Working at home can be a real pain if you aren't sitting comfortably. Rosalind Russell looks at the latest in office furniture
Making the decision to leave the security of an office to go freelance is a heady experience. No more commuting, no office politics. And there's the anticipation of setting against tax the cost of heating and lighting the room you'll use at home as an office, your computer system, the telephone bill and desk. However, the cost of fitting out an office can be an expensive initial outlay.

Deciding on the budget, however, depends on your commitment to home working. It's not much of a hardship to manage with cheap and cheerful if you're only going to use it an hour or two a day.

Sitting on a dining chair for six hours a day, however, would persuade even the thriftiest to invest in a properly designed office chair. You can pay anything from pounds 160 for a desk from Debenhams Office range up to pounds 1,755 for the Backsaver Ultimate Office Chair from Back2.

The Backsaver allows for several positions, including a supportive upright position for desk work, semi-reclined for reading or talking on the phone and fully reclined for dreaming up how you're going to get this one past the Inland Revenue. It has an automatically retracting foot rest and adjustable seat height and head rest.

Back2 was launched by Guy Cinnamon, whose first ergonomic furniture products were anatomically correct pillows sold in the shop Anatomia. His new London showroom stocks more than 40 designs of office chair.

"Many people just don't know how to sit properly," says Cinnamon, "which is a sure way of getting back pain. Even if you don't suffer from discomfort yet, prevention is infinitely preferably to cure."

The latest in the Back2 range is the Hag Saddle Chair, which may look strangely familiar to horse riders and just strange to anyone else. But it has been carefully designed to allow the hips to stretch and relax while the knees rest below the hips, with the feet flat on the floor - just as you would sit in a saddle in fact and quite easy to get used to, as it's not attached to an unpredictable animal that can bolt at the sight of an old paper bag.

The Hag Saddle has an unusually shaped adjustable back rest and can be rocked into a reclining position. Relaxing back, the elbows can be rested on the curved sections creating a stretch across the shoulders. It comes in a choice of fabrics, including a jazzy black-and-white zebra design, and costs from pounds 551.

If that seems a bit pricey, the chain Office World offers a vast range of office furniture to suit most home workers. They will advise on the best range for you, depending on the amount of time you'll be spending at your desk.

For a couple of hours a day, the high-back operator's chair at pounds 69.99 would probably be suitable; but for four hours or more, an executive operator's chair at pounds 199.99 would offer more support. It is fully synchronised with a gas lift, and the back can be free floating or in a fixed position. Filing cabinets start at pounds 99.99 for the basic economy to pounds 129 for a model that gives 100 per cent extension. For coloured cabinets, in blue, red or brown and cream, the cost is pounds 140.

"If someone is sitting at their desk full time," says Office World's Peter Mason, "we might recommend an American manufacturer's range called O'Sullivan. It is made specifically for the home office market. A multi- media cart with room for CD storage, printer, tower unit, pullout keyboard and slanted copy shelf costs pounds 99.99. The next system up, with filing drawers costs pounds 199.99."

A stylish French range from Gautier, also stocked by Office World, includes a folding-door computer unit at pounds 199.99. But the one that might appeal to anyone who finds self-assembly as easy-peasy as advanced engineering would be the Liverpool-based Dams system.

Office World's price includes delivery and assembly. The system has adjustable feet height to allow for uneven floors and can be delivered and set up in 10 days. There is free delivery on all other orders over pounds 35 and you can order from the catalogue.

Debenhams 0171-408 4444; Back2 0800 374 604; Office World 0800 5000 24.

three to view: working from home

Braeside, a large detached house at Baldrine, on the Isle of Man, has an 11ft by 8ft study, making it possible to keep all the office clutter away from the rest of the four bedroom house. Recently refurbished, with a new kitchen and bathrooms, the white-painted house stands in secluded gardens with views across Laxey Bay and the hills beyond. It has a large entrance hall and reception room with open fireplace and folding doors leading to the dining room. Two of the bathrooms are en suite and there is an integral 22ft garage. pounds 335,000 through Chrystals (01624 623480).

Number 3, Coastguard Cottages, at Toot Rock, East Sussex, is a mid-terrace former coastguard's cottage with wide views across coast and countryside. They could, admittedly, be distracting for anyone toiling away in the first-floor study, which has polished pine floors and twin sash windows. Halfway between Rye and Hastings, the village has a local pub and sailing club as further excuses not to work. With hand-built kitchen, two bedrooms and 22ft sitting room, it's for sale through Phillips & Stubbs for pounds 125,000. A further pounds 10,000 will buy a detached workshop/studio. (01797 227338).

Yew Tree Cottage high in the Slad Valley in Gloucestershire is a three- storey house with open fireplaces, exposed beams, latched doors and wood strip floors. It also has a study with exposed Cotswold stone wall, book shelves and a door to the garden. Well known through the writings of Laurie Lee in Cider With Rosie, the area is three miles from Stroud, with an Inter-City service to Paddington that takes an hour and a half. The cottage has five bedrooms, two bathrooms and a terraced garden with vine-shaded pergola, roses, jasmine and honeysuckle. pounds 245,000 through Hamptons (01452 812354).

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