In the advent of Covid-19, many of us have had to completely change the way we work. For those without a pre-existing home office, setting up in cramped spare bedrooms, around the kitchen or dining room table, often in rooms shared with partners or children home-schooling has been far from ideal!
A permanent home working space.
To preserve everyone’s peace of mind, there is a growing need to create more permanent home-working spaces, and lofts are ideal candidates. Loft conversions are often the simplest, most cost-effective and least disruptive home extension projects, with myriad options for creating elegant and functional working environments.
If you want to convert your loft into an office, we’ve put together some of the key considerations to bear in mind. From the suitability of your space, to storage, lighting, colours, connectivity and furniture finishes – make sure that your project gets off to the best start.
Firstly, make sure you’ve assessed whether your roof space is suitable for conversion. Three of the main things to consider are internal height (allowing for 2.5m of vertical space), roof pitch and floor space.
Once stairs, storage and furniture have been added, will your home office be a workable space? The stairs will rise from an existing staircase or hallway – so do consider the space you’ll lose in the rooms below. In addition, if your attic space is used at the moment, will any plumbing, heating or water tanks need to be accommodated elsewhere?
For any loft conversion, you will need approval under Building Regulations. This includes issues such as checking the structural strength of the floor, fire regulations, exits, safety of stairs and the stability of the existing structure. Having a fully approved Building Regulations plan will also allow builders to provide fixed quotations rather than estimates. This is separate from planning permission, which isn’t usually required unless you are extending or altering the roof itself. It is always advisable to check with your planning department before getting started however.
What types of loft conversion are available?
There are several ways to turn your loft into a workable home office. Factors will include your roof type, how much space you require and your budget.
The three main types of conversion include internal renovations (the simplest option, involving the installation of sky or rooflights), dormer loft conversions (which can range from a small additional box windows to full-height balconies) and full structural conversions that require removal and reconstruction of the roof. This latter option could create a stunning space, but will also be the most expensive and time-consuming project, so do consider your budget, time-scale and amount of energy you can invest.
Having tackled the practical considerations and decided what kind of loft conversion is right for you – the next step is ensuring that your home office is a pleasant, relaxing space to work in. One of the first considerations should be lighting. Maximising the amount of natural light is key to any project, and this will also impact your structural plans. Check what’s allowed under building regulations and ensure that windows are positioned to provide light throughout the whole area.
In addition to windows.
Offices require a combination of artificial lighting types – both general ambient lighting that can be used during the day (for instance from spotlights or downlights on sloping ceilings), as well as more specific task-based lights for reading and working on the computer. If you are installing bookshelves or paintings, are there any accent lighting touches that will create a warm, bright atmosphere? This will impact electrical considerations and placements of sockets, so creating a thorough interior lighting plan from the outset will save costly alterations further down the line.
Storage and shelving.
Loft spaces are often used for storage, so make sure you have considered not only the storage space that your home office will require – but also the existing space you might be losing. Due to the unique shape of many loft conversions, built-in furniture and bookcases are particularly good choices.
To keep a minimal, uncluttered look.
Bespoke shelving built into eaves and nooks, as well as wrap-around desks with in-built drawers can provide a sense of order and harmony. Building furniture up to the roofline will reduce dramatic shapes and angles, as well as maximising available space. When planning your storage, start by listing exactly what you need from your home office. By focusing on what you need rather than what you have, clutter and hoarding will be minimised.
Colour and design.
Choosing an appropriate colour scheme is key to the success or failure of any interior, and your loft office is no exception. This will largely fall to personal taste, but it is an area where the advice of professional interior designers can be invaluable. Loft conversions often create interesting spaces, so especially if you are considering contrasting colours for ceilings, skirtings and architraves – professional knowledge and flair could help avoid any costly and time-consuming errors.
Darker colours can create a luxurious, intimate feel to a study, enhanced by materials such as dark-woods, industrial lighting and sturdy leather furniture. If your preference is for light, bright spaces, whitewashing beams and flooring can provide a perfect blank canvas for a minimalist work environment.
If your beams, bricks or structural supports are exposed, don’t be scared to accentuate the interplay between old and new, rough and smooth. This is your own space, not a staged show room – so go with what you love! If employing a designer is out of your budget, create a mood board by searching Pinterest or interior design magazines and use this to inspire your decoration.
If you have enough space, your loft office doesn’t have to be a single-purpose room. It could double-up as a guest bedroom by incorporating furniture such as sofa beds, even with a small additional bathroom. Of course, partitioning the space will require more planning and higher costs – but could significantly add to the long-term value of your home.
Do remember however.
If the room will serve a dual purpose, keep the colour scheme and furniture neutral and calming. This will ensure that it is not only a focused space for working, but also a relaxing room for your guests. Closed closets and shelves will keep mess to a minimum.
As a final consideration when converting your loft into an office.
Not every loft extension will have the space to create an entire new room. There may nonetheless be the opportunity to create a beautiful mezzanine. This form of “broken-plan” living successfully differentiates working and living zones, with a small-raised office separated from the existing space.
Last but not least, make sure you have considered the connectivity and technology required for your home office. Remote working requires a strong internet connection, so ensure that your Wi-Fi reaches the loft space (purchasing a booster or researching suppliers if necessary), as well as if a telephone line is required. Remember to also factor in the number of devices you charge on a regular basis, as this should also be worked into your electrical plans.
With these considerations in mind, your home office loft conversion will be off to a great start. Creating a calming, productive and beautiful working space may seem a complex task, but with careful planning and design choices, it can significantly improve your professional and personal life, as well as the overall property value. Good luck and happy converting!