A cool working zone

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Dodgy desk, awkward chair or overflowing shelves? It’s time to give your home office a facelift, says Katherine Sorrell

We all need some sort of working space at home, whether it’s a corner of the kitchen that’s used for occasional catching up with emails or a high-spec office with all the bells and whistles necessary for full-time self-employment. But is yours really working hard for you? Just a few small improvements will go a long way in making your workspace more comfortable, functional and attractive.

It may sound obvious, but a good place to start is with a clear out and a tidy up. Chances are, you don’t really need all that stuff you’ve accumulated. Take the time to go through your old paperwork, stationery, books and other bits and pieces; give it away, recycle it, file it away somewhere well out of the way or put it in the bin, as appropriate, and you’re bound to create a great deal of extra space. Then, pay attention to any messy and inconvenient cabling, and sort it out with extension leads, cable clips or even by asking an electrician to add an extra double plug socket in a handy place.

Next: your desk. If you are still running out of room, you could consider adding a small worktop to one side of your existing desk (an L-shaped workspace can be very ergonomic). Alternatively, it’s likely that you could dramatically improve your organisation with a new desk that incorporates drawers, cubby holes, shelves or whatever other type of storage you most need. If you are able to use nearby walls, try to lift as much as possible off the surface of your desk by introducing wall-mounted storage such as shelves, pin boards, peg boards (very trendy), hanging racks and the like. Anything that stacks is bound to be useful, too.

Most of us never have quite enough storage, and that probably goes for home offices more than any other space in the house. If you’re looking to buy more storage, you may be happy with a conventional filing cabinet and/or bookcase, but don’t be afraid to look beyond the usual office suppliers: vintage and industrial pieces can really come into their own here, adding an element of unexpected style that will really brighten up your work time. Add boxes, baskets, trolleys, racks and desktop accessories in colours and textures that suit your space and emphasise your personal style.

Thinking along these lines, if space isn’t the problem, but boring looks are, then why not get out the paintbrush and give everything a facelift? Stick to neutrals if you wish (they are undeniably good for concentration) but go for bold colours if they make you happy. Blackboard paint is a great option for sections of walls where you might want to chalk up some notes; it comes in a range of colours – not just black – and can even be used on the top of a desk or for cupboard fronts. And there’s also nothing to stop you replacing a boring window treatment with pretty curtains or blinds, or adding an eye-catching rug, a display of collectibles or a dramatic painting or framed photograph.

A comfortable chair is a must for any working area, and if you are likely to spend hours in it then an adjustable office chair on castors is the best choice. If yours is dull or ugly, it might be possible to either re-upholster it or make a loose cover; at worst, you could hang a length of fabric over the back and add an attractive cushion. Another essential is a good desk light – beyond being bright and adjustable, simply choose one that you love the look of. There’s an enormous choice out there, at prices to suit every budget. Finally, pay attention to the details and add accessories to brighten up your life, from a good-looking waste bin to a house plant, some colourful wall art or a scented candle. Let’s face it, the more you enjoy being at work, the more productive you’ll be.

 

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