Home. Work. Making it Work.


Guest Blogger Mary Cook is the president and founder of Mary Cook Associates, Inc., an award-winning interior design firm specializing in providing full scale interior architecture and design services to a wide range of clients, with projects including multi-million dollar renovations, landmark restorations, adaptive reuse, and new construction. Over the past 20+ years, the company has grown to acquire national presence, implementing and managing hundreds of design projects across the United States.


Whether you’re fortunate enough to have a “Stay at Home Job,” have so much work that you’re regularly taking some home, or you just need a command center to manage your household, “Home Office” has an entirely different meaning than it did even a few years ago.

By 2025, it’s estimated that 2 million entrepreneurs will start businesses that operate out of their homes. And, another 3 million people who work for corporations will be working from home.*

Where “Back in the Day” home designs featured a Study or a Den, you’d be hard-pressed to find a new home floor plan that doesn’t devote some of its square footage to a home office.

Unfortunately, that space is usually limited. In urban settings, space is at a real premium. But even in roomier suburban settings, homeowners still prefer to have their family rooms, kitchens and master suites get the lion’s share of the available space.

As a result, unless you’re living in “Stately Wayne Manor,” you’re going to have to be smart with your home office space.

Over my 25 years in interior design, I’ve had the opportunity to design a variety of offices both corporate and residential. Naturally, there are some tricks of the trade.

Instead of spreading out, spread up. Shelves are as important as desk space. When you’re working with limited space, consider a task-oriented desk. Make it big enough to work on one thing at a time. Your desk shouldn’t be a filing cabinet. By installing a shelving unit near your desk, you can store files and important reference materials. In addition to making better use of your space, it has the additional benefit of helping you focus.

Efficiency can be Built-in. Built-ins are a great way to maximize the efficiency of limited space. A lot of home offices have an open wall. That’s a great place for built-in shelving. You’ll be stunned at how much you can store in them. Especially when you’re loading them and realize that you can throw away about half of the papers that have accumulated over the years.

More About Desks. A free-standing desk is a wonderful thing to have. But all too often, people try to squeeze one in where it doesn’t fit. That can make a limited space feel tiny. Built-in desks against a wall, or smaller, free standing desks, free up floor space. This simple advice can take a limited space and make it feel roomy.

Counter Measures. Another way to win battles in space is with counters. It will only take a minute of examining a space to see if this is a viable solution for you. But long stretches of counter space provide abundant work space and really let you spread out, if that’s your work style.

Always check out the legs. This is one of those tips that’s so obvious, it’s usually overlooked. The more you can see of a space, the larger it seems. If you can walk into your home office and see all the way to the back of the room; if you can see a lot of the floor, the room will feel larger. You may even release a relaxing sigh. It’s a subliminal message that your eyes send to your brain. It tells you you’re not confined or cramped. You’re open and can relax. You’ll be more productive in that frame of mind. And one of the easiest ways to get there, is by paying close attention to the legs of the furniture you put in your office. Light, open table legs don’t block your view or stop your eye. You can easily see more of the space.

All too often, a home office is, unfortunately, an afterthought. By planning your office and intentionally designing it to work for you, you’ll work better in it.

*Business News Daily, March 17, 2011

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