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Home Improvement Guide 2007
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Ideas and suggestions for your next project, from simple plans to designing extensive renovations.
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Redesign your home office

Home offices have left the basement. The Small Business Administration reports that more than half of the nation's small businesses are home based. U.S. Department of Labor numbers show 20 million people now work at home. Add to that millions more occasional telecommuters, and the home office becomes an important part of even the smallest apartment.

It doesn't matter whether the home office is used for paying bills, doing homework, scheduling the family or running your business, some basic things are in order for an office to work exactly how you need it. Obviously, a computer, monitor, printer, fax machine, Internet connection, a work space (counter or desk) and a chair. Some home offices add a copier.

Before you decide to create a home office, whether by yourself or with the help of an interior designer, you must identify the space you want for the home office. Is it a separate room? A large closet? An area off the kitchen? (Consult your tax expert. If you plan to deduct, the IRS has specific rules on space and use.) It is also important that you make a list of all the items you will need to work comfortably and efficiently -- the right technology, lighting, telephone, window coverings, a workstation, bookcases and the type of flooring you want. You will need a place to keep files for taxes, monthly bills, and for running your business. Your work surface is very important, so decide how much space you need as well as the type of chair you want to sit in.

It's also important to recognize your own personality. Do you fill up every inch of space and drawers with letters, papers or magazines? If you do, consider separate baskets or containers, such as in-baskets and out-baskets. Do you keep a to-do list? If so, where do you want to keep it, in a computer program, on the calendar or on a bulletin board behind the computer monitor. Some people want information at their fingertips, while others are willing to make more of an effort to look for it.

The beginning
"You have to anticipate today's technology as well as tomorrow's technology," says designer Deborah Reinhart of Design Odyssey in Wilmette, Ill. Lighting is very important to a home office. Standard home lighting isn't sufficient. Instead of placing lamps everywhere, an office needs task lighting, which has a narrower beam and a brighter light with less reflection. People on a budget can find these lights in many home improvement stores.

The second key element is determining the window treatment. High-budget home offices can have a remote control to raise or lower shades. Inexpensive window treatments can consist of horizontal blinds in faux or real wood. Reinhart says that faux wood blinds give the very best light control. If the sun goes up or down, just tilt the blind to get light without glare. "It is very important to cut the reflection on the monitor while you are working," she says.

-- Posted: April 4, 2007
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