Working from home has become more common due to the pandemic. I have recently helped several residential organizing clients in the set-up and organization of a former dining room area that was transformed into a home office. While this is a great reuse of the space, there are some common challenges to making a dining room into a functional home office. Here are some tips for overcoming common problems.
Furniture Not Functional for an Office
Dining rooms usually have a big table with no drawers for storage, several chairs, and a dining buffet. Although you may want to keep this furniture, if your work-from-home is long term or permanent, you may want to store those pieces elsewhere in your home, or in a storage unit, or possibly donate or sell that furniture.
Small Room Size
Dining rooms are often small, so choosing to keep only the furniture you use for work in that space, such as a desk, office chair, storage cabinet, file cabinet and/or bookcase, can give you the space you need. Make sure the furniture pieces you purchase are not too big for the room, always measure first.
No Built-in Storage
Most dining rooms do not have closets or built-in cabinets or shelving, so you’ll want to hire a contractor to add these storage pieces, or to buy freestanding cabinets or shelving to hold the office supplies that you need when working from home.
One bright overhead chandelier will not provide sufficient lighting for you to work at your desk, or to illuminate your face on video calls. Also, bumping your head into a chandelier can be an issue after the dining table is removed. You will want to replace the chandelier with a different overhead light, and also add desk lamps and floor lamps near your workspace, as well as a halo ring light, if you’re regularly on video calls.
Most dining rooms do not have closing doors. If you don’t have a door, you’ll want to either hire a contractor to build a door, or temporarily set up a curtain, room divider, or even use a piece of furniture, such as a tall bookcase, to block or cover one doorway (if the room has 2 entrances).
Lack of Privacy
Most dining rooms are located at the front of the house. Therefore, you’re more likely to be disturbed by anyone at the front door such as delivery services, solicitors, or household members traveling in and out through the front door. You may want to add “no soliciting” signs or notes for delivery service workers to your front door, and discuss your need for privacy during working hours with other household members.
The windows are usually at the front of the house, and without the proper window treatments, you are on display, especially if you work into the night. Add window blinds, and window treatments that are sheer to soften the light and add privacy, or even heavy black-out curtains, to help make the space more private, and avoid glare from sunlight.
Often times, since dining rooms are near the front door, they may become the catch-all area for items such as shoes, jackets, purses and backpacks. Set up another area in your house with coat hooks and shoe racks, so household members will stay out of your workspace.
Dining rooms are usually near the kitchen, so the sound of the dishwasher, refrigerator, or other people chopping, cooking, putting away dishes, etc. can be easily heard in the next room. If you need silence to concentrate on your work, invest in noise-cancelling headphones. If you’re on calls or videoconferences from your home office, consider adding soundproofing elements such as acoustic wall panels, putting up soft wall hangings like decorative quilts, and adding a rug to help absorb noises, in addition to adding a door or doors to the room.
Videoconference Background Concerns
When setting up your workspace, consider the look of the area that is right behind your desk. If you are on video calls, a dining buffet may not be the most business-like background. Consider setting up a freestanding shelf or floating shelving with a few decorative pieces on it, or keep that wall blank and hang framed artwork on the wall behind you. Also, check to see if there’s glare from any windows in the background, mirror reflections, or if anything else behind you would be an on-screen distraction.
Clearly, repurposing a dining room into a private and functional workspace can be done, as long as you address the common challenges listed above. If you’re in need of further tips, guidance or assistance from an experienced Certified Professional Organizer to help get your home office into shape, please contact me to discuss On Task Organizing’s virtual services offered over video chat nationwide, or in-person services available in the Raleigh, North Carolina area.