We all need a place to sort out the family finances, run a business or simply enjoy a hobby. Gabrielle Fagan gives a guide to creating a productive space in the home.
There’s something special about a place of our own within our home, even if it is only a corner of the kitchen where we can attend to the bills, a desk on a landing where we get creative or the bliss of a retreat at the bottom of the garden away from the family.
As technology allows the boundaries between work and play to become blurred, we increasingly consider a home office (if we have the luxury of space), or at least an area devoted to a hobby or work, as essential.
According to new figures, around 70% of home renovation plans now include space for a study of some kind, and John Lewis has seen a 13% increase, compared to last year, in sales of home office furniture and storage.
“We all need a space we can call our own,” says Caroline Clifton-Mogg, whose book, A Space Of My Own, is packed with ingenious and practical ways of conjuring a ‘work’ area, coupled with delightful decorative ideas.
“Whatever it’s used for, this area should be a haven - somewhere that is tranquil, calming and creatively inspiring at the same time. A private space must be satisfying to the soul,” she enthuses.
There’s also everything to be gained by having an area, no matter how tiny, where you can display personal treasures and enjoy ‘me’ time.
“The important thing is that it’s known to all as very much your space, and it should feel private,” says Clifton-Mogg. “This is a place that should be specifically designed to cater to you and what you are doing.
“So decorate in a way that pleases you, perhaps your favourite picture, or a gallery of photos and postcards that give you pleasure to gaze at.
“Choose colours well - bright shades to stimulate and inspire, or calming, contemplative ones to allow your inner creativity to peacefully emerge. This is your place and you can tailor it so it fulfils your desires.”
Follow her guide to creating a space of your own...
“One of the greatest luxuries is to have a dedicated room or space where you can be creative,” says Clifton-Mogg.
“Whether it’s jewellery-making, potting, painting or drawing, sewing or knitting, for pleasure or for business, there’s nothing like having a place with your tools, work and inspiration around you.
“This area, perhaps more than any other, needs to be well organised, so ensure there is sufficient storage for files and equipment.”
Top tip: Quirky storage is more decorative - traditional glass preserving jars with lids are ideal for storing everything from cotton reels to buttons. Pinboards and padded boards criss-crossed with contrasting ribbon look pretty and are ideal for displaying inspirational bits and pieces.
Stylish choices: John Lewis has a selection of table accessories, including Orla Kiely’s distinctive multi-stem square storage boxes, £8 each. Enjoy privacy wherever you are with a Rewrite desk with soundproofed fibreglass hood, £1,771 from Ligne Roset.
“More and more of us are able to work from home, and as a result our work space can be tailored perfectly to suit our needs,” says Clifton-Mogg.
“You’re free to stray from the neutral colour schemes and utility furniture beloved by office managers and can be as imaginative as you want.”
But, she advises, the secret of a good office at home is to combine comfort, multi-purpose furniture and stylish storage with carefully-chosen decorative pieces so that no one element looks out of place with anything else in the room.
“A calm, orderly space will help you to be more productive, organised and even more creative,” she says.
Top tip: Ensure your work surface and chair are the right height to support you. An ideal desk height is 65-70cm (26-28 inches) from the floor, more if you’re taller. Look for a swivelling, adjustable chair with lumbar support.
Stylish choices: Go contemporary with a white lacquered table, £349, and Ferrara chair, £339, both from BoConcept. Or opt for a Carnac straight desk in white steel and glass, £79, and matching bookcase in white steel and glass £119, both from MFI.
A John Lewis Loft desk, £225, in wood is a classic, or follow the fashion for mid-century modern furniture with a slim Treviso desk, £899 from Ercol.
“We all like the idea of a retreat, and the very word ‘study’ still conjures up the idea of a small, warm room decorated with its owner’s most favourite possessions,” says Clifton-Mogg.
“This is a place where you can be alone, and where you should be able to write, work, read or simply sit.
“It could be a spare room or a converted loft. Whatever your particular desire, the idea of a room devoted to one’s personal and private passions remains immensely appealing.”
Top tip: It’s not essential for a study to be book-lined, but rows of books will undoubtedly add colour and atmosphere and could help with sound-proofing.
If you choose built-in shelves, make sure you measure books, CDs, or magazines to ensure they fit before installation.
Stylish choices: Urbano study in Contemporary Urbano finish, edged in solid oak, made to order from £3,000 from Neville Johnson.
“Space is at a premium in modern homes, and it may not be possible to set aside one room as a personal work or hobby space,” acknowledges Clifton-Mogg.
“But with a little imagination, it’s usually possible to find a corner that may have been overlooked. It might be one end of a room screened off by a curtain, space on a landing, a converted cupboard under the stairs, or a deep cupboard.
“They can make the best home offices as they’re neat and functional and tucked away - tiny oases for calm reflection.”
Top tip: There’s no need to buy new furniture if you’re on a tight budget. Source pieces from second-hand furniture shops, auctions or online recycling sites such as www.freecycle.org
Stylish choices: An office in a cupboard is a neat idea. A Neptune Chichester Deluxe oak workstation in limestone, £2,395 from John Lewis, comes with a fold-out shelf for a computer. Alternatively, plump for a New England home office armoire, £570 from The Dormy House.
A room divider or folding screen could help create a private area. A ceiling-hung sliding fabric panel, from £82.22 including rail and fabric, which comes made to measure from The Fabric Box, could ‘zone’ a work area and give it a sense of identity.
Stockists to study:
:: BoConcept: 0845 605 0565/www.boconcept.co.uk
:: The Dormy House: 01264 365808/www.thedormyhouse.com
:: Ercol: 01844 271 800/www.ercol.com
:: The Fabric Box: 0844 811 8280/www.thefabricbox.co.uk
:: John Lewis: 0845 604 9049/www.johnlewis.com
:: Ligne Roset: 08707 777 202/www.ligne-roset.co.uk
:: MFI: 0845 122 4500/www.mfi.co.uk
:: Neville Johnson 0161 873 8333/www.nevillejohnson.co.uk
:: A Space Of My Own by Caroline Clifton-Mogg is published by Ryland Peters & Small, priced £19.99. The book is available to readers for the special price of £17.99 (including p&p) by calling Macmillan Direct on 01256 302 699 and quoting reference GLR 5QM