Beyond the Home-office

  • Sep. 1, 2017 2:38 p.m.

Working from home is nothing new. Tens of thousands of people routinely shun the daily commute downtown in favour of maintaining a space in their home that is dedicated to their work.

Almost everyone knows someone who works from home, but rarely are those home-offices visible. In fact, there was once a time when the only people who “hung a shingle” outside their home was the local doctor.

The notion of a “storefront” home-office is becoming more common, as more and more people opt to work from home.

A storefront business requires more room, equipment and storage space than a typical home-office. It may also require employees, so it’s important to make sure that zoning bylaws allow a homebased business with more than one employee.

Bylaws may also restrict the type of business that takes place in a residential area, particularly ones that will require additional parking, or a business that manufactures a product on site. Rarely will a retail establishment be allowed.

Although many municipalities are slow to catch up to this new reality, many are welcoming the storefront home-offices being set up by legal professionals, accountants and bookkeepers, designers, financial services specialists, and medical and homecare companies.

If you’re lucky, your home may have a grandfathered provision that allows a business.

Regardless, there are any number of good reasons for working from home. Having your office attached to your home makes being a stay-at-home parent much more convenient. When starting a new business, not having the added expense of office space is a huge saving. Anyone who works from home knows how work life can easily take over a day, but having a home office provides the opportunity to set finite hours of operation.

The storefront home-office can take many forms and may be surprisingly easy to achieve with only minor renovations to the home.

The space may take over part of a garage, a basement or a part of the home’s ground floor.

It is important that this type of space be self-contained. As much as possible, avoid having anybody use the private, residential part of the home. The workspace should have its own washroom facility and, ideally, a small kitchen feature.

Most importantly, a storefront operation needs a front door that is visible from the street. The door should not only provide safe, easy access for clients, ideally, it should also provide natural light and air to the office space.

Whenever there is a front access point, for safety’s sake there must be a rear access as well.

Different businesses will have different space requirements. Some businesses will use more electricity than others; some more plumbing. Some businesses will require secure, private offices, while others may work best as one, big room. The point is, not all offices are suited to this type of set up.

Before deciding that a storefront home-office is right for your business, make sure that the space can realistically be used in the way that you need it to.

Illustrated here is an office set-up for a tax consultant that includes a waiting room, two private offices and a meeting room, all within the tiny area of 41 square metres (444 square feet).

With only one light source, it was important to arrange the space so that both offices could benefit from the front door and window, so both have interior glass doors and windows.

Although most client meetings in this office will take place in the private space, occasionally groups of four or more will meet, so the lunch room was devised to do double-duty.

I have started a new Facebook page, Interior Design for Every Body, which I hope you will take the time to visit and “Like”. There, I hope to explore ideas and share information about Universal Design, the concept of making a home equally accessible to anyone, regardless of age, ability or situation.

I also hope you will take the time to read more about this and other projects, or browse through the archives for other stories, at my website, For other information and fun conversation join me on Facebook (CreativeSpace), or chat me up on Twitter or Instagram (DFCreativeSpace).

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