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Originally published Jan. 30, 1983
By Larry Brown, former Pacific staff writer

HOMEWORK CAN MEAN an evening spent memorizing the capitals of states. But increasingly it means business, operated from a home office.

More and more Northwest residents are establishing offices or work spaces in their residences as families seek second incomes to help meet the challenge of inflation.

If one room in an eight-room house is regularly and exclusively for business use, then one-eighth of the costs of heat, electricity and similar expenses usually can be deducted at tax time.

Franklin Becker, in his book “The Successful Office,” says the home is a refuge, hideaway, personal retreat, castle, womb and sanctuary, but it also can be a word-processing center, executive suite, open office and communications center.

Second offices are becoming more common than second homes, Becker said.


The challenge is to balance a need for space to concentrate, communicate with clients and store materials, with the requirements of the family to have privacy, comfort and access to the business person.

The lure of television, stereo and refrigerator can test the willpower of many people who work at home.

Individuals need to decide whether exclusive space or shared space will work best for them in their homes. One researcher was surprised to find that women who work at home in either sales or office-type jobs were able to work more effectively when they had shared space — areas used by others in the family.

The study showed that often the exclusive space was in places such as damp and unheated basements, underheated porches and spare rooms. It was leftover space, and the problem was psychological. People who worked in shared spaces expected to be interrupted — they knew their children would roam in and out, asking for peanut-butter sandwiches or wanting to know whether they may watch television.

If you do not expect to be bothered, you are more likely to be irritated when you are interrupted, the study showed.

Although boundaries between working and living areas might be permeable, it is easier to motivate and energize people if boundaries exist. It also is easier to enforce rules about use of the space if there are the physical props to reinforce them.


Judy Graf Klein, author of “The Office Book,” estimates that 2% of the population in the United States now work at home.

Advantages include no commuting, a flexible schedule and an end to the necessity of an elaborate working wardrobe. Disadvantages include the lack of physical and mental relief from pressing demands of work. Some find it hard to walk away from their work when it is only a few feet away. Home workers sometimes experience feelings of isolation.

Home offices can be elaborate, or they can be comfortable areas for work and study by children and adults.

Gwen Soderberg, who operates an interior-design business from a studio in her Seattle condominium, said she smiles every time she walks into the room. Her husband, Stanley, president of an advertising agency and a painter, has covered much of the walls with giant yellow, lavender and purple tulips.

Most of the furnishings are in black and white.

“I told him I wanted it to be like ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ and now I have my own tulip patch,” Gwen said.

She has found that she sometimes spends more time in her studio than she might if it were outside the home, but it is work she terms fun, and it is convenient to have it so close to her.