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 has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19. (File photo)
432 new COVID cases sets another record Friday

Central zone holds steady at 126 active cases

"We are looking seriously at the spread and determining what our next steps should be," says Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, as the daily number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb.
427 new COVID cases is highest in Alberta ever

Central zone has 126 active cases of COVID-19

100 Women Who Care make a donation to Sylvan Lake Food Bank and Bethany Care Centre. Photo By Megan Roth/Sylvan Lake News
100 Women Who Care donate to four Sylvan Lake groups

The Food Bank, Bethany Sylvan Lake, Community Partners and the Library all received a donation

RCMP. (Black Press File Photo)
Calgary man dies in two-vehicle collision near Sylvan Lake

A semi truck collided with a SUV just east of Hwy. 781 on Hwy 11.

Shaelynn Decock and her dog Taco, who has been missing since Aug. 26. Photo Submitted
Sylvan Lake woman looking for closure for her stolen dog

Shaelynn Decock says it has been two months since she last saw her dog Taco

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

This photo provided by Air Force Reserve shows a sky view of Hurricane Epsilon taken by Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter team over the Atlantic Ocean taken Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020.   Epsilon’s maximum sustained winds have dropped slightly as it prepares to sideswipe Bermuda on a path over the Atlantic Ocean.  The National Hurricane Center says it should come close enough Thursday, Oct. 22, evening to merit a tropical storm warning for the island.  (Air Force Reserve via AP)
Hurricane Epsilon expected to remain offshore but will push waves at Atlantic Canada

Epsilon is not expected to have any real impact on land

A voter places her absentee ballot in the ballot box, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, at Merrill Auditorium in Portland, Maine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Robert F. Bukaty
American voters living in Canada increasingly being counted in presidential race

The largest number of Canadian-based American voters cast their ballots in New York and California

A composite image of three photographs shows BC NDP Leader John Horgan, left, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Sept. 25, 2020; BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau, centre, in Victoria on Sept. 24, 2020; and BC Liberal Party Leader Andrew Wilkinson Pitt Meadows, B.C., on Sept. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck, Chad Hipolito
British Columbia votes in snap election called during COVID-19 pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan called the snap election one year before the fixed voting date

Nunavut's provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, on Tuesday June 30, 2020. The annual report from Nunavut's representative for children and youth says "complacency and a lack of accountability" in the territory's public service means basic information about young people needing services isn’t tracked. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Nunavut’s young people ‘should be expecting more’ from government services: advocate

‘The majority of information we requested is not tracked or was not provided by departments’

Ryen Williams, 11, with a lost miniature horse at JJ Collett Oct. 23. Photo by Don Williams
UPDATE: Owners found

Father and son found him while out for a walk at JJ Collett

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

U.S. border officers at the Peace Arch crossing arrested two men on California warrants this week. (File photo)
Ottawa predicts system delays, backlogs unless court extends life of refugee pact

Canada and the United States recognize each other as safe places to seek protection

Conservative member of Parliament Michelle Rempel Garner, left to right, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and Conservative Deputy Leader Candice Bergen arrive to hold a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No-confidence showdown over sweeping Tory motion on government handling of pandemic

The Conservative motion is to be put to a vote Monday and has the support of both the Bloc Québécois and NDP

Most Read