The reasons for setting up a home office are as varied as the individuals who set them up. But there are some common home office types, and what you need will likely fall into one (or more) of these categories:
The "Running the Household" Home Office
You'll likely need basic equipment such as a computer, a printer, and perhaps a scanner. Computer desks come in a variety of shapes and sizes, in a wide range of prices. If you work at your computer regularly, invest in a desk that is designed for computer use-one that includes a keyboard shelf or drawer. If you can't find the desk you want in your price range, don't despair. You can create your own as a temporary (or even permanent) solution. You'll need two filing cabinets and a piece of wood for the top. You can purchase a sliding keyboard drawer from an office supply store and attach it easily for comfortable typing. Second, you'll need a place to store bills and other household papers. A metal filing cabinet is a great choice that will last many years, and you can always find one for a good price at an office supply or discount store. (And they can be painted easily!)
The Parents' and Kids' Work Home Office
You'll also probably have basic computer equipment, a scanner, and a printer. If kids and parents use the same computer and desk, be sure to purchase a chair that will raise and lower to each user's height. Flea markets are a great place to hunt for these, as are going-out-of-business sales. Also check your newspaper classified advertisements for businesses that are liquidating office chairs. Furniture rental companies are great places to call about such sales, too. When selecting furnishings for this type of home office, always keep access in mind. If adults and kids use reference materials, keep the bookshelves low so children can be self-sufficient in the space. If you opt for taller bookcases, use the lower shelves for reference books, paper and supplies all users need, and higher shelves for supplies you'd like to keep out of children's reach, such as potentially messy toner cartridges. Try stashing supplies in ceramic bowls, hat boxes, and even beautiful antique suitcases. This type of home office is also a good place for a family calendar center. You can place a paper calendar (or any type of calendar) or dry erase board in a central location where anyone in the family can add events to it.
The Heavy-Duty Crafter's Home Office
You'll need ample shelving and storage space in the crafter's home office. Clear plastic shoe boxes are always a good choice, because you can place them on shelves and see what's in them without having to pull them down and open each one. You might also want to keep some of your creations on hand for display. For instance, if you're a rubber-stamp crafter, you may want to hold onto the original cards you create, so you can use them as templates later. If you're working in a basement or other room lacking architectural character, try putting inspiration under your feet. Floor cloths are inexpensive and easy to create with just canvas and acrylic paints.
The Telecommuter's (or Home-Based Business) Home Office
If you work at home full- or part-time, you have plenty of company. Recent research estimates vary widely, but some say as many as fifty million people in the United States alone work at least part-time at home. And that number continues to grow each year. This type of home office can have very significant needs, and those needs can vary greatly from person to person, according to your job and what you must accomplish in your home office. At the very least, you'll probably need a computer, a printer, a desk and a chair, a telephone, and shelving. You may also need a fax machine, scanner, a photocopier, a speaker phone, and other electronic office equipment. And if you meet with clients or coworkers at home, you may need some sort of large table for conferences or project work. If your meetings are not frequent, a dining room table should work just fine for this use. And since your dining room is probably in the main living area in your apartment (unlike a spare bedroom), coworkers and clients may feel comfortable there. For your desk and chair, consider comfort, convenience, and ergonomic safety above all else, particularly if you'll spend long hours working there.
Other furnishings, such as filing cabinets and bookshelves, can be picked up secondhand for substantial savings. If you use your home office daily, you might find it difficult to keep the general area neat. If you're in a separate room that has a door, this might not be too much of a problem. But if you're in a section of a main living area, you can utilize room dividers or screens so when you're off duty, your work area is not always in your view. Curtains suspended from the ceiling is another creative, inexpensive option that's easy to remove if you change your mind.