A few design touches can turn necessary to nice

March 21, 2009|By CHRISTINE BRUN/Creators Syndicate

Losing a job can be traumatic, but sometimes getting laid off can open the door to opportunity.

I have worked for myself for nearly 30 years, so the prospect of creating one's own income seems natural to me. Yet I keep a healthy respect for how serious the task is. When you work for yourself you are always unemployed.

If you are have recently lost a job and are considering starting your own business, here's a bit of advice: It takes time to carve out a niche for yourself, so be patient.

Our current recession has forced untold numbers of Americans to start working from home. Even looking for employment takes organization and is often compared to a full-time job. So no matter your situation, it is likely you will need to set up a home workstation.


If you are short on space, you might need to give up your dining room for the time being. This means the dining table might be relegated to storage. Perhaps you can remove the extra leaves and put the smallest edition of the table in the family room or at one end of the living room.

Maybe your family will need to eat around the living room coffee table while sitting on floor cushions. It is the preferred way to eat in other cultures and might even be kind of fun for a while. We do what we must in order to survive, and this is a time for creative thinking.

Of course, you could put a protective pad over your dining table and use it for your desk. The problem is that the dining height is not suited for hours at the computer and could be uncomfortable for your neck, shoulders and back.

The photo provides an excellent example of how to a dining room into a home office. As is done in the photo, you can use chairs that have more of a living room feel instead of an office chair on casters. It is more attractive when you open the front door and the office comes into view.

The paisley chairs in the photo might have come from the dining room, but the dressmaker style add a little more relaxed feel to the office setting. Off-the-shelf components are easily found in catalogs, at online outlets or at national retailers. Similar styles are available at IKEA, Pottery Barn, Sonoma Home, Ballard Designs, or Plummers. You can check out Room & Board and Crate & Barrel, too.

Remember, it will soften the look if you display art objects or plants on the shelves. Using woven baskets for storage is another way to soften the office-like feel. Family photos and pretty desk lamps also help.

You might stash reference books and other materials in a wicker trunk or a storage ottoman. Then, when you want to get comfortable and read, that ottoman can snuggle up to your office chair and perform double duty.

You can, if really strapped for money, purchase or scrounge cinderblocks and a plank or two to stack as bookcases. It's a "style" that has been popular in college dorms for decades. It is a good idea to cut a piece of felt to go under the rough concrete blocks to protect the underlying hardwood or tile floor.

Another inexpensive desk can be fashioned by buying a door and using low, two-drawer filing cabinets as supports. Filing cabinets can be purchased on E-bay or at garage sales.

Christine Brun, ASID, is a San Diego-based interior designer and the author of "Small Space Living." Send questions and comments to her by e-mail at To find out more about Christine Brun and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at Copyright 2009 Creators Syndicate, Inc.

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