Home & Garden

January 31, 2009

Make your home office work for your business

If you plan to run a business from home, it's time to step it up a notch.

If you plan to run a business from home, it's time to step it up a notch.

Perception is important. If clients will be visiting your office, what they see will enhance (or distract from) what you can do for them. Your office surroundings should punctuate your purpose so that your clients will know they have come to the right place; they will feel your confidence.

The first step is to find the right space. You can spiff up any room, so don't be put off if it's the attic or the basement, a small room off the kitchen or a second-floor bedroom. The trick is to make it not only businesslike, but a space that reflects you and your talents, often something that is hard to do in traditional office surroundings.

Walls can be transformed at little cost. Architectural details such as crown moldings, deep baseboards, panels or wainscoting will add substance and dimension. The color and treatment applied to these details are the cues to either a clean, contemporary space, an inviting traditional office, or one that is filled with imagination and whimsy.

Be inventive with the floor. One room is not such a big area, so take a look at today's multifaceted options. Laminates are easy to install, come in an array of colors and patterns, and have a more professional feel than wall-to-wall carpet. But carpet tile is a good blend between home and office. The light and dark striped graining in zebrano (zebrawood) laminate is an exotic feature that elevates the design appeal of a home couture business. Artistic area rugs, bold-colored carpeting, hardwearing linoleum in solid or geometric patterns make excellent choices that will boost the character of the room as well as make it inviting.

Office storage doesn't have to mean walls of gray file cabinets. Devise a system around your needs and then look for storage solutions with eye appeal. Secondhand office supplies can be painted, wood planks weathered, matching boxes and bins lined up. Try painting filing cabinets in unusual colors; use a metal primer first, then water-based paint, or try chalkboard paint, which is available in a variety of colors.

If space allows, create a seating area for you and your client that is apart from your work surface. Two chairs and a small table make a more intimate setting for discussion. Seating should be business comfortable, no frills.

Choosing a color palette for your home business might be the first decision you make, for it will set the tone. In the top-floor office/work room I designed for a budding fashion designer, I kept the background walls and furnishings modern, selecting organic tones that would complement a wide variety of fabrics and styles.

Be sure to plan the lighting, including dimmers, so that you can highlight important areas of your work. Ceiling spots are a worthy upgrade, augmented by one or two floor lamps that soften the mood. The objective is to design your room so that you will enjoy being there, you will be inspired to work, and you will have all your tools and inspiration close at hand.

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