From the January 1999 issue of Startups

SEPARATE COTTAGE

Route 1 narrows as it winds north of San Francisco through the hills. On the ascent to Bolinas, [California,] where views of the Pacific below are breathtaking, the drama increases. No signs exist to point the way; one just has to know how to get [where one is going]. It is in this bucolic outpost that Timothy Maxson has chosen to live and work.

When Maxson began construction on his getaway house in Bolinas, he still ran a catering and special events business in San Francisco. Once he decided to move full time to the country, he transferred his accounts and his event consulting company to his home office.

Set in a field of lavender, black bamboo and olive trees, a charming 154-square-foot cottage up a hill from the main residence houses the office. Budget was key to Maxson's plan--in fact, he executed the entire job using low-priced materials, recycled furniture and paint.

TENT

Although freelance TV director Hannah Hempstead's home base is Los Angeles, she prefers to head to a small town called Hope in the hills of Idaho to the quirky getaway she created for herself there.

Captivated by a magazine article about unusually designed canvas tents, Hempstead thought that some version of such a tent might be the perfect solution for her plot of land. With the help of friends, she built a platform to lift the tent off the ground, then laid an octagonal floor of local stone on top, and constructed a frame out of trunks cut from trees on the property. Noah Kienholz, a friend of Hempstead's who builds sets for TV productions, helped her design and fabricate the canvas tent. With its multiple flaps, zippers and screens, the tent is a cloistered, cozy hideaway. A cedar-shake roof protects the structure.

Got 10 square feet of space under your staircase? A nook or cranny off your living room?

No matter what type of space you have, you can turn almost any area into the home office of your dreams.

BASEMENT

Basements, like attics, are often large, relatively unused spaces. They are quiet and out of the way of household activity, and there is usually an existing stairway and easy access to electrical circuits that can provide the power for your lighting and office equipment.

Although natural light and ventilation may be in short supply in your basement, remodeling can make the area completely livable. Before you begin, you'll need to evaluate your basement for adequate headroom and moisture problems. Careful planning will ensure your basement office stays dry and comfortable throughout the year.

In this typical basement, new walls, window and ceiling created a bright and cheery work space. Notice how ducts were rearranged and hidden behind soffits to increase the headroom.

UNDER-STAIRS ALCOVE

Utilize the area under the staircase as an office for occasional work. Here, a free-standing table is used as a desk, though a built-in desk would work as well. Good artificial lighting is needed to compensate for the lack of natural light.