Looking to create a home office or study corner? Gabrielle Fagan does her homework on stylish desks and storage solutions
Working might be essential for most of us, but who hasn't dreamed - usually while suffering a cold commute or the tedium of office politics - of escaping and being based at home?
Goodbye to harsh overhead lighting, drab desks, irritating colleagues and eagle-eyed bosses. Hello to a brave new world where you rule the roost and decide what colour the stationary cupboard should be.
Working from home, whether by choice or necessity, is increasing - thanks in part to the huge leaps in technology we've seen over recent decades.
More than a quarter of British workers now sometimes operate from home, while the number of people working 'mainly' at home is around 13%.
If you're serious about working from home, being set up with the right computer and printer is one thing - but it's far from the be-all-and-end-all.
You'll also need to think about creating a suitable work space. Not only will this ensure you're productive, it's crucial for your wellbeing too, and for working from home to be a pleasure.
"It's a great choice but you need to ensure that you have a space that's functional and fits into your home," says Charlotte Hill-Baldwin, head of marketing at furniture specialists John Lewis of Hungerford.
"Celebrate the fact that your work zone can be just the way you want it, you can create a setting which inspires you, but also ensure that when you want to 'finish' for the day you can conceal that working area easily.
"A little time and care taken in the planning, so that you really suit your needs, could help make you more productive and truly happy working at home."
Whether you want a desk to impress, a compact work station, or a special corner where you can deal with paperwork or enjoy a hobby, there's a solution for every home.
We've done the homework and you're the boss - so choose a style that makes 'going to work' a pleasure.
If you're lucky enough to have a whole room at your disposal to transform into a home office, it will pay dividends if it's designed specifically to suit your needs.
As this is a space where you're likely to spend large amounts of time, bad layout or poor storage solutions will quickly start to grate. Also, if you're going to be holding meetings at home, you'll want to create a great impression that shows you're organised and professional.
"It's essential to create a practical space which caters for all technology needs, from pull-out drawers for scanners and printers to shallow shelving for stationary," says Simon Meyrick, designer at fitted furniture specialists Neville Johnson. "You need the right balance between the practical elements and allowing the space to become an inviting and pleasant place to work.
"Make sure items you use on a daily basis are within arm's reach of the desk seating position. There should also be adequate working space either side of you when you sit at the desk."
SMART WORKING: Neville Johnson's bespoke Urbano office can include open and closed storage and a made-to-measure desk. It starts from £3,000.
Betta Living's home office collection starts from £1,800 and comes in a range of finishes. To bring light and a feeling of space to a dark area consider their sleek, modern Brilliance range available in glossy white.
WORK THE ROOM
Incorporating a work space into an existing living area is an increasingly popular solution, according to fitted furniture specialists Sharps. Around 33% of us use a desk positioned in a living room or bedroom and 45% of people work over the weekends at home, often uncomfortably perching on a sofa or bed using a laptop.
To work well, the space in a combined area should be well thought out, so it's practical but not intrusive when you're relaxing or socialising.
"A home work space doesn't have to be corporate or cluttered like a workplace office and should be designed to complement the rest of your home beautifully," says Rachel Dilekci, a design and planning expert at Sharps.
"Using lounge or dining furniture for work purposes can be extremely uncomfortable, and affect posture, concentration and productivity levels.
"It's far better to have bespoke solutions which suit working and the look of your home."
SMART WORKING: A fully fitted Sharps home office starts from £1,200, including design, manufacture, delivery and installation. Its Como system, with light walnut frames and white gloss or glass doors, is designed to harmonise in an open-plan living area.
If you haven't got enough room to swing a proverbial cat, let alone a laptop, working from home can be stressful, so a smart versatile solution is essential.
"If you're working in a small area you need to be creative with every inch of space," says Tom Kerry at The Holding Company. "Use stacking boxes, make sure they're labelled with a list of contents, and well thought out shelving units which can triple the amount of space available to you. Desktop stationery units and stackable in-trays will keep important paperwork in view but filed.
"Don't overlook making the space, no matter how small, attractive, so that it's appealing to sit there, easy to focus, and you aren't facing any distractions such as a TV or play area."
SMART WORKING: Marks & Spencer's tall slim Sapporo desk unit, £199, incorporates three overhead shelves and, along with the matching six-drawer chest, £129, could be a workable answer. Alternatively, M&S's handsome Greenwich bureau base, £799, wouldn't look out of place in a living room. It has a fold-down desk top, stationery compartments and a roomy cupboard below.
For a fitted solution, John Lewis's Creator range, from £3,500, can be tailored to any space including awkward areas under the stairs, or a loft room with a sloping ceiling.
FEEL AT HOME
One of the delights of working from home is that your work space doesn't need to feel 'corporate'.
If you want an area where you want to do accounts, pursue hobbies or work, but also want to enjoy a relaxed atmosphere, you can choose kit which truly suits your style.
"Technology now enables people to work from anywhere - from the bed or the garden," says Rachel Forster, interior designer and tutor at The Interior Design School. "At home you can take advantage of siting your workspace where you enjoy a lovely view, create a quiet zone on a landing, or put a desk at the end of a hallway for a true corridor of power!
"Traditional ways of storing documents are either not necessary or have become blurred with the ability to file online. But good lighting, a task light for close work, and a comfortable chair are always essential."
SMART WORKING: John Lewis's contemporary Mira Desk, £799, and filing cabinet, £399, are sleek but unobtrusive. Equally minimalist in appearance is Dwell's slim white Benton desk, £249 (available from February 28). Marks & Spencer's Bamboo office chair, £149, with white seat and arms, pairs well with either choice.
If there's only room for a table, why not opt for one which cleverly turns into a desk? Marks & Spencer's walnut Dayton Office table, £899, is handsome enough to enhance a dining area and has a clever fold up/fold down integrated desk.
If you favour industrial chic, Next's Finsbury desk, £250, is a classic example, with its chunky frame and numbered drawers. Accessorise with their Classic Veneer Telephone, £30. Complement the whole look with an Urban Iron 12-Drawer Unit, £695, Little Tree Furniture.
Decor divas would be delighted by a Havanah Campaign dressing table unit, £1,900, Black Orchid Interiors. It opens out to reveal a pull-out desk and resembles a luxury travel case when shut.
Betta Living: 0808 159 3416/www.bettaliving.co.uk
Black Orchid Interiors: 0844 854 2794/www.blackorchidinteriors.co.uk
Dwell: 0845 675 9090/www.dwell.co.uk
The Holding Company: 020 8445 2888/www.theholdingcompany.co.uk
The Interior Design School: www.interiordesignschool.co.uk
John Lewis: 08456 049 049/www.johnlewis.com
John Lewis of Hungerford: 0122 3305 480/www.john-lewis.co.uk
Little Tree Furniture: 0142 473 419/www.littletreefurniture.co.uk
Marks & Spencer: 0845 302 1234/www.marksandspencer.com
Neville Johnson: 0161 873 8333/www.nevillejohnson.co.uk
Next: 0844 844 8000/www.next.co.uk
Sharps: 0800 9178 178/www.sharps.co.uk