Home offices are here to stay: How to create a space you enjoy
Having a dedicated home office space has become essential for many in recent years. And since remote workers have become the new norm, they need to plan for a place to be productive in at home. Here are some tips from the pros who know how to get the job done — from a fashionable and functional perspective.
Finding the right spot is a great place to start, says Amy Miller Weinstein, interior designer and owner of AMW Design Studio in Birmingham, who does not recommend the basement unless you have a walkout with windows. “The top of the house is light and bright and you can create a workspace with a view,” she says. “This will enhance your work experience and allow you to daydream and check the weather.”
Weinstein also likes to stay away from bedrooms or places your family gathers for meals. “Unless you live alone, try not to mix your main workspace with other activities,” she says.
The layout makes the space. “There is nothing better than a floor plan; it’s like a roadmap. You have to know which way the desk will face and how it’s going to flow,” says Weinstein who adds you should not have your back to the doorway. “Heads rotate. Just because your chair is not facing the window, your head can still turn 45 degrees and look outside.”
Knowing what you want beforehand should determine the end result. “You really have to understand how you like to work and what your needs are when creating a workspace in order for it to be functional,” she says.
Some people prefer traditional desks, while others want L-shaped varieties. Weinstein likes a big surface for work whenever possible like an old school library table that lets you spread out. Built-in partners desks can be a great solution for a shared workspace.
Cabinets can stash equipment like shredders. Cord managers can hide wires when your desk is in the middle of the room. “Or, maybe your monitor lives behind you and your chair swivels,” she says. “Think of your chair as your little rolling cart that gets you to the printer.”
Excess bookshelves can become junk collectors for some, says Weinstein who likes to combine closed storage to conceal clutter with a few wall shelves for display. “You can style them to tell your story,” she says.
Trays can help corral magazines and other materials. “There is less paper in the world than there used to be,” says Weinstein who relies on binders for client projects and more.
When asked what no home office should be without, she says a window. As for current trends, workstations near the kitchen and mudroom have become popular command centers for the household. Homework rooms that can be shared with a parent are also on the rise.
Decorating a workspace is a matter of personal taste and anyone on a budget can use what they have. “It’s very doable. You just have to really think it through.”
The same goes for the overall aesthetic. “Are you a minimalist or do you want a funky look?” says Weinstein. “It can be anything you like that helps you define it and put it together.”
Take it outside
Outdoor workspaces can be another consideration. This concept recently became the first Outdoor Trend of the Year from Cabot, a premium exterior wood care brand. Brand manager, Jose Gonzalez says they offer a versatile solution for people in need of a designated space for working from home, crafting, doing homework and more. The unique environments also provide a quiet separate location to enjoy fresh air and nature.
Wood stain can refresh existing pieces for an outdoor workspace, such as picnic tables, workbenches, bistro tables and chairs and potting stations. Accents that can be stained include planters, cedar deck chairs, pencil holders, and boxes to serve as laptop platforms.
Pewter Gray from Cabot can be a great fit for these projects. Other shades Gonzalez recommends for outdoor workspaces include black, white, blue and brown.
As part of the Work From Home (WFH) Style Squad at Staples, California-based interior designer, builder and founder of Built Custom Homes, Jasmine Roth provides inspiration. “With so many of us working from home in some capacity, it’s more important than ever to create a workspace that inspires you,” she says.
“The ideal space in your home should be free from distractions so you can focus on work,” adds Roth. “If you have the space, try to dedicate an area just for work to separate your work life from your personal and family life and create a healthy work-life balance.”
Space-saving solutions can maximize your home office, like a wall-mounted cabinet that opens to reveal a desk with storage. “So many of us are using bedrooms or garage space for our offices, so these multifunctional spaces are key,” she says.
Where you position your desk can help to inspire and motivate you. Roth suggests pulling it away from the wall so you’re facing into the room. And don't forget the small stuff like a pencil cup, a paperclip dish and a tabletop plant. “I love grouping things in sets of three,” she says.
A mix of vintage and modern elements can make a home office feel warm, lived-in and personal. You might pair a sleek Parsons desk and a velvet task chair with gold accents like an industrial table lamp and a linen pencil cup for a classic touch.
“Your home office is an extension of your personality and should be a place you look forward to spending time in,” says Roth. “To really make the space yours and help you enjoy being in your office every day, try adding some of your favorite family photos.” The little things make all the difference, like a vintage wall clock or a distinctive chair.
Roth believes no home office should be without a chair that feels as good as it looks, such as the Union & Scale MidMod Fabric Manager Chair from Staples. “It’s so stylish with the cream fabric and gold legs, but more importantly, it’s comfortable too,” she says.
For Zoom calls, Roth says you can make your background professional yet infused with your character by adding a nice print, clock or tall bookcase. You can also enhance the natural light in the room with a floor lamp or a ring light to get the right look.
Lastly, Roth says she can’t live without plants (real or fake). “I have faux plants in my workspace that create texture and balance for a welcoming green environment,” she says. “Spring is the perfect time to add some green to your office.”
Jeanine Matlow writes the Smart Solutions column in Homestyle. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.