Special Reports
Thnk Green in Your Homne Office

By Cheryl Embrett
Microsoft Home Magazine

Add some plant power to liven up your workspace

One of the easiest ways to improve the look and feel of a home office is to add
a little greenery. Houseplants immediately make a room feel more welcoming, and
studies have found that they can help improve your overall health and well-being.

“Office products give off plenty of pollutants, so it’s very handy to have
something green nearby to filter the air,” says Larry Hodgson, the author of
Houseplants for Dummies (John Wiley & Sons, 1998). In fact, NASA space research
inside airtight space habitats found that ordinary houseplants, such as spider
plants and peace lilies, were extremely effective in cleaning the air.

A veritable boost

Plants also increase the humidity in a room — a boon during the dry days of
winter — and lessen the amount of dust. Researchers at the University of
Agriculture in Norway found that indoor plants can reduce fatigue, coughs, sore
throats and other cold-related illnesses by more than 30 per cent.
Psychologically, plants can give you a real boost too, says Hodgson, who has 50
houseplants in his basement office alone. “I think if you’re surrounded by
greenery, you don’t feel quite as isolated in your little corner as you do if
there’s nothing growing around you.”

Pick the right plants

As a general rule, Hodgson recommends low-maintenance plants for the home
office. “They can take anything you can throw at them, including low light,” he
says. His top picks include philodendrums, dracaenas (dragon tree), sansevieria
(snake plant, mother-in-law’s tongue), scheffleras (umbrella plant) and some of
the ficas.

A shot of colour

Once you’ve established your basic green background of easy-to-maintain plants,
you can add a few “hot spots” of colour with plants that require a bit more
care. The most popular flowering plant is the African violet. Or, try seasonal
flowers such as crocuses in spring and poinsettias at Christmas.
The idea with these plants is that you can’t expect them to live forever. You
have to think of the very flowery plants as being temporary houseguests, Hodgson says.

Location matters

If your office is in the basement or doesn’t get much light, it’s even more
important to select hardy plants such as the ones recommended above. There’s no
such thing as low-light houseplants, says Hodgson. “I can’t think of a plant in
the world that prefers to be in a dark corner. Low-light plants are simply those
that can tolerate lower light intensities without suffering too visibly.”

If you want to include some flowering plants that require more light, make sure
you rotate them so they spend two weeks a month in a sunnier spot in the house.
A home of their own

Another option for low-light offices is to grow plants in a glass-sided
terrarium, says Hodgson. “Many delicate or otherwise impossible-to-grow plants
thrive nicely in a terrarium.” Choose plants that will remain small, such as
button ferns, creeping figs, Irish moss, ferns and holly.

Strength in numbers

Depending on the amount of space you have, Hodgson recommends anywhere from 5 to
10 houseplants for your home office. “That gives a nice look and is the optimal
number for cleaning the air,” he says.

Watering is key

Always water plants well, but don’t water them again until they need it. “They
should reach the point where they’re almost dry, without wilting,” says Hodgson.
To test for dryness, stick your finger in the soil every four or five days.
A humidifier is also a smart investment. “It’s good for the plants, good for the
furniture and good for you,” he explains.

Decide on a desk that’s right for you

Designer tips to fit a computer into any corner

Plan a productive workspace

Turn a small space into a home office.


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