Working at home requires setting the right tone

December 04, 2008|By CHRISTINE BRUN/Creators Syndicate

Some professions allow you to work from home, which sounds pleasant - unless the decision was not your own.

Yet some experts say getting laid off doesn't have to be all bad. Like a mother bird booting her chick from the nest, economic hard times could provide you with the start you need to go into business for yourself. There are some things you can do to ease the transition to life in a home office.

The primary rule? Do what must to make your venture work. If that means setting up an office in your living room, make your new workspace as comfortable as possible.

If the lighting is bad, consider installing recessed overhead lamps. If you can't afford an electrician, consider buying a good floor lamp or two. You can always hunt for well-priced halogen light fixtures online or at a local furniture consignment store. Inexpensive options can also be found at Home Depot, IKEA, Lowe's and local lighting shops.


If your new work space is too bright, and maybe too warm, take a clue from the photo. A simple ceiling fan has been installed to effectively cool this combination living room/office inexpensively. Horizontal window treatments were installed to control glare, heat, and outside distractions.

Decor, too, is important. In the photo, an entire wall is covered with maps that relate to the work being done on the drafting table. You might incorporate other items that relate to your own particular line of work as a decorative element.

If you are a stay-at-home lawyer, you could make a collage of vintage courthouse prints, copies of historic documents or newspapers.

An environmental lawyer might consider photographs of nature, while an accountant might hang vintage abacuses found at antique malls.

Make sure you have adequate horizontal work surface. This might require an auxiliary folding table or mobile work surface that can be put away when it is time to entertain guests.

Keep the dual function of your room in mind. You might need to adjust a few pieces of furniture in order to ease the daily transition from daytime office to after-work spot where you and others can relax in front of the television. As you see here, two small ottomans are easier to relocate than one heavy coffee table. By pushing woven leather ottomans aside, a sleeper sofa can share the office space with little trouble.

Remember, keeping the room soft and homelike is important. So bring in potted plants or fresh flowers. Much more cost-effective are silk flowers that never die. Avoid silly arrangements and stick to a bunch of one type of flower. It will look more realistic and up-to-date.

Self-discipline is key when you work from home. You can use that same control to keep your work area tidy. I have been a sole practitioner for nearly 30 years and often have worked completely alone. From experience, I can say it is critical to keep a routine and regular business hours.

However, no one on the other end of the phone or computer need know where you are, nor do they need to know what your work space looks like. What's important is that your environment supports a business mindset.

Christine Brun, ASID, is a San Diego-based interior designer and the author of "Big Ideas for Small Spaces." Send questions and comments to her by e-mail at

Copyright 2008 Creators Syndicate Inc.

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