Thursday, 8 October 2009

Do your homework

The Sunday Times, September 13 2009 © Dara Flynn

As the Health Service Executive and the Irish Business and Employers Confederation urge employers to introduce “social distancing” methods of working to curb the spread of swine flu, it’s clear that more of us may be working from home this winter. It is predicted that up to a third of all workers may become infected, so reducing face-to-face contact will be imperative.

Some may see the prospect of working in their pyjamas as the silver lining to the impending pandemic. Unfortunately, there’s no medicine for a lack of proper workspace at home. The average Irish house does not include a dedicated office space, so rookie home-workers need to graft that little bit harder to slot their office life into a domestic setting.

A bespoke home office is great for those who have the room, and Kelco Designs, at Churchtown Business Park in Dublin, makes a stylish wooden range. In average properties, sacrificing a bedroom is ill-advised — bedrooms add more value than an office or study — so using free-standing furniture is the most cost-effective way to create a home office.

Where you have to carve up a living room, dining room or bedroom to make room for your job, modular and multi-functional items are the savviest choice. Opt for desks that can do several things or change shape as they change use, and try to incorporate furniture that matches the shape of your chosen space, rather than trying to wedge something too large into a spare corner.

The good news for home-workers is that colour can be incorporated. Splash out on a brightly hued chair, desk or storage shelf if something takes your fancy. BoConcept, which has just launched its 2010 collection in Ireland, is using bright colours, such as yellow, to dramatic effect, contrasting it with the company’s signature charcoals and neutrals.

Wood and glass — the office staples — haven’t disappeared, though, and are a safe choice for the less adventurous or those easily distracted. The most important component is the desk. You’ll need plenty of leg-room. Consider whether you need enough surface to fit a PC or laptop with a mouse, a phone and some paper storage, or if a more discreet version will do the trick.

Flanagans specialises in antique leather office chairs, as well as robust, manly, wooden desks and feminine French writing tables. If not a Georgian or Edwardian period pile, though, the host property should at the very least have rooms of generous proportion and more formal decor.

On a neater scale, Littlewoods Ireland has the trestle writing desk (¤109), a petite, elegant walnut-veneer free-stander with a large drawer, cubby shelving and about enough desktop room for a laptop and a pair of elbows. The group also sells the Capella coffee table (¤89), which is ideal for those who have to use the living-room sofa and who must opt for multi-functional furniture. A versatile, clever coffee table, it doubles as a computer desk by lifting up the monitor shelf. It also has a drop flap for printer space and storage for disks.

Ikea has several office systems. Its Galant range of desks (from ¤77) are modular and can be ordered in different sizes, finishes and shapes for a perfect fit. The Alve bureau desk (¤219) is a nice, modern take on the traditional French-style writing desk and good enough for small tasks. The company’s Expedit shelving system can be ordered with an adjoining desk (from ¤108.99), which solves workspace and storage in one go. Its range of office chairs includes the funky Jules swivel chair (¤47.99) and the more officious-looking Klappe (¤259).

Ikea isn’t the only stylish option for those on a budget. BoConcept has good-quality, affordable home-office options. A complete office system from its Occa range, for example, adds up to about ¤1,200. The Occa desk in walnut veneer and chrome costs ¤488, while the matching bookcases in walnut veneer are ¤425 and ¤340. You could team it with the Mariposa Delight chair in black leather and brushed steel (¤329). In wall systems, the Lecco range with filing drawers and magazine shelves in white lacquer costs ¤1,981. A full-wall Lecco system costs ¤5,656.

Roche-Bobois has the Open Space collection (desk, ¤5,187 ), a series of sleek, angular, contemporary pieces that appear to defy gravity. Paper’s threatened extinction has inspired C├ędric Ragot, its designer, to create the collection, which reminds the user of suspended sheets of paper. The Vertigo office units (¤3,840 for the desk) are similarly space-age but with a tasteful wood finish, while the Diapason range (desk, ¤4,885) is a return to the red, glossy, minimalist look.

For a true statement piece, the Globus Scriptorium, by Artifort (¤4,680, plus Vat), is a ball-shaped, all-in-one desk-and-chair system inside a white, polyurethane sphere, which splits into hemispheres. The chair is upholstered in leather and swivels.

It can be rigged up to include an on-board computer system or a games console, while the white spherical shell can be emblazoned with any logo or design. It is available from Walls to Workstations, which stocks a complete line of office furniture.

No home office is complete without accessories to liven up the space and give scope for the personalisation your boss would never allow. Turn to Umbra for tabletop accessories, such as the Grassy Organiser (¤7.50), made of soft, moulded rubber to resemble stalks of grass and used for storing pens and other stationery.

Instore has a smart basic range of desktop organisers for under a tenner, while the Antrim-based online store Dekko has colourful accessories including the Barcode noticeboard (¤16.80) to go with its office furniture. Workstations cost from ¤82 to ¤168.


  1. I bought some lovely cream desks in Dekko, but what would really raise the tone in my home office is a few decent office chairs. The normal 'business' shades of blue, red and grey are awful at home, as are the cheap alternative pinks and purples in chain home-stores.

    Ikea does a few, but there must be somewhere else, surely? I've even eyed the construction of mine with thoughts of reupholstering them.

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  3. The second picture look good but the space you need is quite big. But i really appreciate and i do love it. The one from ikea is also good, here you don't need a big space.
    Jane Taylor
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