If you've ever watched just five minutes of any show on HGTV in which people are house hunting or remodeling, you'll see a common theme: the home office. It shows up on the must-have list for virtually every homeowner.
According to consulting and research firm Global Workplace Analytics, the work-at-home population grew 29.4 percent from 2005 to 2012, including self-employed and telecommuters. That growth is a widespread trend, including in Charleston where entrepreneurs and small-business owners are converting space in their homes for creative and functional home offices.
When Stacey Heilman and her family were moving from Summerville to Mount Pleasant, a home office was a requirement. In her Summerville house, she used a loft area as her office and art studio but she was quickly outgrowing the space and it couldn't accommodate her larger projects: painting tables and chairs.
"My stuff was spilling over into the kitchen and den," she said. "I need to keep all my projects in one place so it doesn't take over the whole house."
So when they found a Mount Pleasant home with a formal dining room, Heilman knew just what to do.
"It's a beautiful dining room, but we wouldn't use it," she said. Heilman decided to transform the space into her home office/art studio for her boutique business, Sweet as Peas.
With its wainscoting, crown molding and large windows, Heilman said the dining room-turned office is the best room in the house. Situated at the front of the house, the space is separated from the main entrance with French doors and connected to the kitchen with a swing door. As a painter, Heilman loves the easy access to water and being close to the garage for when she pulls out the spray paint.
The room accommodates her paint table, a corner desk and a cabinet for storage. Plus, there's space for her 9-month-old son to play with his toys and even the dog has a bed in the office.
"I'm in this room more than any other room," she said.
When Vladia Jurcova-Spencer was working with an architect on the design of her new home, she set aside a space about 81/2 feet by 5 feet for her home office. As a public relations professional, she didn't need a large office but wanted enough room for a desk and a cabinet for books and storage.
And Jurcova-Spencer purposely put her office at the front of the house near the entrance.
That way if she needs to meet with a client or conduct a work meeting, guests come in the front door and right into her office.
With two small children, she didn't want visitors going through the whole house and tripping over toys, she said.
Jurcova-Spencer also added some personal touches to make the office a happy space, she said. One wall is papered in a black-and-white pattern to match the zebra rug on the floor.
She added two of her husband's guitars to give it a music studio feel. And because she works with a lot of artists and arts organizations, she has a piece by local artist Robert Lange on the wall.
It's neat when people have something in their office that makes sense with what they do, she said.
James Island graphic designer Sally Heineman finds large prints of colorful graffiti provide the perfect inspiration for her work.
When she renovated her home and added an upstairs office, Heineman took the opportunity to make the space her own.
She found stock images of graffiti with colorful graphics, enlarged the images and framed them for her office. "I see it as art, not mere tagging," she said of the graffiti.
Because Heineman designs a lot of publications, her work is more grid-based and structured, a dramatic difference from the abstract graffiti dotting her office walls, she said.
"It's so different from what I do for a living," she said. "Instead of having my own work (on the walls), I like having something more artistic and free-flowing."
Professional organizer and author of "The Organized Mom" Stacey Crew echoed the importance of having an inspirational and comfortable space.
She suggests painting the walls a color that raises your energy level or adding simple artwork: quotes, family photos or even a calming picture of the ocean or other restful photo for days when the stress level runs high.
"If there's space, add a comfortable chair to sit in and put your feet up," Crew said. "If you've got to be in that space so many hours of the day, you don't want to dread being in that room."
Erica and Jason Bennett run their five-year-old photography and video business, Docent Prodigy, from their North Charleston home.
They have an office of about 13 feet by 15 feet, which isn't a lot of space for two people and a pile of video and camera equipment.
The home office doesn't have a closet, so Erica got creative with her storage. They bought a large, steel shelving unit from Lowe's and use it to store Jason's cameras, lighting and other equipment plus bins of cables and extra batteries. And Erica has her desk for handling the bills and new business proposals.
"We don't need a 4,000-square-foot home to have a home office with two people in it," Erica said. "We maximize our space with creative storage and shelving."