Home Office: Why Kitchen Counter “Offices” Don’t Work

“This space for a home office in my kitchen just doesn’t work,” said a client pointing to 30 inches of counter space that was supposed to be a working space.  Her new gourmet kitchen was gorgeous with all the latest appliances and tons of storage. But the counter space designated as a built-in desk/home office was small and non-functional.  Many clients have told me kitchen counter “desks” become dumping grounds for mail and school notices.

A typical kitchen counter desk

A typical kitchen counter desk

Most built-in counter top kitchen offices are well-intentioned but simply are not set up for real work.

Among the problems presented by so-called kitchen offices are:

  • Too small. The average office desk is 60 inches wide by 30 inches deep. A 30 inch wide by 25 inch deep patch of counter top simply will not provide enough space to work.
  • Too cramped. The overhead cabinets mounted 18 inches above the counter are oppressively low.
  • No real storage. No room for keyboards, printers, shredders, files, paper, or office supplies.
  • Not wired for modern technology. Any modern workspace needs an outlet for cable connection, if not set-up for wi-fi, multiple electrical outlets for computers, peripherals and recharging stations. And a place to hide the power strip.
  • Poor lighting. Under cabinet lighting is not adequate for sustained work. If the lighting is from tungsten lamps they will be too hot. Ceiling mounted lights are too far away to provide sufficient, shadow-free illumination
  • Not ergonomic. Sitting perched on a counter-height kitchen stool is not comfortable.  For ergonomic seating at counter-height you will need to look into getting an architect’s drafting-table-height  desk chair.
  • Too distracting. It is hard to focus with the family in the kitchen or a nearby room. It is hard to focus on work and not procrastinate when the refrigerator, dirty dishes or meal preparation are intruding on your thoughts.

This doesn’t mean you can’t have a functional office in a kitchen, or work on your laptop for a while at your kitchen island as a break from your designated home office.

To have a truly functional kitchen office – and by functional I mean a workspace that will comfortably and efficiently support you during a full day of work – you will need:

  • Your workspace in a quiet area of the kitchen, separated from food preparation and spills.
  • A work surface that is desk height, not counter-high.
  • Real filing cabinets or drawers, not below counter cabinets that are meant to hold pots and pans and canned goods.
  • 48 to 60 inches desk top width.
  • Room for your computer and peripherals.
  • Extra electrical outlets and access to the internet.
  • Room on your worksurface for a table lamp with translucent shade.
  • An adjustable, ergonomic chair.

Just because it is called a “kitchen office,” doesn’t make it a home office.

Do you have a kitchen office? How does it work for you? What are the best/worst features of your kitchen office? Please add your comments below.

photo by Dilletantia