The art of the home office

Irene Soderstrom created a home office out of a small area of her home’s living room. Her husband, David, uses a corner space in their bedroom for his office area.

With the economy faltering, more Americans than ever are working from home. According to the most recent figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, more than 20 million people work from home at least once a week, and wireless technology has helped to make this possible. A dedicated work space is an essential part of getting the job done.

Irene Soderstrom and her husband, David, each have their own home offices.

“Mine is in a corner in the dining room that has been walled in by a bookshelf,” Irene says. “And his is in a corner in our bedroom. It may sound silly, but we spend some great quality time together in the house, even though each of us is working in our own home office. We occasionally page each other to discuss something.”

Soderstrom’s actual job is creating educational software.

“But I’m also the CEO and CFO of our household,” she says, “and am involved in a few other organizations, so do every imaginable kind of ‘work’ in my home office. It’s the hub for anything and everything I’m involved in.”

Sara Taliaferro is a work-at-home illustrator who runs her own business, Happy Beetle Studios, which specializes in illustrations for scientific journals, field guides, science books and lab manuals. In the past year she has generated scientific illustrations of bees, fossil insects, spiders and native plants and mammals, as well as medical illustrations. She also creates art with natural history and conservation themes.

“I often view specimens under the microscope to draw them,” Taliaferro says. “Then I generate computer illustrations of them.”

Taliaferro’s office is a little room off the sitting room in the front of her house, a remodeled 1920s bungalow.

“The room is ideal for a home office,” she says. “It has nice light, and feels separate from the other living spaces. We added French doors, so that it wouldn’t look like a big closet, but would still be separate from the rest of the house.”

Taliaferro maintains that “it’s important to have a space that is only for work, and then be able to close the door on that office space” when the work is done.

“In my office, I have a long desk, a drafting table, a computer desk, a nook with working space for my microscope, and bookshelves,” she says.

In addition to the usual office machines such as a copier/fax machine and a color printer, Taliaferro insists that artwork should be on the walls, and a stereo should be in the room.

In addition to helping her husband, Gene, with the family business, Bauer Management LLC, Judy Bauer also is a writer.

“I love having a dedicated office of my own, and it allows me the freedom to leave major projects spread everywhere,” she says. “I just close the door when I am done for the day.”

For Bauer, a good work space needs to be “away from interruptions and distractions, so that I can think and organize.”

Randi Hacker has the “day job” of outreach coordinator at the Center for East Asian Studies, KU, but she’s also a freelance writer and author of the young-adult novel “Life as I Knew It.”

In her home office, she works on her novels and other freelance work, but also uses it for paying bills, writing letters and studying Chinese. She shares her work space with her daughter Juliana, “but it’s mostly my own,” she says.

Hacker’s work space is “plumb in the middle of our living quarters — just by the window in the living room. I have a nice, big, antique, solid oak desk with many lovely drawers and two slide-out panels for coffee cups and paper sprawl.”