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

file photo
Maskwacis RCMP investigate pedestrian fatality

Collision on Highway 2A causing fatality still under investigation.

Shaela Dansereau/ The Pipestone Flyer
City of Wetaskiwin cases rapidly climbing

City of Wetaskiwin reporting 11 active cases of COVID-19

Photo submitted/ Rita-anne Fuss
Distancing Diamond Project in Millet for mental health

Distancing Diamonds allow for social distancing community gathering.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, confirmed more than 1,000 cases over the weekend Monday afternoon. File photo
COVID-19: Central zone active cases up Monday

‘We’ve now crossed the tipping point,’ says Hinshaw

Royal Alexandra Hospital front-line workers walk a picket line after walking off the job in a wildcat strike in Edmonton, on Monday, October 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta labour board orders health-care staff who walked off the job to go back to work

Finance Minister Travis Toews said in a news release that he was pleased with the labour board’s decision

A raccoon paid a visit to a Toronto Tim Hortons on Oct. 22, 2020. (shecallsmedrew/Twitter)
Who are you calling a trash panda? Raccoon takes a shift at Toronto Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons said animal control was called as soon they saw the surprise visitor

Sharon Hickin, general manager of the Days Inn Sylvan Lake and the new Lake House Diner, poses for a photo outside the new restaurant. Photo by Megan Roth/Sylvan Lake News
Pandemic puts extra hurdles in place for new Sylvan Lake businesses

Over the past seven months numerous new businesses have opened in Sylvan Lake, despite the pandemic

Rachel Notley, leader of Alberta’s official Opposition, speaks in Edmonton on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019. Notley says the government needs to sharply ramp up the number of contact tracers if it wants to get a handle on the rising number of COVID-19 cases. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta Opposition calls for more COVID-19 contact tracers as case numbers rise

Alberta has about 800 tracers, and chief medical health officer Dr. Hinshaw says more are being recruited

Royal Alexandra Hospital front-line workers walk a picket line after walking off the job in a wildcat strike in Edmonton, on Monday, October 26, 2020. Hospital and health-care workers who staged a one-day illegal walkout returned to work Tuesday while politicians swapped recriminations and accusations in the house over the dispute. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta health staff return to work, surgeries resume after one-day walkout

AHS estimated 157 non-emergency surgeries, most of them in Edmonton, had to be postponed as a result of the walkout

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes his way to provide an update on the COVID pandemic in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. Canada has reached a grim milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic, surpassing 10,000 novel coronavirus deaths. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Alberta COVID deaths pushes Canada past milestone of 10,000 deaths

Canada crossed the threshold of 5,000 deaths on May 12, a little over two months after the first was reported

Cases in Ponoka (East Ponoka County) as of Oct. 27. (alberta.ca)
Diagnosed cases of COVID-19 at three Ponoka businesses

Town ‘strongly encouraging’ residents to wear non-medical masks in public

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau says pandemic ‘really sucks,’ and that Christmas gatherings are up in the air

The prime minister encouraged residents to continue to follow the advice of local health authorities

The Williams Lake Indian Band is stipulating no-go zones for mushroom picking in areas burned by last summer’s wildfires. 100 Mile Free Press photo
Who controls mushroom harvesting on Indigenous lands?

‘We don’t necessarily know where the mushrooms grow, how old the stands need to be, those types of things.’

Most Read