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Homework project

Hide in a cupboard, launch an escape pod or retreat to the garage – you may have more options than you think to create a peaceful home office.

If we’ve learned anything in the past 12 months, it’s that study nooks no longer cut the mustard.

They may be great for paying a few bills but trying to get a productive day’s work done is next to impossible when you’re surrounded by inconsiderate and noisy co-workers (AKA your family).

Working from home was not only the biggest change and challenge of the pandemic, but also looks to be the most enduring. Many people hope to hold on to some flexibility post-COVID, working from home at least one day a week. And that sentiment has seen demand for home offices skyrocket, pushing it to the top of buyers’ wish lists.

In the second half of 2020, “study” was the most searched keyword on, leaping 52 per cent to edge out perennial favourite “outdoor space” for the first time.

The growing trend was backed by results of a survey from the Real Estate Buyers Agents Association that ranked home office third on buyers’ priority lists after a large kitchen and outdoor entertaining space.

That’s a significant change considering two years ago it didn’t even crack the top 10.

Creating a separate work space that is out of view of the living areas is also good for work/life balance. Switching off means you don’t want to be constantly catching sight of the paperwork you need to tackle.

It means creating a home office is now the ideal renovation project to not only make your home more liveable, but to add value. Before working out how much you want to budget for the project, it’s worth talking to an accountant to find out what expenses may also be tax deductable – another advantage to prioritising an office reno over the more traditional bathroom update.

If you think you don’t have space to carve out a home office, here are a few ideas.

Chairman of the (cup)board

A home office space doesn’t need to be huge, but it does need to be private – even if that’s just the ability to close a door to make calls or Zoom without children or pets interrupting.

If you have a spare bedroom – or second living area – consider repurposing built-in cupboard space to create an instant office within the privacy of a room away from busy family living areas.

That way, the room can still be used for another purpose in the evenings or on weekends, but on the days you need to work from home, it transforms into a convenient office. And at the end of the day, you don’t need to clear the dining table to eat – or put your paperwork away from little hands or stickybeaks. You can simply close the cupboard doors and make a short commute up the hallway.

The larger the cupboard the better, but an average built-in wardrobe is plenty wide enough for this project.

Install a desk across the width of the cupboard, with shelving above. A designer tip to maximise small spaces is to fully utilise vertical space with shelving to the roof. Wi-Fi-enabled printers can be located anywhere in the home to free up bench space if necessary.

An interesting feature colour or wallpaper on the interior of the cupboard can make it look and feel more like a pop-up office than a broom cupboard.

If you are using a spare bedroom, it’s unlikely the cupboard space will be missed. But if you do need clothes storage, a freestanding cupboard and drawers should fill the gap.

Peace in a pod

Expanding your home doesn’t have to involve building. Prefab pods are the latest way to add an extra room instantly. Their popularity has boomed in the past year as people sought quick and easy ways to juggle working from home with the chaos of a hectic house.

And if you’re thinking old-school demountable, think again. In a garden setting, sleek designer pods are a statement, rather than an eyesore.

The price points stack up well against the cost of a more traditional home renovation too, with some companies offering ready-to-use turnkey pods sitting around the $20,000 mark.

Once you have a level pad prepared, they can be installed on site and ready to use in as little as two hours. Another upside is that pods generally don’t require planning permission.

More high-end sleek designer pods, such as the pictured Harwyn Pro, start around $35,000 for a carpeted, work-ready cabin with floor-to-ceiling glass to maximise natural light. Several prefabricated cabin companies launched purpose-built, standalone office pods last year, when demand for private home workspaces went through the roof.

This home office solution also comes with one major advantage – you can take the pod with you when you move, or simply sell it when you decide you don’t need it anymore. You can’t say that about too many rooms in your house!

If you have a bit of skill and the time, DIY shed/office kits start under $10,000.

Become a convert

A garage conversion is a simple way to find extra space in your home.

You may choose to hive off a narrow section to create a small office or convert the entire area to living space and build a freestanding carport. Replacing garage doors with glass sliding doors brings in lots of natural light, which is ideal for working.

A garage conversion can also provide the opportunity to create a spacious home office with a separate entrance, so clients can come to your home office without walking through the living areas of your house.

The cost advantage to a garage conversion is that you’re generally working under the home’s existing roofline, although you will need to investigate the slab. It needs to be waterproof, termite-resistant and level. You’ll also have to ensure there is adequate insulation in the walls and ceilings and have power points and lighting fitted.

Other things to bear in mind include ceiling heights and boundaries. Walls within 900mm of a boundary must be fire rated, which can affect the location of doors and windows.

Development approval is generally required to convert a garage into a living area. And, as a rough guide, people can spend in the region of $20,000-$40,000, depending on additions such as a sink, toilet or shower room.

A double garage can provide enough space for a home office/rumpus. When it comes to resale, a flexible second living area is in high demand and particularly popular for families with teenagers.

Need finance for a renovation project to make your home a better fit? Contact me today to discuss your options.

Any advice contained in this article is of a general nature only and does not take into account the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular person. Therefore, before making any decision, you should consider the appropriateness of the advice with regard to those matters. Information in this article is correct as of the date of publication and is subject to change.