Designing a likable, workable home office

As our personal and professional responsibilities continue to merge, a home office has become a fact of life.

Experts offer these suggestions for better weaving your home office into your home:

Identify your work style. Make the office work for you, says Linda Formichelli, coauthor of The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success (Marion Street Press, $14.95).

For instance, some home-based workers thrive in the center of family activities, but others operate best with a closed-door policy. Arrange space and buy products - especially organizational systems - that really fit with your personality.

"If it isn't something that works for your lifestyle, it'll be a waste of money," Formichelli said.

Understand your assignments. Before you shop, study your job description, says Melissa Perlman, an Office Depot spokeswoman.

Do you need file space? A wide desk area for projects? A conference table for meetings? You can save money by defining your purpose.

Buy flexible products. Many home-based workers use multipurpose spaces. A living room, for example, can easily double as a home office, says Andrew Schneider, director of brand management for Staples.

Among the products Staples sells that fall into this category is the Mission Pop-up table, which looks like a traditional coffee table, but has a surface that pivots into a pop-up desk with storage space.

Be creative. You don't have to spend a lot of money to furnish the office. You can make a large desk by placing a door over a matched set of filing cabinets, says Nancy Daly, chairwoman of the Habitat for Humanity Restore in Broward County, Fla.

Keep supplies close by. Make sure you have easy access to high-use items, Formichelli recommends.

"You don't want to walk across the room to get something five times a day."

Shop with the school calendar. You can get office supplies at bargain prices during back-to-school sales.

In early September, Schneider says, "there are a number of killer deals of different items."

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