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Built-in desks use space efficiently and help boost productivity

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Wallpaper and accessories liven up a work space and tie it in to the rest of the home's decor. photo courtesy of containerstore.com.
  • Wallpaper and accessories liven up a work space and tie it in to the rest of the home's decor. photo courtesy of containerstore.com.

Ever tried to work from home only to become distracted by the disheveled stack of papers in front of you or the thousand other things that need to be done around the house? A built-in workspace that's attractive and well-organized can add to your home's value while boosting your day-to-day productivity.

  "The No. 1 thing I suggest is that you have a space that isn't part of another room," says Kay Morrison, owner of The Occasional Wife, which sells Elfa desk components. "People often work out of their kitchen or they don't use their home office because [it's located] in a part of the house where nobody goes. You need to know the space is for work and you should keep it close to where you gather so you'll utilize it."

  Morrison directs clients to choose a space near the kitchen rather than in it so they can be close to the center of activity but still have a modicum of privacy. An unused nook, such as a recessed area between windows, also works well.

  Morrison advises clients to begin with a consultation when planning their built-in desks. At Bluebag, a local design, delivery and installation service for IKEA products, customers can design their own spaces or work with Bluebag's architects and design consultants for a flat rate. "People who come to us are usually familiar with IKEA products," says Bluebag owner Mehmet Ergelen. "But if you're designing a home office or kitchen, you're probably going to require our assistance."

  Because IKEA's modular product lines are made to be combined, there's no shortage of design permutations. The company's streamlined, minimalist style is well-suited to homeowners who want a less-is-more look.

  "A lot of the demand is driven by technology, which is making paper obsolete," Ergelen says. Instead of bookshelves and cabinets, Ergelen's clients tend to opt for features like mobile peds — small storage units that fit beneath the desk — and inconspicuous cable management accessories like desk-top boxes and shelves.

Elfa desk components, available at the occasional wife, can be used for freestanding or built-in work areas. photo courtesy of containerstore.com.
  • Elfa desk components, available at the occasional wife, can be used for freestanding or built-in work areas. photo courtesy of containerstore.com.

  Elfa and IKEA desk components can be used freestanding or built-in. But built-in desks do have a big advantage: They make the most of small spaces by utilizing vertical square footage. "In New Orleans, storage space is so limited," Morrison says. "Many times we suggest the only way to go is up." Elfa components are made to pop out at any time, so they can be added or taken away as needs change. They also can be taken apart when a client moves.

  For creative inspiration, Ergelen refers homeowners to several websites: IKEAhackers.net, where IKEA customers post their projects, and Panyl.com for a panoply of colorful and monochromatic ideas. Morrison stresses that a built-in workspace ought to be as visually pleasing as it is functional.

  "[Built-in] products are not dull and drab anymore," she says. "You can take that decorative flair that you have in every other room of the house and bring it to your office. There are so many fun products. Make it an extension of your house. It can be just as pretty as your living room."

  To personalize your desk's look and tie your work area in with the rest of your decor, use patterned wallpaper behind the shelves, bring in a fashionable chair or light fixture, and accessorize with vases, boxes and mementos. If disorganization becomes a problem again, there's a fix for that too. "We hope we create a functional and organized system so that it's easy to follow through and keep it that way," says Morrison, who has many clients who use her organizational services on a regular basis. "But we can also go back and tweak it to keep it that way."

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