Creating a home office you’ll love

A home office you love to live with is just another perk of working at home

Special to The TribuneJanuary 2, 2013 


    Use paint liberally: There are paints created specifically for any surface, be it wood, metal or plastic. Go ahead, paint your file cabinet to match your walls or pretty up your ugly office trash can.

    Warm up with wood: Have at least one wood piece in your home office. Too much metal and plastic can be uninviting.

    Design your desk: Almost any surface can become a desk. If it’s too high for typing, add a pull-out keyboard tray beneath or an extra cushion to your chair. In a small space, attach a piece of wood to a wall with brackets, which are more space-efficient than legs.

This monthly feature focuses on local interior designers and their ideas for choosing color schemes, furniture, art and an overall design style or scheme. Today we focus on Michelle Pelech who, with husband Jim Pelech, founded Dwell Design in Libertyville, Illinois. The couple and their firm recently relocated to Arroyo Grande. Pelech offers full-service and conceptual design, home staging, and hourly consultations. Renovations, home accessorizing and green design are among her specialties. She may be contacted through the website or by calling 710-2976.

Not everyone has the luxury of a spare room to use as office space. But according to interior designer Michelle Pelech, anyone can enjoy the convenience of a home office, whether it’s for running a business or simply paying the bills.

“Office,” however, doesn’t mean whatever tabletop happens to be clear at the moment. Pelech recommends having a dedicated space that includes both a work surface and storage.

“It’s more efficient when you have everything in one place, where it should be, so you can find it on the fly,” she said. “It’s less time that you take away from hobbies, activities and family.”

Both Pelech and her husband, Jim, work from home, plus she frequently designs offices for clients. She offers advice on how to carve out space for a home office that is both functional and comfortable.

Repurpose a space

First, look at places rarely used. In Pelech’s home, she replaced a seldomused wet bar with a desktop for her office. For her husband’s office, she used curtains to section off a sitting area just off their bedroom.

If your dining room hasn’t seen much traffic lately, take a leaf out of your table or replace a sideboard with an armoire. This doesn’t have to be a piece specifically designed for an office. Pelech has transformed armoires by adding a work surface and some shelving for storage. Drill a hole in the back for cords and voilà! — a self-contained mini-office.

When converting an armoire, she recommends using a pull-out work surface to allow space for your knees. A pull-out keyboard tray beneath clears more space on the desktop. “If you customize a piece of furniture, make sure it’s comfortable or you won’t use it,” she noted. One of the niftiest features of an armoire is that it closes up and conceals office clutter at the end of the day. This is especially important if you work at home and need some separation between your office and family time. A closet is another good option. Pelech frequently makes use of the guest room closet.

“Typically things that you store in there is stuff you really should get rid of,” she said. If the closet has sliding doors, she recommends replacing them with hinged doors or a curtain, which allows use of both sides of the space simultaneously. A desk can be as simple as a slab of wood affixed to the wall with brackets.

“At home, my husband took five two-by-sixes, attached them to one another, mounted them to the wall, and we stained them and put on a top coat — it’s beautiful,” she said.

A credenza in the bedroom can provide extra storage and added work space, yet still fits with the look of the room. Everything can be easily packed up and put away when guests arrive.

Not surprisingly, Pelech shies away from the comfortable yet institutionallooking office chair on wheels.

For her home office, she wanted a wooden chair. So she sat in many of them until she found one that was comfortable and the right height to keep her elbows at an ergonomic 90-degree angle when typing. For extra lumbar support, she uses a decorative pillow.

One commonly overlooked home office feature is lighting. It’s not enough to work by the glow of your computer monitor. Pelech recommends having a good overhead light as well as atask light. Again, this doesn’t have to be a metal office-type lamp. She likes using a small decorative lamp that fits on the desktop. A three-way bulb allows you to dim lights when you don’t need them for reading.

Organize everything

Pelech considers clutter a distraction as well as a hindrance.

“No matter where you set up, the key to a successful home office is organization — a place to put everything, so you don’t end with stacks on the floor or every visible surface,” she said.

There is aplethora of stylish alternatives to metal and plastic storage. Just cruise the aisles of your local craft or office supply store.

“You can get baskets or decorative boxes for the same cost as plastic,” she said, adding that seethrough plastic containers are not only unaesthetic, they reveal the clutter within them.

To store and organize papers and notebooks, Pelech likes to use decorative magazine holders. The slanted design allows you to keep paperwork visible while you’re working, but when turned around, they conceal their contents.

For other office supplies, she likes baskets. One large basket can contain smaller baskets sized just right for pens, paper clips, scissors and the like. The bonus is that you only have to put one basket up on a shelf at the end of the day.

If you have lots of little odds and ends in your office, consider investing in a nice antique piece with lots of little drawers, such as a library card file or apothecary cabinet.

Perhaps the best organizational tool for the office is a label maker. Attractive labels keep items from migrating to the wrong place and look better than notes scrawled on a file label or Post-it.

Make it homey

One of the biggest perks of working at home is, well, that you’re at home. So why make your home office feel like a cubicle?

It’s natural that you will have some less-thandecorative pieces, such as a well-used desk or metal file cabinet. But Pelech has a simple solution.

“Everything is paintable,” she said. “Walls, desk, metal filing cabinets, chairs — don’t hold back.”

Just as you’d coordinate your sofa upholstery with your wall color, it makes sense to coordinate colors and patterns in the office. Pelech suggests starting with your storage. Find storage boxes in a print that you like, then use that pattern to pull paint colors from.

Hide as much office clutter as you can. That includes cords. Go ahead and drill a hole in your desktop so that cords aren’t snaking down the sides. Use a tube to run cords together so they don’t become a tangled mess. Pelech has even created a fake panel behind a desk so that cords can run down behind it and plug into a power strip, out of sight.

Finally, don’t forget the personal touches. Add nicely framed photos and mementos to your office space. Bring in a plant and a piece of art.

“You have to like where you work or you won’t use it,” said Pelech. “If the space is appealing, it won’t feel so much like work.”

Reach Rebecca Juretic at .

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