With 1 in 5 people working from home these days, it's no wonder that the home office is becoming a kind of sacred space.
A corner of the living room - even if it is equipped with a Mac and a modem - doesn't quite suit today's self-employed. The home office of the '90s not only allows for communicating with the outside world, but also is a place to express one's personal style with total abandon. It should be efficient, comfortable, and most of all, individualistic - truly a room of one's own.
When scouting home offices across the country for "The Home Office Book" (Artisan, 255 pp., $35), author Donna Paul found these spaces in all shapes, sizes, and styles - from a sleekly modern home office on the 31st floor of a Chicago high-rise to a houseboat in Seattle's Lake Union and a converted turn-of-the-century barn on Cape Cod.
Ms. Paul features 40 of these home offices in her inviting book, which is not just theoretical but also offers an interesting human touch, profiling the people who inhabit the spaces.
With the help of color photographs, she shows how these highly personalized rooms work and offers creative ideas to try at home.
Some of the work spaces appear quite lavish and only for the well-off, but in fact, Paul points out, it's not necessary to refinance your home to afford your office. A little ingenuity goes a long way.
Northern Californian Timothy Maxson, a special-events consultant, used only low-priced materials, recycled furniture, and paint to convert his garage overlooking the Pacific into a charmingly rustic cottage with French doors that make the most of the ocean view.
In Miami, cookbook author Steven Raichlen also spiffed up his garage on a budget. He bartered a year's worth of cooking classes in exchange for his well-crafted settee; and his desks - butcher-block counters straddling garage-sale file cabinets - were inspired by his student days.
Paul, who is a contributing design editor for Metropolitan Home magazine and works out of her own home in New York, says baby boomers like her are driving the home-office trend.
"We won't take 'no' for an answer," she says, explaining: "We plan on working longer, better, and more comfortably. Today's workers often have multiple careers, multiple interests, and multiple work sites."
HINTS FOR AN AFFORDABLE HOME OFFICE
* Put it on wheels. Flexibility is a key space and money saver. Purchase casters from the hardware store ($10-$15), and attach them to everything from filing cabinets and shelving units to chairs, tables, and desks.
* Think multiple uses. Use a dining table for a desk or conference area. A bed is a perfect place to spread out work materials. Sheets of laminate or wood create work surfaces when placed across a bed, an open drawer, or on top of two filing cabinets to create a desk. Don't overlook the great outdoors: patios, decks, terraces, gardens and balconies are tranquil, inspiring spaces for work.
* Create storage anywhere. Tuck a fax machine into a clothes closet. Shoe racks and canvas shoe bags are great organizers for all sorts of items. Wicker baskets and woven boxes make great file holders. Look for usable storage space in typically unused spaces - under a staircase, bed, or desk. Put the photocopier in the bathroom. Open cubes, plastic containers, trunks, and boxes of all kinds can be used to house documents, machines, supplies.
* Divide and conquer with movable walls. Folding screens, scrims, fabric, and shelving on wheels create walls that enclose the home office in seconds.
- From 'The Home Office Book,' by Donna Paul (Artisan)