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

Alberta had 1,571 active COVID-19 cases on Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta’s central zone now has 1,101 active COVID-19 cases

Provincial death toll has risen by nine

(Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
FortisAlberta’s ‘Lights of Joy’ bring smiles to Ponoka seniors

Residents of Golden Leisure Lodge treated to a light display

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Alberta reports 1,731 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday

The province’s central zone has 992 active cases

(Photo submitted)
Ermineskin citizen graduates vet school, is part of busy practice

Dr. Justin Hodgson is rolling up his sleeves in Meadow Lake, Sask.

Jeffery Kraft. Photo submitted
Family of Jeffery Kraft feels ‘robbed’ after one accused discharged

Family of victim responds to preliminary hearing in homicide case

Idyllic winter scenes are part of the atmosphere of the holiday season, and are depicted in many seasonal movies. How much do you know about holiday movies? Put your knowledge to the test. (Pixabay.com)
QUIZ: Test your knowledge of holiday movies and television specials

The festive season is a time for relaxing and enjoying some seasonal favourites

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Top doctor urges Canadians to limit gatherings as ‘deeply concerning’ outbreaks continue

Canada’s active cases currently stand at 63,835, compared to 53,907 a week prior

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

In this undated photo issued by the University of Oxford, a volunteer is administered the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, in Oxford, England. Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca said Monday Nov. 23, 2020, that late-stage trials showed its coronavirus vaccine was up to 90% effective, giving public health officials hope they may soon have access to a vaccine that is cheaper and easier to distribute than some of its rivals. (University of Oxford/John Cairns via AP)
Moderna chairman says Canada near head of line for 20 million vaccine doses

Trudeau created a firestorm when he said Canadians will have to wait a bit to get vaccinated

Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre speaks during a news conference Monday, Nov. 16, 2020 in Ottawa. Poilievre says building up the Canadian economy post-pandemic can't be achieved without a massive overhaul of the tax system and regulatory regime. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Conservatives attack Trudeau’s ‘reset’ but they have ideas for their own

‘We don’t need subsidized corporate welfare schemes that rely on endless bailouts from the taxpayer’

There were 47 new COVID-19 cases in Alberta Tuesday. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson)
Spread of COVID-19 in Brampton, Ont., linked to systemic factors, experts say

‘We’re tired. We’re numb. We’re overworked. We’re frustrated, because it’s not our rules’

A couple embrace during a ceremony to mark the end of a makeshift memorial for victims of the Toronto van attack, at Yonge St. and Finch Ave. in Toronto on Sunday, June 3, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston
‘I’ve been spared a lot,’ van attack survivor says as she watches trial alone

Court has set up a private room for victims and families of those killed in the Toronto van attack

A person enters a building as snow falls in Ottawa, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. Ottawa has been successful in limiting the spread of COVID-19 during its second wave thanks to the city’s residents who have been wearing masks and staying home, said Ottawa’s medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
People to thank for Ottawa’s success with curbing COVID-19: health officer

The city’s chief medical officer said much of the credit goes to the people who live in Ottawa

Most Read