DIY How to

10 ingenious ways to create space for a home office

From attics to garages, corners to closets – there are so many ways to create a functional work-from-home space. Check out our 10 clever work space solutions

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10 ingenious ways to create space for a home office

The number of home-based workers in New Zealand has more than doubled in the past nine years, with more and more people and businesses trending towards a more flexible work solution. Before you take the leap and set up to work from home, however, there are a few important factors you’ll need to consider.

First, you’ll need to establish what sort of workspace you require – is this a long-term career move or merely an interlude? Will your available space accommodate your work, stock, storage and meeting requirements? Once you have a clear vision, make a plan and stick to a budget.

The following are 10 options, ranging in size and budget, so you can choose the home office area that’s right for you.

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1. Go outside

For those with more extensive space requirements and bigger budgets, consider building a purpose-built exterior studio. If you have the space, but would prefer something a little less permanent, purchasing or leasing a portable structure such as a cabin, shed or container could be a great option.

Portable structures often have the added benefit of minimising council consenting requirements, but be sure to check with your local council for the relevant resource and planning consents in your area. It’s important to remember that containers were never intended for habitation.

In order to survive harsh ocean conditions, they contain a lengthy list of nasty chemicals like phosphorus, chromate, arsenic and lead. This means you should sandblast the interior and remove the wood flooring before you begin your transformation.

Once cleaned, insulated and lined, the interior design possibilities are only limited by your imagination – and budget. Costs will vary, but as an idea: Dreamtime Cabins rent from $70 per week (six-month minimum term), hire purchase is from $89.50 per week and rent-to-buy is from $95 per week.

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2. Add a room

Two burning questions need to be answered before you consult the experts about adding a room. Where will it go and does the benefit outweigh the cost? If working from home is a long-term career option, then increasing your home’s footprint is probably well worth the investment.

If your budget doesn’t extend as far as adding a room, consider utilising the space between the floor and the ceiling and add a mezzanine level instead.

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3. Convert an attic

Attics are tempting spaces to reclaim and transform. It’s worth noting that they are not designed to handle the loads typical of living areas and may require strengthening, which will add significantly to the bottom line. Access and limited head room are other important considerations, as is installing windows for natural light and ventilation. Despite the work and cost involved, a converted, usable attic office will add function and value to your home.

Pull-down stairway access – Attic Island (atticisland.co.nz) has modular attic stair systems which enable you to start small and expand with added kits. They offer an insulated, fully installed wooden pull-down system from $1379 plus GST.

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4. Create a ‘cloffice’

Don’t have an entire room to dedicate to an office? Convert the closet! Just ensure it can handle the task as many closets are only slightly deeper than the width of a hanger. Opt for pocket sliding or bi-fold doors, and aim to keep the desk space clear by installing wall shelving or pegboard.

If you’re not DIY savvy, ensure you factor labour (electrical and building) and materials into your budget. Create an inspiring place to work by adding wallpaper or a bold paint colour to the walls. Seating will need careful consideration as it will have to tuck neatly into the space, or otherwise be moved away at the end of the working day.

A stool is a great option for a ‘cloffice’. Don’t have a spare closet? With a bit of creativity, armoires and vintage writing desks can be transformed into small work stations that house most of your home-office necessities.

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5. Make an office station

With technology becoming more streamlined, a whole room dedicated to a home office is not always necessary or practical. Little spaces such as nooks or countertops can make ideal office stations. As these spaces tend to be in public view – such as in the kitchen or hallway – your work station needs to make a design statement, be highly organised and should not obstruct foot traffic.

6. Go under the stairs

Space underneath the stairs is often wasted, so why not declutter and utilise it as a home office? Much like the ‘cloffice’, space here is limited, so you’ll need to make sure your office essentials will fit. Add a built-in desk, shelving or pegboard for storage and, if your budget allows, why not add drawers?

If you can afford the additional floor area, borrow a little bit of extra space beyond the stairs to create a larger work station.

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7. Use a spare room

You may have a spare room but, due to circumstances such as family who visit regularly or children who return home from school or university in the holidays, it cannot be converted to a home office. Dual-function furniture such as the Murphy bed is a great option, providing a decent-sized work station but converting to a bed when you need it to.

Alternatively, consider portioning off an area as a work space with built-in shelving and a trestle table which can be collapsed when not in use. Install an integrated, double-duty flat screen which works as a monitor as well as a TV.

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8. Set up a spare corner

If you occasionally work from home on a casual basis, a spare corner may be all that’s required. Ensure you have access to nearby electrical sockets and be careful not to obstruct the flow of the room. If the corner doesn’t allow for wall shelving, consider a desk with drawers and/or shelves, or a cabinet on wheels, which will provide you with an additional work surface but can be stored away under the desk when not in use.

9. Wall-mount a desk

A fantastic space-saving trick is to install a wall-mounted desk. It results in a lot less visual clutter, as well as taking up a fraction of the space a traditional floor-standing desk would. If space is very limited, install hinges so the desk can fold down against the wall, thus taking up no space at all.

This is a fairly easy project if you’re a seasoned DIYer. Otherwise, the simplest way to create a wall-mounted desk is just to purchase a thick piece of ply, pine or MDF, or a desktop (Ikea has lots of options – try Akia in Auckland) and use brackets to mount it to the wall.

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10. Utilise the garage

Depending on what your home-office needs are, the garage can be completely transformed into a stylish and usable work-from-home space which doesn’t even resemble its original purpose.

Alternatively, if you only require a fraction of the floor area, partition off a section for your work station by installing cubbies, bookshelves (I recommend a more industrial aesthetic) and a desk. If you need to share the space with cars, sports equipment etc, consider a wall-mounted desk on hinges.

Many garages are not well insulated, if at all, so you’ll need to factor in keeping warm. Natural light needs to be considered, as does decluttering your surroundings, to ensure a focused and inspiring work environment.

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Design tips

  • Include shelving below your desk, as recessed shelves allow you to store binders and paperwork that might not be needed every day.
  • Use wallpaper.
  • Consider chalkboard and magnetic paints on the wall for an instant floor-to-ceiling memo board.
  • Install a wall-mounted light to avoid taking up precious desk space.
  • Keep clutter to a minimum with stylish storage solutions.

Words by: Annick Larkin. Photography by: Maree Homer, Derek Swalwell, Katherine Jamison / bauersyndication.com.au.

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