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Remodeling 101: Where to Locate Electrical Outlets, Home Office and Storage Edition

by LiveModern Webmaster last modified Oct 17, 2014 01:06 AM
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by Janet Hall last modified Oct 16, 2014

When it comes to electric power, home offices are demanding: Computers, printers, phones, and other cord-dependent work tools require carefully placed outlets. Here are some key questions and tips to help power up your work and storage areas. Bottom line? Sweat the small stuff. Have an ingenious outlet solution in your home office? Fill us in in the Comments section below. N.B.: This is the fifth in our series of electrical outlet primers; scroll to the end for links to our posts on kitchen, bath, and living room outlets, as well as the latest flush-mounted wall outlets. Above: In her studio in Sweden, glass designer Ingegerd Råman's desk sits front and center with a strategically placed floor outlet underneath. Råman's house was designed by  Claesson Koivisto Rune . See  10 Easy Pieces: Floor Outlets  for a range of options.   Know electrical code restrictions and rules Educate yourself about the requirements and restrictions defined by the International Residential Code, National Electrical Code (NEC), and any local codes. The good news is that the rules focus on the minimum requirements for outlet placement (by number of feet between outlets and from corners, etc.). Those minimums may be exceeded, so you may generally add outlets when necessary. Above: For computer equipment and other electronics in the home office, surge protectors (such as the Belkin Seven-Outlet Surge Protector ; $12 at Amazon) are a must. Electrical surges—caused by power outages, lightning storms, or large, power-hungry appliances elsewhere in the house—can affect and even destroy the performance of electronic equipment, including computers, phones, faxes, TVs, and stereos. Surge protectors absorb excess voltage, preventing most of it from reaching sensitive equipment, but be warned: These devices wear out. Use models with indicator lights that show they're working. And bear in mind that there's a difference between a power strip and a surge protector. Pay attention when shopping. Assess your workspace's electrical power needs Where is your desk positioned? Don't let bad outlet placement anchor your desk or worktop to an undesirable spot. Choose your desk location and style in advance of your outlet plan. Do you want to anchor the room with a centrally placed desk? Consider strategically placed floor plugs. Are you installing a built-in worktop? Outlets and openings need to be carefully considered—you don't want cords hanging over the front of your desk because you forgot to provide a path for them to reach an outlet underneath. Also take your other office furniture into consideration: You don't want bookshelves and storage cabinets to block essential outlets.  Above: An all-white home office (with space behind the desk for cords to run to outlets) in a New York City loft by Deborah Berke & Partners Architects , a member of the Remodelista Architect/Design Directory .  Above: A clean, uncluttered workspace is kept clear of visible wires and outlets thanks to a grommet at the back of the table that leads cords to a power strip attached underneath. Photograph by Alex Lukey . Where do you use (and store) your home computer(s)? If, like me, your one must-have desktop item is your computer, consider its power source. On which side of the computer does the power cord connect? Do you want the cord to run behind or to the side of the computer?  Above: Remodelista's London editor Christine created a custom workspace designed as a place for her family to plug in. Outlets are cleverly covered by movable panels under the small shelf. Photograph by Jonathan Gooch .  Above: USB power adapter plugs can be big and unsightly—their weight alone can cause them to topple out of the outlet. A new generation of USB-equipped outlets, such as the  Power2U AC/USB Outlet  shown here, can reduce the need for the bulky boxes.  Beyond computer equipment, what electric-powered appliances do you use? The word "appliance" may signal kitchen, but home offices are filled with small appliances also, from printers to shredders. And many are heavy and hard to move. Plan where your equipment will reside and place outlets accordingly. Follow the simple rule of thumb that applies to any room: Position outlets near the point of use to reduce the need for unsightly and hazardous extension cords. That may be up on a shelf or even in a cabinet. If you have cordless phones, remember that most phone bases require an outlet and should be located adjacent to a phone jack. Above: In their San Francisco living room, Dagmar Daly and Zak Conway created a compact workspace set in a sliding bookcase; desk outlets are placed under the worktop where small shelves hold a printer and other equipment. See the whole design in  The Disappearing Home Office . Daly and Conway's kitchen and bath are featured in the Remodelista Book . Photograph by Matthew Williams  for Remodelista. Do you have task lighting? Desk lamps are easily forgotten during the planning phase, but shouldn't be: Remember to provide a power source that minimizes cord exposure (both for safety and aesthetics).  Above: A tiny workspace in a Stockholm apartment includes an outlet perfectly poised for a task lamp to migrate between the shelf and the worktop. Photograph via  My Scandinavian Home . Do you need a dedicated charging zone? Home offices often serve as charging stations for all the household electronics, but many are under-equipped for the task. Be sure to add enough outlets to handle the number of devices. Above: Christine's home workspace (shown above) is well powered. "We were tired of hunting all over the house for charging cords that had 'walked,' so we added eight outlets to the counter. Unfortunately, the cords still vanish," she says. To see her whole office setup, go to Storage in Unexpected Places . Photograph by  Kristin Perers .  Does your workspace do double duty?  Home offices often double as entertainment centers, guest rooms, or adjunct kitchen counters. Give thought to the competing uses of the space and plan power accordingly to minimize the impact of cords and outlet clutter.   Above: A breakfast bar doubles as a home office in a project by New York City's  Pulltab Design , members of the Remodelista Architect/Designer Director . Wires connecting the monitor and the CPU run behind removable baseboards. See more of the small space in A Hard-Working House in the City . Photograph by Mikiko Kikuyama . Consider Storage Spaces In the office and elsewhere, factor storage spaces into your outlet planning. Powered-up closet shelves are perfect for charging personal electronics out of sight. And outlets in storage closets, pantries, and cupboards come in very handy for rechargeable appliances that get stored for periodic use, such as small vacuums, flashlights, and cameras.  Above: A shredder is stowed in an office cupboard equipped with interior outlets. Photograph via  Alexandra Design Finds .   Above: An electronics charging station incorporated into a  Henrybuilt  closet system. See more of the Seattle company's designs in High-Style Storage from Henrybuilt . Plan with utility and aesthetics in mind When placing outlets in workspaces, utility and convenience come first. That said, aesthetics aren't to be ignored, especially if the space is part of a larger room in the home. Here are some ideas to consider. Take a cue from professional offices. Offices are designed with efficiency in mind, and that includes power sources. Standard solutions include grommets in desks or worktables, outlets attached to the underside of desks, and floor outlets.  Above: A minimal work area in a remodel by Czech firm  Oooox  includes a built-in desk with grommets in the back, which allows cords to drop through to the outlets below, leaving the top clutter free. Mockett offers a wide range of grommets. Above: Many under-desk outlet options are available through companies such as Closet Masters . Consider a desk with cable control. Integrating power and furniture is another solution to outlet and cord management. Industrial-design site Core77 offers a roundup of ingenious  Desks with Built-In Power Solutions .   Above, top and bottom: The  Bluelounge Studio Desk  hides all outlets and excess cables under a sliding desktop surface. An elongated slot across the width of the desktop allows cords to enter/exit at any point.  Take extra measures. How much do you hate cords and outlets? As shown above, there are ways to fully conceal your power sources, such as by placing outlets in closets and cupboards and on the underside of desks. If you're remodeling, you can build all the camouflage you desire. Above: Gardenista  editor in chief Michelle Slatalla is so cord averse that she installed a false wall behind the two desks in her home office. Cords drop behind the two-paneled wall and are plugged into power strips hidden on the floor behind. See more of her solution in  5 Ways to Banish Computer Cords from Your Home Office .  Not remodeling? There are ways to reduce outlet blight. See  10 Easy Pieces: Switch Plate Covers  and Switch Up Your Switch Plates for ideas. Read all our electrical outlet primers. Remodeling 101: Where to Locate Electrical Outlets, Kitchen Edition Remodeling 101: Where to Locate Electrical Outlets, Living Room Edition Remodeling 101: Flush Electrical Outlets Remodeling 101: Where to Locate Electrical Outlets, Bath Edition And for more inspiration, see some of our favorite office spaces: Totokaelo's Fashion-Forward Office in Seattle ;  A Multitasking Room in Southeast London , and 10 Favorites: The Niche Workspace .  More Stories from Remodelista 5 Quick Fixes: Closet Valet Rods and Hooks DIY: Painted Canvas Tissue Box Cover Remodeling 101: Where to Locate Electrical Outlets, Bath Edition






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