9 Tips for Designing a Great Home Office

Posted by Laine Smith on 12/19/15 2:16 PM

Topics: Home Ownership

More than 20 million Americans work from home at least part of the time, according to government labor statistics. Whether you're working full-time from home, running your own business, or simply desiring a place to finish up a few work or personal tasks after the work day, a home office can be of significant value to certain homeowners. Here are some guiding points on creating an efficient, valuable workspace.

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Remodeling magazine's 2015 Cost vs. Value report says the average midrange home office remodel comes with a price tag of approximately $29,000, which includes the costs of:

  • Converting an existing 12-by-12-foot room
  • Installed custom cabinetry, with 20 linear feet of laminate desktop, computer workstation and wall cabinet storage
  • Rewiring for computer, fax machine, printer, etc.
  • Cable and telephone lines
  • Drywall interior
  • Painted trim
  • Commercial-grade carpeting

The report says the cost vs. value of a home office remodel is 48.7%, which is the fifth consecutive rise in home office value since 2009-2010. Cost recoup will vary greatly depending on many factors, including where you live. Home office renovations have an average cost vs. value of 61% in the Pacific region; in the Middle Atlantic, cost vs. value is about 42%.

While Remodeling magazine's example includes a large amount of renovating, creating a proper workspace in your home does not have to come with a hefty budget. Here's what to consider.

What's in the Neighborhood?

When you begin to plan your home office, it's a good idea to be mindful of home remodeling projects your neighbors have completed. If other homeowners in your area have dedicated space to a home office, it may be a good idea for you, too, as it will keep your home competitive in the local market.

Space for Usage

What space are you going to use for your office area? A minimally used den? A guest room? If you bought your home as a 4-bedroom home, you'll want to sell it as a 4-bedroom home (not a 3-bedroom plus office). If converting a bedroom is your only option, consider minor renovations for your home office that can easily be converted back into a bedroom in the future.

Make a Checklist of Office Priorities

In order to stay on task and on budget, you'll need to make a list of must-haves for your office space such as:

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Proper work surface. Interior designers often tell clients to opt for at least 42 inches of space and as much as 60 inches if you can spare it.

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Customized storage. Built-in cabinetry is ideal but it's also the most expensive. Think of options that will tailor to your storage needs (i.e. files, reference books, fabric samples, and product). If you are converting a room with a closet, consider using the closet space as your storage by investing in proper shelving, filing cabinets, etc.

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Lighting. Ideally, office spaces should have three kinds of light: natural daylight, ambient lighting, and task lighting. Uplightin allows light to bounce off the ceiling, creating visual height.

Electrical capabilities. Rewiring an office space isn't a recommended DIY task. Labor costs for electrical work can range anywhere from $40 to $100/hour, depending on the job and skill of the electrician. Determine what you'll need electrical-wise and include the cost of labor in your budget.

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Flooring. Will you be on conference calls often? Do you need a completely silence workspace to complete tasks? Here's how flooring comes into play. Hard surface flooring will echo, making carpet the leading choice for home offices. If your heart is set on the aesthetics of wood flooring, add an area rug to absorb noise.

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Shutting out the house. Many avid home workers say they are able to accomplish their work, because they give themselves "psychological cues" that they are indeed at work. If noise is an issue, consider replacing your current door with a solid-core door to block sound transmission.  Upholstered furniture, curtains, area rugs, sound-proofing mats or panels, upgraded insulation and air sealing can also work wonders to cut down on home “noise pollution”. If your "office" shares its space with another room, consider a folding screen to separate home life from work life.

Thinking of a large scale office remodel? Download our free Rehab & Construction Guide for loan options that allow financing of major and minor home improvements into your mortgage.

Download: Rehab & Construction Guide

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