Monday, May 01, 2006

The Urban Home Office.

In the space-impaired urban nest, the home office area is a relative term. A small percentage of us have the luxury of a designated home office, while the rest of us make do with a disorganized corner of our sofas, or other inconvenient spot. One man's home office is another man's laundry room, after all.

Should you invest in a desk? If you actually work from home, have a demanding hobby, or are a student, then yes. A desk can be an excellent motivator for the procrastination-inclined. Having that specific spot to write your memoirs, study brain surgery or categorize your seed collection will inspire more productivity than the overstuffed Barcalounger dangerously close to a television.

Unfortunately, desks present a conundrum. You either get a spacious work surface, or you get clever storage, rarely both. Pick work area and watch those square inches pile up with clutter. Pick storage and you won't have enough surface room to sign checks. For the serious home worker, it's a better choice to select the "surface area" option, with a few alterations for the clutter-inclined. Start with a sensible desk, such as the B1 desk from Usona Home Furnishings (113 S. 16th), with drawers for the bare essentials: pencils and paper. Keep your address books, legal pads, calligraphy sets, commemorative inkwells and other items in a stool that doubles as storage, such as this Storage Cube from Pottery Barn (4230 Main St., Manayunk; Route 73, Marlton; King of Prussia Mall). For those who require back support, use the cubes as an ottoman, or stow under the desk.

A desk, no matter how well-designed, eats up precious square footage for the casual home worker. A dining room table can easily be re-purposed using a few techniques. First, find a place to keep your materials (pens, files, postage), such as a little-used nook in your china cabinet or on a bookshelf. A basket, such as this magazine holder from online retailer Hold Everything, keeps everything together and is sturdy enough to stand on its own.

For serious filers, make your own Portable Desk (in the spirit of hanging CD storage curtains). Buy a length of vinyl from the fabric store, and a cheap, cheery vinyl tablecloth from a discount retailer- think Target. Cut the vinyl in to varying sizes of rectangles and squares, and apply a strong-hold glue to three sides, producing a pocket. Drape over your table when it's time to work. The Portable Desk is very handy for filing bills and those other loose pieces of paper that tend to run away easily, and also works well as an outdoor desk- just spread the tablecloth on the grass, patio or table.

If you don't have a dining room table, pull up a bar stool (if you don't have one, visit Mr. Bar Stool, at 167 N. 2nd St.) to the counter. Make an office nook by hanging cork tiles, found at any office supply store, on the wall, or on to the refrigerator. If you own, consider adding a coat of chalk board paint to your refrigerator, wall, or cabinet for a writeable surface. Keep supplies in the closest drawer or cabinet.