Working at home

Elisa Pritzker’s home office. (photo by Will Dendis)

While many of us can get by with a couple of designated drawers, a box file and a laptop on the dining table, people who are serious about working out of their homes need clearly defined work areas. As more people create jobs for themselves and turn hobbies into paying endeavors, identifying a space for a home office and figuring out attractive and cost-effective ways to furnish it has become a must, surpassing demand for “a nursery” as a residential real-estate feature.

For your home office, at the very least you’ll want a bright space with a comfortable chair, supplies stashed within easy reach, and some baskets and files to keep projects consolidated. Inexpensive generic hutches, though widely available, are usually an eyesore. A card or drop-leaf table nudged into a corner and surrounded by discreet storage works just as well or better. You’ll also want a small, friendly and attractive plant, piece of art, or other decorative object. Since you’re likely to spend several hours a day in this spot, you don’t want it to feel like a penalty box.

As sitting for long periods of time is associated with lower-back pain, demand for standing desks — initially popularized by the rich two centuries ago — has soared. Fixtures that rest atop a conventional sitting desk can be purchased inexpensively online. Since human height and limb-length varies so widely, however, it’s prudent to buy a stand-up desk that permits personal customization. Ikea sells several versions.


Taking a cue from Google, some people eschew the cost of a quality office chair in favor of sitting on a balance ball, which forces the user to constantly engage his or her core muscles, toning the abdomen while also presumably fostering correct spinal alignment. Gaiam sells a balance-ball chair developed after consultation with a prominent chiropractor; on casters with an upper-back support bar, it comes in several models and colors, priced at $75 to $150.

Anyone who has ever worked out of their home will tell you that developing efficient habits is key. If you can’t figure out where you left off the day before, you’ll be too slow to get started and very likely also too anxious to get up and leave, creating a kind of circular nightmare of scattered, diminished productivity.

Professional organizer Leona Juris says she can create a functional home office out of the corner of a bedroom with just a few pieces of furniture. One must is a file cabinet.