A home office should be a place of business, a haven to get things done amid the hustle and bustle of family life.
There, I confer with clients, hold teleconferences and create magic on my computer. My office is definitely not supposed to be a spillover laundry room or a refuge for college textbooks.
I needed a private, professional space that offered the convenience of working from home without the continual interruptions.
After dismissing the idea of an underground bunker, I took a good look around my house. The survey ended in the garage, a jumble of outdoor equipment, disorganized tools and items we’d just dumped, intending to put away “later.”
Inspiration hit: I’d turn this poorly used space into my new office.
The process wasn’t as simple as dragging my desk and chair out and making room between the lawnmower and rakes. There were issues to consider, preparations to arrange and modifications to make before I moved in. But, oh, it was so worth it.
Here’s how I achieved my workplace Nirvana.
Think, Think, Think
Before you set up shop in the garage, ponder these issues:
- In reassigning the garage’s duties, you’re losing its current functionalities: tool shed, bicycle rack, miscellanea storage… even a place to park cars.
How will you handle those changes?
When you leave vehicles outside, you increase exposure to the elements and car thieves.
Also, in some cities, houses must have off-street parking. Will you still meet this requirement? Where will the rest of the garage’s inventory go? Is there room in the basement or attic? Can you install a storage shed?
- Does the garage need serious renovations to make it habitable on a daily basis?
If so, you’ll have to obtain a local construction permit. Consider hiring a contractor to handle an extensive conversion.
You’ll have a highly operational space when you’re done… but it can be costly. Depending upon the amount of work needed, a garage reno can cost upwards of $20,000.
- Determining your office’s physical requirements will help set the budget.
What will you do there? Do you need electrical outlets, phone or fax lines, internet access, dry storage space, or access to water or bathroom facilities?
Will you meet with clients? If so, you may have to make the space more presentable.
Base the design of your new office on:
- The layout and setup of the current space;
- Your needs;
- Your personal preferences.
If it’s a big job, or if you don’t have a design in mind, hire a professional.
This saves time and ensures a satisfactory outcome. You’ve already identified basic necessities such as electricity and cable connection. It’s time to consider:
- What kind of lighting do you want?
Overhead? Desk? Strong? Diffused?
Base your selection on the type of work you’ll be doing. A photographer needs an entirely different setup than a CPA.
- Do you like natural light?
If so, windows or skylights? Facing your desk, behind you or overhead?
- Some people enjoy work to music.
Do you need space for speakers, or are tunes from your smartphone sufficient?
- What style do you prefer?
Traditional, contemporary, modern, funky? This impacts decisions about layout, colour and furnishings.
- Do you want vibrant or soothing colors for your workspace?
How about neutral walls? They’re not overwhelming, and you can liven them up with splashes of color from furniture, wall hangings or an accent wall.
- The current cement floor of your garage is more warehouse than workspace.
Floor coating products are relatively inexpensive and can create a number of attractive finishes.
- What are your storage needs? Files for paperwork or cabinets for equipment?
- Is an area for client meetings essential?
- What happens if your business grows? Might you need room to expand?
Okay. You have your vision and you’ve hired whatever additional assistance is necessary.
Next step: prepare the space for the conversion.
If it’s going to be a full room renovation, find new places for everything in the garage. If you don’t mind a combined work/storage space, that’s a different story.
Time to de-clutter. You have lots of storage options. Which you choose depends on what gets left behind.
- If you’ll store seldom-used items, such as holiday decorations, seasonal clothing or camping equipment, look into installing a loft. It’s like a mini attic. You lose no floor space and access it with a built-in ladder. A rack design cuts construction costs and ensures ventilation.
- Not sold on the loft? You can still take advantage of unused high areas with overhead shelving.
- Need regular access? Install a slat wall with hooks. Tools, bikes and toys are off the floor. A place for everything and everything in its place.
- If you have the floor space and don’t want stored equipment in sight, put in large cabinets. Purchase commercial storage lockers or have cabinets built in.
Unless you have a pristine space, switching your home office to your garage won’t happen in a few hours. It’ll take time — and money — to get it up to speed.
This is your work area, so don’t simply settle. Once you have a private, functioning area, the memories of hassles and expenses will quickly fade.