When Martha renovated her house in Westport, she wanted to include a home-office space near the kitchen -- the center of activity. She didn't want the office equipment to be obtrusive, however, so she placed it in an existing closet. The shelves holding Martha's computer monitor, keyboard, fax, and other equipment roll out to create a comfortable workspace, but when her work is done, she can close the door and entertain in the same room.
Carpenter Jim Cummings installed a similar office space in Martha's television-studio library and offers this advice: If you're thinking of making a closet office at home, first determine what equipment you will need, then make sure that the closet provides enough space for all your components. Martha needed her closet to house a computer hard drive, keyboard, monitor, printer, and fax, as well as a telephone and lamp. Jim measured the dimensions of the closet and the components, then created a sketch of how everything would fit within the space.
According to Jim's plan, Martha's hard drive and fax rest on the bottom shelf of the closet; the keyboard and mouse share a shelf above that. Directly above the keyboard is the shelf for the monitor. A shelf above that contains a square cutout to accommodate the monitor but has space on either side for a phone, a lamp, and various office supplies. The top shelf holds the printer. All shelves slide in and out, except the one with the monitor cutout.
When determining how your equipment will fit in your closet, keep in mind that the standard placement for a desktop or keyboard is 30 inches from the floor. You can adjust this figure to suit your needs; the keyboard should rest at or just below elbow level when you're sitting. Plan to arrange your monitor so that the top of the screen is just below eye level. Make sure you leave the proper amount of clearance above each piece of equipment you install, or you could jeopardize its lifespan.
Mounting existing shelves on slides is a fairly easy task. The exception is if your closet has moldings around its frame that would prevent shelves from sliding out; in this case, you may need to use an adjustable peg-in-hole support system instead. Prefabricated peg-board and pegs are available at most home and hardware stores.
Choose slides whose length is as close as possible to the depth of your shelf so that the weight of the shelf is evenly distributed and the shelf can be pulled out as far as possible. Slides are rated by weight; for example, Jim chose slides with 100-pound ratings for the bottom shelf, which will hold the fax machine and hard drive -- both heavy items. If you're using preexisting shelves, you'll have to decrease their width by about an inch (read installation instructions for the precise amount) to accommodate the slide hardware on either side. Use a jigsaw to cut the wood, then sand the edges with 100-grit sandpaper to smooth. At this point, you may wish to paint or stain the shelf before screwing the slide brackets onto its sides.
Slide components are labeled CR, DR, CL, and DL (cabinet right, drawer right, cabinet left, and drawer left). To install slides, measure up from the floor on both sides, mark the closet wall with a pencil, position the appropriate slide, and sink in the screws with a drill. Screws are usually included when you purchase the slides; if you have to use longer or shorter ones for some reason, make sure their heads don't inhibit the closure of the slide. To get the most travel out of each glide, position it as far forward in the closet as possible; Jim installed his about 3/4 of an inch from the front of the closet.
Before you install your shelves, create an indentation in the back of each one to accommodate cords. Use a tape measure to find the midpoint at the back edge of the shelf, and mark it with a pencil. Then, using a hole saw, make a semicircular cut. If you don't have a hole saw, use a jigsaw to cut out a V.
You can make a special shelf for the keyboard with a fascia in front so that it can be pulled in and out easily, as well side fascias to hide bulky slide mounts. Jim uses 3/4 inch-thick poplar for these; for the sides, he cut pieces 2 inches wide and 1 1/2 inches shorter than the depth of the shelf (to accommodate the front fascia). Cut the front fascia 2 inches wide and as long as the shelf's width. To attach, turn the shelf over, measure and mark 3/8 inch in from each side edge, and apply glue to the top of each side piece. Place the two side pieces onto the shelf one at a time, flush with the back of the shelf. Use a speed square or a square wooden block to ensure that the sides are perfectly square, and clamp in place until the glue is dry. Then predrill and countersink four equally spaced screws onto each side fascia, and insert your screws. (Countersinking means carving out holes that your nail heads can sit in so they're hidden from view.) Glue and screw on the front fascia in the same manner.
Jim installed the keyboard shelf using slide mounts with ball bearings. These are a bit more expensive than standard slides, but as this shelf tends to receive heavier wear than the others, the extra expense pays off. The side fascias are recessed a bit, so the slide mounts will not be visible on the sides of the shelf.
Once all your shelves are in place, you can add your equipment to the closet and organize it as you wish. Martha lines the inside doors of her closet with cork, creating convenient bulletin boards, and uses flat tacks on the cork so that they will not obstruct the closing of the doors. A cordless phone minimizes clutter, and a small lamp provides the workspace with good lighting.