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How to Choose Home Office Furniture

What to look for when designing your work-from-home office.


Wood? Melamine? Glass? Extra TV tray? How does one pick a desk? Well, that depends on where your home office resides. Picking home office furniture when you’re just starting to work from home (or when you finally have the funds to shop) can be a daunting task. Kinda like picking ONE dessert from a long list of sumptuous choices. (What, you’ve never struggled with whether to get the Chocolate Mountain Madness or the Coconut Key Lime Pie?) There are pros and cons to every choice, and where you hang your laptop bag plays into that picture.

Home offices come in all shapes and sizes - they're as individual as those working in them. Home offices also have flexibility no cubicle can match. This is a good thing if you know what to do with it. When it comes to shopping for furniture, information is power. It doesn’t matter if you’re furnishing your home office in an attic corner or a hobbit hole, you’ve got to know what you’re working with. Don’t make the mistake of falling in love with an eight-foot long glass desk, only to get it home and find you can’t get it in the door, let alone your office which it turns out, is only 6 feet wide. Not good. Not good at all.

What kind of home office furniture is right for you? That depends on a few things:

  • What style of decorating are you drawn to? Are you a clean line Scandinavian design or a country clutter type?
  • Are you concerned about Feng Shui or improving the harmony of your space?
  • What is your budget? How much do you have to spend?
  • Are you up for a little DIY, or have you never picked up a hammer?

These are important questions to consider when buying furniture and will help guide you through the endless options available to you.Let’s get down to some specifics. Your home office location and style are set, and yet you look at your home office and are completely mystified by what furniture you should get or what will work for you. Need some direction? Well, let’s get to it. There are lots of places to work in your home, but here’s a list of some of the most common and what furniture you should look for.

The Standalone Room
This is commonly either a built-in office (in the house or otherwise) or a designated spare room. Generally, a standalone office can take a larger desk, because there is more space to work with. Kitchen tables, a traditional executive set with a desk and credenza or a large antique desk are all workable in this arrangement. Spreading out is generally easier, so don’t be afraid to go big on the desk work surface. Again, remember to make sure your desk will actually fit through the doorway, before you buy it. Otherwise you’re talking cranes and removing windows. That can get expensive and frustrating.

The Basement
Basements are a great place to work. They are quiet and generally cool in the hotter months. They are also away from the high traffic areas of your home. If you work from home in a basement, you may consider a furniture material that is not susceptible to mold and mildew. Plastic or melamine would be better choices if moisture is a concern. Also, be sure your archival storage is off the ground and in durable containers, such as plastic tubs. Think worst case scenario, and then protect your most important documents and electronics accordingly. Durable (and preferably water resistant) materials are best in the basement home office.

The Attic or Dormer
Working in an attic also has the “less distraction factor” advantages of the basement. However, just as moisture can be a concern in the basement, heat and wide ranges of temperature can be a concern in the attic home office. If your attic is prone to extreme highs and lows, make sure your new furniture can withstand it. Getting a wood desk? Be sure to protect it so it will last. Since attics can tend to be on the small side, also look for desks with built-in storage underneath. This minimizes the footprint you need and maximizes storage.

The Portable Home Office
Don’t have a designated room? Sharing a room to carve out a home office in the corner? No problem. In this type of office, first you’ll want to minimize the amount of paperwork you have. Work virtually as much as you can by paying bills online and scanning important documents and ditching the paper (check with the IRS for more information). These tips will downsize your office filing and storage needs and save you the all important space you have so little of in a shared space. As far as furniture, think outside the box for the “Peek-a-boo” office. Use a butler cart, rolling kitchen island or a computer armoire to keep your office hidden after business hours. Remember, minimalism is key, so think efficiency when you need to stow your office.

The Small Home Office
Have an urban condo or smaller home? If you are short on space, no matter what the room, small offices can be mighty fabulous with a little creative thinking. It’s important to use every available space, including the walls – try installing floor to ceiling shelving with a built-in desk in lieu of traditional furniture. Less used items can be stowed on a shelf close to the ceiling in attractive containers. Use the back of a door outfitted with a shoe organizer to stow small supplies like ink cartridges, tape, clips and pens. A storage ottoman doubles as seating for a guest (or a cup of coffee) and filing space. No matter what your home office setup, be sure you find the furniture that works best for your space. If it helps, take a snapshot of your space and take it (along with your measurements) on your shopping trip. Take your time and find the right fit. Besides, two filing cabinets and an old door from the garage will work just fine until you find the right desk set.

WHY’s Tip:
Have you considered refurbished office furniture? Buying quality used or refurbished pieces can help you find brand-name furniture at more affordable prices. Plus, you'll be going green.

Categories: Home Office