Work Space Tips for Transforming Unused Spaces in the Home
Are you running your Pinterest-worthy Etsy-business from the dining table 5 days a week? Maybe you are planning to change your cubicle career for a bit more life in your ‘life-work balance’? Maybe it’s not the day-job at all that’s the trigger for a bit of DIY but you are simply looking for a way to carve out a little bit of home as a work space and writing nook for a novel?
Whatever the motivation, it’s important to decide on a way to work that suits you; a way that suits your job enabling you the get the work done, but also a way that works for the people you share a space with – such as your partner, children, or housemates.
Although we might all dream of a purpose-built hardwood garden office, or incredible stacked and converted containers that would have Kevin McCloud popping in with a camera crew and an approving squint… we can’t all spend the time and money on kitting out an entirely new structure to house our work space.
What can we do to improve work spaces in our existing property? What steps can we take to enable us to focus better on work and hopefully find a way to balance the flexibility that we craved? How can we balance our home with the responsibility to knuckle down and get the work churned through.
We take a look at six of the best ideas for transforming unused spaces in your home into work spaces and enabling you to become one of the Anywheres.
Work Space Tips for Transforming Unused Spaces at Home
1 – “It’s not a Shed!” – The Garden Office
Down at the bottom of the garden*, in amongst the failed attempt at home-composting and the pile of broken terracotta pots that you can’t bring yourself to throw away, sits a shed that has not been used since the previous house owner took his rusting petrol mower with him. With a lot of imagination and a little bit of paint, silicone sealant, roofing felt, and wood stain – that shed could be your new office work space.
Clear out the junk, sweep away the cobwebs, and get to work making sure that your new office is watertight and free from drafts. Pick a paint colour that supports the mood you are looking to create, and get an electrician to run an armoured cable out so that you have light and power when you need it.
Pick a desk that feels right for your work space – it might be an upcycled kitchen table you found at a car boot sale, or a couple of scaffold boards balanced across two half-height filing-cabinets. Whichever option you go for, make sure that it is at the correct height for you ergonomically and with enough natural light to avoid you suffering from a glare headache everytime you just want to get a bit of work done.
Add in a few homely touches; a portable DAB radio, paper sorting trays, ring-binders, and your favourite pens and there you have it. A garden office. Just don’t let anyone call it “a shed!”.
2 – ‘The Magic Desk’ – Foldaway Office
A second mention for Mr McCloud here – The first time I saw a ‘magic’ folding desk was on his TV programme, Grand Designs.
These foldaway desks or ‘stay level’ desks are desks that are attached to the underside of a wall bed (also known as a murphy bed) and then using some kind of magic (gimbal) mechanism, they maintain a horizontal/level working surface meaning that you don’t have to pack up all the bits and pieces, and various piles of papers everytime you want to pack the table away.
If you are tight for work space and need a desk/bed solution for a room where the packing up happens on a daily occurrence then this could be the best solution – as long as you don’t have a partner who likes to stay in bed while you want to work. That could only end in tears.
3 – The ‘Harry Potter Office’ – Under the Stairs
It’s something that a lot of people talk about, but never get around to doing; the wasted space under the stairs is a fantastic place to make into a work space or mini-office; the shape of the void under the stairs enables you to be sat down with the desk and shelves slotting nicely under the lower sections where head-height would be restricted.
By adding a set of doors to the under stairs office, you can also ensure that it can all be shut off and packed away at the end of the day and ensure a level of separation between your home life and your work life.
4 – ‘The Mary Poppins’ – The Work Space in a Bag Office
Not everyone can find a space at home that’s not being used, and not everyone wants to give up a slice of their family living space to computers and cables so for a lot of ‘Anywheres workers’ the optimum solution is to have a portable office kit that allows them to scoop it all up, pack it back into the bag, and come back tomorrow for the next working day – leaving not a trace of them behind.
The amount of hours I’ve spent in ‘positive procrastination mode’ evaluating different bits of kit has provided hours of entertainment for my colleagues and co-workers who question just how much more productivity I can squeeze out of my next piece of low-weight, high-tech folding gizmo gadget.
But the truth is that this is how a lot of Anywheres live their lives now, without a fixed place to work they move from cafe to dining table to a blanket in the park (coincidentally near to Ronald’s Golden Arches wifi spot), and it is this mobile, portable working life that means having the right ‘Digital Nomad’ kit bag is vitally important to how quickly you can start and stop work when moving from place to place.
So to save you the time and hassle of hours lost in Kickstarter and Amazon, check out some of our favourite Remote Working Kit Bags.
5 – ‘The Narnia’ – Work Space in a Cupboard
A hybrid of top tips 3 and 4, above, The Narnia Office is an office that can be packed up and hidden at the end of a working session simply by shutting the doors.
This solution is perfect for shared homes where although you might be working for multiple companies each week, your partner needs a way of shutting off the world at the end of each self-imposed shift – a way that doesn’t include checking your emails continuously and devising new filing systems.
We’ve already looked at under the stairs office solutions, but it can be as simple as repurposing an old wardrobe or purchasing a new cupboard from your favourite blue and yellow furniture store.
A middle shelf within the cupboard can easily serve as your desk surface and a higher shelf can hold a printer, printer paper, scanner etc. You will need to make sure that you are able to get your legs in under the desk so some thought will need to be given as to how to ensure your chair is slightly higher than normal and your feet can rest inside the bottom of the cupboard without feeling like your feet are too high against your knees.
Some people might find the desk in a cupboard option too claustrophobic, with staring into the back of a wardrobe and the wardrobe doors surrounding your peripheral vision, but with a little research into the calming or stimulating effect of colours and a small sample paint pot from the DIY store, you could personalise your new working space in a way that might actually aid focus and decrease distraction.
6 – ‘The Daughter of Eve Work Space’ – From the land of Spare Oom
You wait all year for a C. S. Lewis reference and then two come along at once. Taking over the spare room and using it as an office space until your in-laws turn up to stay the night is probably the most popular of all the options that we hear from.
I can’t emphasise how important it is to be able to put a physical barrier between you and your work when you’ve clocked of for the day so being able to shut the door to the spare room and clock off for the day is vital for your mental health and wellbeing (and also useful for the strength of your relationship!). Because you are taking over a domestic multi-purpose space, it’s equally important to ensure that you have kitted out the space to be well organised.
Take over the box room and invest in a desk (or something to use as a desk) and work out what equipment you need immediate access to and what can be hidden away in your work space inside a cupboard.
Set up shelving around your work space so that the essentials are within easy reach and develop ways to organise your working environment so that you build yourself an efficient working space that prevents you needing to get up and wander around the house (and get distracted by putting on another wash load or making another sandwich).
You will be spending a lot of time in this little work space corner of your house so make sure you have the equipment and kit that you love – have a look through the pens, laptop rests, and stationery collections that we have designed for the home-worker.
However you decide to escape from the office and start your new life as a remote working Anywhere, we think it’s well worth making sure that your Anywheres kit bag is the best looking one framed as a flatlay on Instagram. After that, we should probably start work.