For some, working from home is the ultimate luxury: flexible working hours, no daily commute and a relaxing, familiar environment. For others, it's a nightmare scenario of noisy kids, tempting distractions and a dangerous blurring of work and pleasure.
Either way, it's an increasing reality. A growing army of self-employed professionals earn a good living from their spare room. Even wage slaves are not immune as telecommuting and hot-desking catch on at big, multinational firms. According to a report by Herman Miller, the cutting-edge German furniture company: "The home is the unexpected office of the future, increasingly accepted as a viable, even preferable, workplace alternative."
Thankfully, a home office doesn't have to be a drab afterthought of just sticking a cheap desk and a laptop in a corner. With a bit of investment and lot of creativity, it can be a vibrant and inspiring creative hub.
1. Setting the scene
As any good estate agent will tell you, it's all about location, location, location.
Pick a room with a view. Even if it's just looking into your back garden or balcony, the view will give your eyes a break from the computer screen. Try to place your table right across the view or alongside a window.
Natural light is a big bonus. But think about controlling the glare, especially if you want to take advantage of the view and place your desk by a window. Fabric Roman blinds work well and give the room a sleek look. With the right fabric, they diffuse the light within the space, giving you enough to work with without blinding you.
Next, think about artificial lighting. Along with ambient light (existing ceiling fixtures in the room), a good task light really helps you control the level and direction of light on your table. If you're short of space, suspend a pendant light right above your desk. Check out the 2D table lamp by Skitsch (www.skitsch.it).
An office chair is one piece of furniture that you can't do without. Think about the amount of time you spend sitting in it, paying bills, booking holidays, checking sport scores - and occasionally even working. Keep the right posture and you'll avoid expensive trips to the physiotherapist.
Try a few different brands before you take the plunge, but be prepared to spend a bit on a good office chair. Check out Vitra's Aluminium Chair. It's a classic design icon.
Fitness freaks can try an inflatable Swiss Ball. Spend an hour a day sitting on this and you'll have rock-hard abs and catwalk posture.
After setting up furniture, deal with unsightly clutter such as folders, printers, books and the tools of your trade. (For me it's fabric books and design manuals. For a photographer it's cameras, lights, and so on.)
Whatever the kit, make a bold statement with your storage. Don't limit yourself to off-the-peg fixtures; a handyman can build a ceiling-to-floor system that won't break the bank. Make sure the system is flexible so you can add or remove shelves as the paper trails mount up. Units with the option of closed and open shelving are best. The string shelving system from Kollection & Co is worth a look.
Take the opportunity to transform a bland wall into a living entity. Paint an entire wall with chalkboard paint, available from Ace Hardware, and you can scribble ideas and to-do lists to your heart's content, wiping the wall clean to start again when you're done.
For a more industrial look, clad part of the wall in galvanised steel to make it into a giant magnetic surface.
After investing time and money in designing your office, don't be afraid to show it off.
Try to create a small breakout space with an armchair, sofa or coffee table. This is great if you're hosting clients, or even if you just want a relaxing space away from the desk to read and think alone.
And let's be realistic: the office often has to double as an occasional spare bedroom. If so, invest in a small sofa bed.
7. Confined space
Not everyone has the luxury of a spare room, but there is still a need for a professional retreat. If space is tight, go for furniture that makes the most of what you have. For example, the Sloane Leaning Desk from Crate & Barrel doubles as a desk and a shelving unit - and it looks good, too. Or consider the Vitra NesTable by London designer Jasper Morrison (Swiss Corporation for Design and Technology, Al Reem Tower, Deira, www.swisscotec.com). It's a small, flexible desk in plastic and steel, based on Morrison's concept of "new simplicity". No description can do it justice. Do a quick Google search if you're interested.
You've got a couple of options for the table or desk. First, remember that cheap and cheerful can work. If you've taken my advice and blown the budget on a decent chair, save a few dirhams on the desk. Any flat surface at the right height (70cm to 75cm is standard for a desk) will work just fine. Ikea has a decent range of tabletops and legs.
Or you can go a bit more high-tech. Take the Envelop Desk, designed by Bill Stumpf and Jeff Weber for Herman Miller. It's almost alive, sliding and tilting, adapting to your body's movement.
9. Small stuff
Where do the paper clips, highlighter pens and USB sticks go? Get a bit creative. Try reusing jam jars with the lids glued to the underside of a shelf.
The wall-mounted Finntorp cutlery stand from Ikea is great for storing pens. It may seem obvious, but add personality to your storage system by filing your paperwork in coloured or textured folders.
Office art doesn't have to mean decorating with original Rembrandts. The late Steve Jobs and his design guru at Apple, Sir Jonathan Ive, have shown the world that functional objects can be things of elegant beauty. Think of your iMac as a work of art. Add a funky music player such as the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin (04 337 0181 or www.archimedia-me.com), or a signature light fitting, throw in a designer chair or desk and you're halfway to working in a inspirational gallery.