I'm a 'normal' guy called Dave. I'm a husband, a father, and a dog owner. This is my life.

Office space

For the first couple of months of working from home, my setup was simply “put everything on the dining room table”. This posed a couple of issues. Lack of privacy, exposed cables for the kids and dogs to tug on or get tangled in, and the lack of separation between me at work and me at home meant that any time the kids or dogs came into the kitchen, they would see me and head straight over to talk to me. With the kids in the house all the time (lockdowns), this was a constant issue. Something needed to be done. So I set about creating an office space for myself.

I didn’t want to create a hard wall, or make any permanent changes to the layout of the house as we quite liked the layout as it was, and adding a wall in between the kitchen and the dining room would most likely devalue the house. So any changes i made had to be structurally independent, and easily reversible.

I skimmed through Pinterest for some inspiration, but everything was for permanent walls or for much larger rooms than i have. I also faced a few issues that i had to take into account during the design stage. Whatever i did, i had to make sure there was a place for the fish tank that was easily accessible for cleaning and feeding. The dog (we only had one at this point) had its food and water bowls set up just at the start of the dining room area, and we were due to be getting a second soon, so i had to leave space for these. There also needed to be space to put the bin as this was currently just at the start of the dining room area. With the layout of the room being an open ended rectangle leading into the kitchen, i had quite a bit of space to play with. I knew it needed to be the same height as the existing dining table, as i had been working there for a few months and the height was comfortable. So i used the dining table as a guide for mentally picturing what i could do. I couldn’t sit with my back to the outside windows as the glare from the windows on the monitors made it impossible to see. I couldn’t sit with my back to the living room wall, as that was lined with windows and would pose a risk to the confidentiality of the data i work with. I couldn’t sit with my back to the kitchen for the same reason. Not that my wife, my 5 year old or my (then) 1 year old posed a security risk to me, but we do have guests every now and then, and my work is governed by certain privacy rules. So, i was left with one direction that i could face. Into the kitchen. I decided at this point i would build a unit that stretched the length of the living room wall, the fish tank could sit behind me, and the family could look at them through the window in the living room wall if they wanted to. I would make the unit L shaped so that i had an area for working protruding from the unit top. With this i could attach some wooden panels around the edge to create a non permanent walled structure. Giving me the separation and the privacy that i required to do my job. This was the plan at least. I measured the room, drew up my plans, headed off to B&Q to buy my materials, and on the next available weekend i set to work. I had originally planned to rebuild the wall in between the living room and the dining room, as it was currently made out of chipboard panels in a wooden frame, held together by 40 years (at least 10 layers) of the thickest cheapest council gloss paint you have ever seen. I know this because i originally tried to sand down one of the panels and broke my sander half way through. That was the plan anyway. But on the day, i just couldn’t be bothered. So i left the wall alone, and set about creating my unit.

I measured from the wall to the door, knocked off 1cm for the skirting board, and i had my length. My depth was predetermined by the depth of the length of oak coloured panel i bought from B&Q. My height was predetermined by the height of the dining room table. All i had to do now was cut and join the wood.

I live in Scotland, so naturally it was raining. This meant all the work had to be done in the dining room/kitchen. I moved all the things in the kitchen to the back of the room, moved the dining room table into the kitchen, brought all the wood and my workbench into the dining room, looked at the mess I’d already made, poured a coffee and procrastinated for 15 minutes while i thought about what I’d got myself into. Coffee finished, i set to work. I got my base board, laid it out from the dining room table to the workbench, measured the desired length and cut. This is where it usually all goes wrong. The first cut. I dreaded the result, laid the wood on the floor where it was to go and eventually opened my eyes.

HA! IT FITS PERFECTLY! I was not used to this feeling. Using the ‘perfect’ cut piece as a template i cut the middle and top pieces to size. I cut the end boards and the centre support boards, screwed it all together, shoved it into place, AMAZING! IT STILL FITS PERFECTLY!! HA!

Too perfectly… it is flush up against the back of the kitchen door. Which means i cant affix the wall to the edge of the unit or the door wont open. DAMNIT! Now i had two dilemmas, how was i going to attach the wall to the outside of the unit, and where was the sticky out part of the L going? By this point, my plan for an L had changed to more of a lower case t than an L. I decided to leave a cubby sort of area at the end, on the outside of the partition wall, for the bin. The dog bowls could line up against the wall at the window, sorted. Except i still had to build the second section of the unit for the sticky out bit, create the partition wall, the kitchen was a total mess so i had to tidy up, and Emma would be home with the kids soon. Suddenly, an epiphany formed. The dining table. It was the perfect height, it was the perfect depth, it was just too long. But i did have a circular saw… i only needed half the dining table top and two legs, but i needed the whole of the support beam length from under the table top to attach to the unit to make 1 whole sturdy unit. So, i set the depth of the saw to just deeper than the table top, measured my halfway point and cut. Perfect. Attached the support beams to the underside of the top of the unit, realised i forgot to check if the thickness of the table top and the unit top were the same, breathed a sigh of relief when they were exactly the same, and found out my dining room floor dips because the feet of the table no longer touch the floor. Not a problem. I measured the gap, chopped the length (about 1 cm) off one of the now spare legs, and glued it on. For the partition wall, i decided to go online. I needed a flexible, thin partition screen that i could simply wrap round the edge of the desk. And after a few days of looking, i found one. It was about £30, it was a black bamboo strip partition wall that could be rolled around the edge of a desk. Success.

The partition wall was on the way, the desk was complete, the fish tank was placed next to the living room window behind my chair, and i had a space to work. Once it arrived, i wrapped it around the edge of the desk, securing it in place with black screws. When i got to the final edge, i started feeling a little claustrophobic, it was very enclosed.

Then i thought of a brilliant use for the other half of the dining table top. I attached it to one of the legs with hinges, attached a magnetic catch to the other leg, and attached the partition screen to the table top (which had now become a door). I now had a way to easily give myself a little extra breathing space, and still stay out the way of the rest of the house. Its not perfect, and i still come up with little improvements every now and then, but it works.

Now that i am out of sight, i get fewer interruptions from the kids and the animals, and i can concentrate a bit more on my work.

Until they see me through the window that is.

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