Create a Great Computer Work Station in a Small Space
Don’t have a separate room you can designate as a home office? You can create a comfortable and functional computer work station in remarkably little space. A corner of your living room or bedroom, even a spare closet, can provide plenty of room.
First measure out the amount of space you can allocate for your work station. Then, start to plan. You need a surface for your computer monitor or laptop, and room underneath for your hard drive. If you have a printer and/or a scanner, this also needs a work surface, ideally with storage space underneath for printer paper and other supplies. You may also want space for an additional external backup hard drive. Measure all your equipment and furnishings and play with a floor plan.
If you can find a ready-made work station that fits into your space, great. If not, make one. A 24- to 30-inch core door thrown over a couple of two-drawer filing cabinets makes a handy desk, but takes up quite a bit of room, and it may or may not be comfortable for you depending on your height when seated. An alternative would be to check home improvement stores like Home Depot for components like counter tops, shelving, and legs that can be assembled in a number of configurations. (Check the kitchen section of the store!) Assembling a desk with an L- or U-shape allows you to spread out your work. If you want an L-shape, make sure the extra arm is to the right of the monitor if you’re right-handed, to the left if you’re a leftie.
You’ll need shelving to store CDs, computer manuals and other reference books, computer accessories and supplies, project files, and inboxes. Magazine holders make great containers for computer manuals and other documentation, and can be filed on a shelf along with reference books. Use bookcases as boundaries for your office and as additional storage space. The tops of the bookcases can also provide additional work space in a pinch, or display space for personal items to give the area a homey touch.
If you have a closet you can spare, remove the doors and replace them with louvered doors that can be folded out of the way while you’re working. Install a work surface spanning the length of the closet, and then build shelves above it. You can also create storage space beneath the counter, but leave an area open to slide in a comfortable office chair.
If you have a CPU for a monitor, make sure the depth of the closet will accommodate the CPU; or consider upgrading to one of the newer, compact flat screen monitors. Or use a laptop -you’ll have room to spare. You might also consider building or buying a rolling cart for your printer that can be stored in the closet when not used, and pulled out while you’re working. Also consider a pull out work surface or a folding table which can be tucked into the closet when not in use. Additional storage space can be built along the sides of the closet.
You’ll need both electrical outlets and a phone jack (or cable outlet if you use Roadrunner) in or near your work space. If you can install them, great; otherwise you’ll need to run extension lines in from elsewhere. Make every attempt to provide easy access to all outlets and jacks; having a surge suppressor with several plugs attached to the back of the closet right above the work surface should make life much easier for you. If you have to run extension cords over a high traffic area, run them through protective conduit that allows you to put them underneath carpet without causing accidents. Don’t run unprotected cords underneath carpeting; a worn cable can create a fire hazard, and people can trip over the bump!
If you’ve managed to renovate a spare closet, all you need to do is close the doors to hide your office space. If it’s in a corner of the bedroom or living room, think about setting up an ornamental folding screen to block off your view of the office; remove it when you’re using the office, or leave it up for some privacy.
Take a few moments during the planning phase to think about the look of the work space. Your choice of materials, colors, and design accessories go a long way to creating an attractive area that’s an enjoyable, comfortable place to work.