Toronto-based interior designer Ali Budd is shown in a handout photo. (Trish Mennell photo)

Toronto-based interior designer Ali Budd is shown in a handout photo. (Trish Mennell photo)

Be patient, creative, when building a home office on a budget, experts say

For electronics, there is also value in looking at refurbished items

When Amar Atwal discovered his wife would be teaching kindergarten remotely this fall while his daughter entered Grade 1 from home, he trawled through every furniture and office supply website he could find in search of a desk.

Atwal, a school board worker in Toronto-adjacent Peel Region, quickly noticed that not only was there was a shortage of desks, but prices for remaining stock had jumped dramatically. So when he saw that one of the last three desks HomeSense had was scratched, he bought one anyway.

“We got lucky. It retails for $160, but we got it for $80,” said Atwal.

“We couldn’t find my daughter a desk, so we got one of those little Ikea tables and she’s doing her online course right now on that.”

With schools around the country expecting some remote learning in the months ahead and employers encouraging staff to remain at home beyond the end of the year, many Canadians have decided to upgrade their workspace from the couch or kitchen table to a more appropriate setup. And like Atwal, some are finding it’s more expensive than they’d like.

Ali Budd, the owner of a Toronto-based interior design company, recommends people on a budget consider repurposing what they have.

“Don’t be scared to use a dining table as a desk. Think outside the box,” she said, noting most dining tables are the same height as a desk.

“Even if you have a folding table and you position it in a certain spot every day, and then fold it back up, use that.”

When COVID-19 started spreading and Budd and her staff had to start working from home, she remembered her father’s old desk was sitting at her cottage.

She hauled it home and plunked it in a basement storage room she and her kids interchangeably work from.

If there’s nothing at home you can repurpose, she suggests asking your employer if they’ll lend you their equipment or furniture.

Several workplaces have let staff go home with computers, desks, office chairs and more as long as they return them when work from home ends.

Budd pushed her staff to pick up their computers and chairs from their workspace and discourages them from using their couch as a desk.

“At the end of the day, you can work on a $20 table and it doesn’t matter, but your chair is the most important thing because that’s where you’re sitting for a big chunk of the day,” she said.

Seung Hwan (Mark) Lee, an associate professor of retail management at Ryerson University, recommends people also ask workplaces if they are willing to cover some home office expenses.

Some employers, including Shopify Inc., Wattpad and Royal Bank of Canada, have announced that they are giving staff stipends.

If your workplace isn’t in a position to do so, Lee and Atwal suggest looking out for deals at second-hand stores or on online platforms selling used items like Kijiji, Bunz or Facebook Marketplace.

“My cousin’s wife is also teaching online and his daughter’s learning online, so he was checking Kijiji and Facebook Marketplace apparently every hour for a desk,” said Atwal.

“This past weekend, he actually got lucky and he picked up two desks from somebody….He was really patient and was looking for a month or so, but couldn’t find anything.”

If items aren’t in good enough shape when purchased, experts say sometimes a coat of paint or some elbow grease is all it takes to freshen them up and is far cheaper than buying something new.

For electronics, there is also value in looking at refurbished items, said Lee.

“For our kid, we purchased a cheaper, refurbished laptop and we’re not concerned about orange juice being spilled on there,” he said.

If you can’t find what you need for work around the house, used or at your office and you have to resort to buying new, Lee recommended shopping around.

He uses RedFlagDeals and other shopping forums to find discounts and sales.

Waiting for key times of year helps too, he said.

“A lot of technology related stuff will go on sale at Black Friday or on Cyber Monday,” he said.

“If you can wait, I would wait until then.”

Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Trending Now

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the legislature, Jan. 11, 2021. (B.C. government)
Vancouver Island smashes COVID-19 high: 47 new cases in a day

Blowing past previous records, Vancouver Island is not matching B.C.s downward trend

Stand up paddleboarder Christie Jamieson kneels as a pod of transient orcas put on a dramatic show on Jan. 19 in the Ucluelet Harbour. (Nora O’Malley photo)
UPDATED: Vancouver Island paddle boarder’s orca encounter brings joy and outrage

Woman’s ‘best day’ criticized for disturbing the whales

Tofino’s library is currently located in the basement of the Tofino Legion building but talks are underway to build a brand new facility. (Andrew Bailey photo)
The District of Tofino has put new restrictions in place around alcohol at public events. (Westerly file photo)
Tofino puts new restrictions on alcohol at public events

Town’s council adopts Municipal Alcohol Policy.

Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021 is International Lego Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 24 to 30

Lego Day, Talk Like a Grizzled Prospector Day and Puzzle Day are all coming up this week

BC Coroners Service is currently investigating a death at Canoe Cove Marina and Boatyard in North Saanich. (Black Press Media File)
Drowning death in North Saanich likely B.C.’s first in for 2021

Investigation into suspected drowning Monday night continues

Terry Keogh, an RDN Transit driver, used his paramedic skills the morning of Jan. 22 after coming across an unconscious woman along his route in downtown Nanaimo. (RDN Transit photo)
Nanaimo transit driver stops his bus and helps get overdosing woman breathing again

Former EMT from Ireland performed CPR on a woman in downtown Nanaimo on Friday

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

An Atlantic salmon is seen during a Department of Fisheries and Oceans fish health audit at the Okisollo fish farm near Campbell River, B.C. in 2018. The First Nations Leadership Council says an attempt by industry to overturn the phasing out of salmon farms in the Discovery Islands in contrary to their inherent Title and Rights. (THE CANADIAN PRESS /Jonathan Hayward photo)
First Nations Leadership Council denounces attempt to overturn salmon farm ban

B.C.’s producers filed for a judicial review of the Discovery Islands decision Jan. 18

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

More than 100 B.C. fishermen, fleet leaders, First Nations leaders and other salmon stakeholders are holding a virtual conference Jan. 21-22 to discuss a broad-range of issues threatening the commercial salmon fishery. (Black Press file photo)
B.C. commercial salmon fishermen discuss cures for an industry on the brink

Two-day virtual conference will produce key reccomendations for DFO

Black Press file photo
Investigation at remote burned-out Vancouver Island cabin reveals human remains

Identity of victim not released, believed to be the owner of an SUV vehicle found parked nearby

Angela Waldick is the new team photographer for the Nanaimo NightOwls. (Nanaimo NightOwls photo)
Half-blind photographer will help new Island baseball team look picture-perfect

Nanaimo NightOwls say legally blind team photographer is making history

Most Read