Nice day at the workstation, darling?

Home working is on the increase, but an office needn't take over your living space.
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Indy Lifestyle Online
ME PLC is one of the fastest growing companies in the world today. Jerry McGuire tapped into the feel-good factor of the modern day Davids who defeat the corporate Goliath. Entrepreneurial spirit, e-mail and the increasing instability of salaried staff jobs have made the home office a crucial part of the urban interior. Space is at a premium in any major city. Few of us have the luxury to convert a whole room into the home office. A work station has to be integrated into a living space.

Rhonda Drakeford and Harry Woodrow, graphic designers

Graduates of St Martin's, Rhonda Drakeford and Harry Woodrow launched Multistorey, a graphic design consultancy, from their ground floor flat in South London. Their office, shared with a surly black cat called Humphrey, is the larger of two bedrooms. "Work space had to come first, because we need a lot of desk space and floor space when we work," says Drakeford. "We've put a clothes rail rail across one wall to give us more space in our bedroom, but that doesn't get in the way."

"We don't like to work exclusively with computer graphics," says Woodrow. "We like work to be more tactile. So by the end of the day, I'm knee deep in paper, wood, glass, whatever." Yet apart from the clothes rail and the desk, the office is surprisingly minimal. Two Charles Eames chairs, part of a set of four, stand behind a home-made desk. These were not cheap, but "when you're designing on a computer, it's important to have the right chairs," says Drakeford. Behind the desk is a piece designed for the Urban Retreat Aveda salon in Harvey Nichols. Images from other projects, like the interiors department of American Retro, lie on the desk under Humphrey.

One of Harry's St Martins pieces - inspired by The Good, The Bad & the Ugly - dominates one wall of the office. The partnership, living and working together, is balanced. "Harry is the only person who can criticise me and I will listen," says Drakeford. "The only thing we do disagree on is me only being allowed to smoke in the kitchen."

Multistorey, 0171 735 1809

Charlotte Schepke, director, the Agency Contemporary Art Gallery

Charlotte Schepke found the ultimate solution for the home office in her Belsize Park apartment. Her central office is in her gallery in EC2, but she needs to work at home, too. Her flat is open plan - apart from the bedroom and bathroom - so the workstation would have to fit in with her living room/kitchen. "I think it is unhealthy to sleep and work in the same room," she says. "But I wouldn't feel comfortable with a desk in the corner of my living room. When I want to relax, I don't even want to see evidence of my working life." Already familiar with the work of designer Anand Zens, who designed the celebrated interiors of Belgo Noord and Ecco, Schepke commissioned the maverick designer to make a hidden home office. Zens built two concave cabinets into the parallel corners of her living room, flanking a central fireplace.

Built on castors, these doors - inlaid with shelf space - roll back to reveal a high-tech computer system, desk and library enclave. "This was a very special, unique commission from Anand," says Schepke. "The concept was to completely clear any clutter from the living space. Anand said he could paint the units into the scheme of the room so they would look to the naked eye like a rather strange wall. I wanted to feature them and I like the grain of the birch wood he used". They are heavy as an Egyptian sarcophagus to roll open. "I have over a hundred art books and catalogues which I didn't want to display in my living room. I particularly like the concept of closing a door on my working day and shutting it away for the night."

Anand Zens, 0171 793 9598

Anna Ryder-Richardson, TV interiors producer

Anna Ryder-Richardson, new girl on the BBC's Changing Rooms, is one of the chattering classes' favourite targets. Even on a brief holiday in Barbados, she was accosted by a discussion group round the pool, debating her choice of tangerine and lime for one changed room. "My home office is living proof that Changing Rooms isn't fixed," she says. "I really had 48 hours to redecorate, because the BBC publicity department wanted to photograph me at home." Living in an apartment behind the King's Road, Ryder-Richardson says, "I chose location over space. I've made an office space out of the smallest corner between my sitting room and kitchen. If I didn't work at home, it would be a breakfast bar. As it is, I only need my laptop, telephone and draftsman's drawing board. I've intentionally steered away from industrial style. When I moved in the walls were grey, the carpet was grey. It looked like a dreary office anyway. I laid the bleached wood floor first then painted the entire place beige. But you get so bored with beige and bleached wood." Now the kitchen/office/sitting room is a symphony of sugared almond pastel. "I don't like painting all the walls a uniform colour. So I chose aquamarine, duck egg blue and a yellowy green." She then whipped-up the gently curving desk and shelves herself. Knocking an egg-shaped window through to the kitchen lightened up the office corner, as do the aluminium blinds from Ikea. "My bar stool- style desk chair and bakelite telephone are Fifties retro from Flying Duck in Greenwich. A home office should never be too sober or humourless."

The new series of 'Changing Rooms' starts on 10 March at 8pm on BBC1