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Office in a Closet with Jim

Source: Martha Stewart Living Television


When Martha renovated her house in Westport, she wanted a home-office space near the kitchen, but didn't want the office equipment to be obtrusive, 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, and when her work is done, she can close the door and entertain in the same room.

To install a similar office space in your home, carpenter Jim Cummings offers this advice: First determine what equipment you will need, then make sure the closet provides enough space for your components (Martha's closet needed to house a computer hard drive, keyboard, monitor, printer, and fax, as well as a telephone and lamp). Measure the dimensions of the closet and all the components, then create a sketch of how everything will fit within the space.

In Martha's closet, the hard drive and fax are placed on the bottom shelf of the closet, and the keyboard and mouse on a shelf above that. Above the keyboard is a shelf for the monitor, and then another shelf above that, which is cut out to accommodate the monitor, yet allows side space 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 the closet, remember that the standard placement for a desktop or keyboard is 30 inches from the floor. You can adjust this figure to suit your needs, but the keyboard should rest at or just below elbow level when you're sitting. Arrange shelves so the top of the monitor's screen is just below eye level. Make sure to leave the proper amount of clearance above each piece of equipment to preserve their lifespan.

Mounting shelves on slides is a fairly easy task. Choose slides whose length is as close as possible to the depth of your shelf so the weight of the shelf is evenly distributed and the shelf can be pulled out as far as possible. Slides are rated by weight; Jim suggests a slide with a 100-pound rating for the bottom shelf, and for the keyboard shelf, slides with ball bearings, as this shelf will receive heavier wear than the others. If you decide to use pre-existing shelves, you'll have to decrease their width by about an inch to accommodate the slide hardware on both sides. Use a jigsaw to cut the wood, then sand the edges smooth. You may paint or stain the shelf before attaching to slide brackets.

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, making sure their heads don't inhibit the closure of the slide. Position the slide components as far forward in the closet as possible; Jim recommends about 3/4 of an inch from the front of the closet.

Before installing shelves, create an indentation in the back of each to accommodate cords. Using a tape measure, find the midpoint at the back edge of the shelf, and mark with a pencil. Using a hole saw, make a semicircular cut, or use a jigsaw to cut out a V shape.

You can make a special shelf for the keyboard with a lip in front so it can be pulled in and out easily, and to hide bulky slide mounts. Using 3/4-inch-thick poplar, cut two pieces, 2 inches wide and 1 1/2 inches shorter than the depth of the shelf to make the side lips. For the front, cut one piece of 3/4-inch-thick poplar 2 inches wide and the length of 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. Keeping sides perfectly square, clamp in place until the glue is dry. Then pre-drill and countersink four equally spaced screws onto each side of the lip, and insert screws. Attach front lip in the same manner.

Organize your closet as you wish, and line the inside doors with cork to create convenient bulletin boards. A cordless phone will minimize clutter, and a small lamp will provide good lighting.

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