, wood, and fiberglass chairs have subtle details -- a tapered leg, a bowed stretcher -- that keep them from looking clunky. These chairs date from the mid-forties to the seventies, but with fresh upholstery and refinished frames, they look brand new. Library and side tables made in the fifties and sixties can be transformed into spacious desks: Add swiveling clerks' chairs, and they become great workstations.