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Work from your house? There's no shortage of ways to outfit your home office

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Home office layouts are becoming more seamlessly integrated into the overall design of the home, say leading interior designers.

“It is not always a dedicated room anymore,” said Sharon Hanby-Robie, an interior designer and author from Lancaster County. “We are making better use of space, so often you'll find it incorporated into rooms we don't use as much, like the dining room.”

The subject of features in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today Weekend magazine and other publications, Hanby-Robie is also a spokesperson for QVC. She said home office requests are on the rise.

Moving away from “bulky equipment” means home offices are easier to design, Hanby-Robie said, with more options.

“A lot of people are doing craft rooms and incorporating them there, or libraries and incorporating them there,” she added. “Guest rooms are another big place for home offices.”

Henrietta Heisler, an interior designer based in Lancaster Township, said one place she tries to avoid placing a home office is the basement.

“I think having natural light is important if you can make it happen,” she said. “Sometimes that's the only place it can be, so you have to do things to keep it fresh and alive and use good task lighting as well as overhead lighting.”

Bigger homes, more options

New homes are generally bigger, and that means more room to expand on different home-office designs, said James Mirando Jr., an interior designer with Excel Interior Concepts and Construction in Lemoyne.

“Each one is really different, depending on how it will be used,” he said. “Will they be having clients come to the office? If so, you might think about having separate parking and a separate entrance. Things like that.”

Sans clients, a home office today can be just about anyplace, Mirando said. Gone are the days when an office setup required a desktop computer, complete with a tower and yards of cords.

The advance in wireless computing is perhaps the biggest influence on home-office design over the past decade, Hanby-Robie said. A table-top surface, a couple of file drawers and shelving are all she needs.

“You don't need to have all that other stuff,” she said. “You can use what used to be a closet and turn it into a beautiful office.”

The main goal in a home-office design is to tailor it to the individual, said Heisler, owner of Henrietta Heisler Interiors Inc. With dramatic improvements in technology and creative furnishings, the possibilities are much greater than they were in the past.

The designer also wants to make sure the office is not intrusive, Heisler said, so when the business is done, the office fades into the background.

“You have to understand the person's business, and you have to create a well-organized space for them so they have a place to put things,” she added, “So when they're not home, it has to work as well.” 

New rules for claiming a home office as a deduction

The most-recent tax filing season included a simplified rule for claiming a home office as a tax deduction.

According to the Internal Revenue Service, the new rule permits small-business owners and employees who work from home and who maintain a qualifying home office to deduct up to $1,500 per year.

The IRS said the rule change would save taxpayers more than 1.6 million hours per year in tax preparation time from this simpler calculation method.

The new option allows qualified taxpayers to deduct annually $5 per square foot of home office space up to 300 square feet. To take advantage of the new option, taxpayers must complete a simpler version of the current 43-line form.

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