In our constantly available, digital world, work sometimes follows us home. Our designers weigh in on how to design the ideal space for a home office.
Remember that feeling of graduating college and entering the work force? You thought to yourself that when you left the office/restaurant/or whatever workplace that work would simply stop. And you said to yourself, “At last, I can have designated times to work and times to be at home and relaxing.” (Then, people silently judged you for talking to yourself.) But then there was this horrible realization that when you leave your place of work, work doesn’t magically stop. With today’s constantly-connected, digital world with cell phones constantly buzzing, pinging, and ringing, work can follow you virtually ANYWHERE! (Isn’t that a wonderful feeling?) You are expected to be available, on-it, and ready to respond 24/7.
Due to this shift in the mentality around work, it has become essential to set aside a dedicated space in the home where work can be done efficiently, if the need should arise. Home offices are not so much luxuries in residences as they are necessities. However, unlike a formal workspace, home offices can be completely customized to your productive preferences and it can be riddled with personal touches. Below, our designers weigh in with their advice for creating the best workspace for your home.
Due to a shift in the mentality around work, it has become essential to set aside a dedicated space in the home where work can be done efficiently.
Where to put the home office
Traditionally, when thinking of home offices, we imagine a separate room or spare bedroom that is converted for work purposes. However, one doesn’t have to have this separate space in order to design a home office. In fact, many of us (aka all of us in New York) don’t have this extra space to spare. As Homepolish’s Cristina Caratzola points out, “Many of us don’t have the luxury of an extra room that we just need to fill up, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a home office! Find a wall, a corner, or combine your office space with another room, such as a guest bedroom or the kitchen. You’d be surprised what you could do with a 3-4 foot wide patch of wall. Allow the design scheme of the rest of your home to flow into your workspace.” This is exactly how designer Stefani Stein incorporated a home office into the kitchen of a Silver Lake redesign.
In addition to space considerations, you have to consider your personal work style. Are you the type that prefers complete silence when you work or do you crave the background noise and distraction of your family members? It’s a matter of personal preference. Homepolish’s Rosanna Lee says it this way: “If your home office is a command center for your household and you don’t mind some noise (or you like watching TV while paying bills), placing it in a central area such as the living or family room might be best. If, however, you need peace and quiet and a bit of separation, then putting the home office in the bedroom might be best.” Considering that, many designers are quick to note the psychological ramifications of having computers, blinking lights, and work in general in the bedroom. Separating the calm of the bedroom from the hectic buzz of work is generally a good idea, if you have the space. The presence of a desk in your bedroom is a constant reminder of what you’re NOT getting done, and it’s not great for getting your REM on.
Homepolish designer Sara Whitehead came up with a unique use of space, suggesting the laundry room. As she says, “It keeps all the ‘business’ together, allowing you to fluff, fold, and fax all in one room.” Now, that’s an idea…
In addition to thinking about space considerations and dimensions when designing a home office, you have to consider your personal work style.
So now you have a space picked out… now what? We asked our designers what they first consider when it comes to home workspaces and the answers are best summarized in two words: functionality and inspiration. Homepolish designer Shannon Tate tells us, “It’s most important to really identify how you’re inspired when you work and then think about the simple things that you need to function best on your day to day. Factor in practicality in terms of storage solutions, work space, and lighting.” Function appears over and over again when we talk about maximizing a space, but inspiration is a nuanced consideration. Unlike any other part of the house, your home office has to be a source of inspo if you are going to stay consistently productive. Without those personal moments of relief, the work will become mundane and tiresome.
Homepolish designer Cristina Caratzola says it slightly differently: “When approaching any project, I think about three things: utility, comfort, and beauty. I rarely make a final decision unless the answer includes all three, and this applies to home offices all the same.” Considerations such as desk placement, chair type and height, style of accessories will all fall under these principles. If you approach each piece of your home office with this three-pronged set of qualities, you’ll be able to better discern what should make the cut.
It’s most important to really identify how you’re inspired when you work and then think about the simple things that you need to function best on your day to day.
The foundational pieces
What, exactly, makes up a home office at the core? First, there is (obviously) the desk. Our designers veered toward larger work surfaces, trying to fit the biggest piece that would make sense in the space. To pair, choose a chair that is (and this is essential) COMFORTABLE. You may find a gorgeous midcentury modern antique piece, but think about what it will feel like to sit in it for 4 hours or more. When it comes to the chair, support and comfort should trump the aesthetic. If you can find one that combines function and form, all the better. Next, storage whether it’s in the form of shelving or cabinets is necessary to keep your work organized and clutter-free. And lastly, lighting is a must. Once you have these foundational parts of the home office, then you can layer in the personal accessories you need to make it “you.”
Desk and chair combos
The choice of the desk and chair is mostly a matter of ergonomics, as Homepolish’s Christine Lin points out. “Ergonomic tips include making sure your wrists are just below your elbows when typing, your elbows fall straight below your shoulders and are at a 90 degree angle, and your feet can rest flat on the floor or on a footrest.” Once you consider your posture and how your desk will affect that, you can start looking into aesthetics.
For desks, again our designers preferred larger surfaces, whether it was wood slab laid atop cabinets (many of these mix-and-match sets can be found at IKEA) or repurposing dining tables as a type of desk. However, the caveat to this was brought up by Sara, saying, “If you must have your desk in the bedroom, consider old school secretary desks, which you can flip up and close in the evenings, shielding your eyes from the distracting lights.”
When it comes to chairs, the favorite (and one we use in Homepolish HQ) was the Herman Miller Aeron chair. But this was hardly the end-all. In fact, our designers put together a whole article on desk chair sources. Some designers got rid of chairs altogether, opting for standing desks such as the ones found at IKEA or Room & Board. It all depends on your work style.
Turn on those lights
Referencing our guide to lighting, Shannon points out that office spaces are a combination of both task lighting and overhead lighting (aka ambient lighting), preferably set on a dimmer. Sara gets a little more technical. “One of the best benefits to a home office is getting to control the lighting, therefore avoiding eye fatigue. If you are working with a computer often, you want the room darker than what you might think. Industry experts say half as bright as typically found in most offices Don’t be afraid to close the blinds or kill the overhead lighting altogether. Ideally, have exterior light come from the side of you.” Lighting (in addition to that desk chair) is one of the most important considerations of creating a space where you can work for long amounts of time.
Hide away the work
When it comes to your office space, remember to keep things organized and clutter free. Storage solutions are a must, but it can often be completely dependent on the room you’re working with. Rosanna says that she prefers to work with plastic, clear bins which allow her to see the contents whether that’s supplies, cords, or papers. When she doesn’t need these items, she simply stores them away in a closet. However, if you don’t have a closet to stash everything away, opt for more decorative elements such a polished boxes, baskets, and bins. Rosanna’s key to making these options neat and cohesive is to keep the storage elements in one unified style and color. Two max.
And don’t forget, hide away those cords! Nothing throws off a desk area than a tangle of unsightly cords. A simple solution is the IKEA under-desk cord rack, which will discreetly stow away those electronic pieces.
Let’s get personal
Accessories are the really fun part when it comes to designing your office space, because they will allow your personal style to shine through. Let’s admit it… this is the step we all want to do first. But be patient! Set up those foundational pieces first, and then decide how much room you actually have for accessories. Don’t go overboard, otherwise you’ll clutter the workspace. Additionally, be smart with your accessory purchases, making sure that they are both functional as well as aesthetically pleasing (or at least, very personal… who can resist a picture of their adorable newborn?). Additionally, art that speaks to you and your personal story will keep you inspired daily. This was a defining element in Instagrammer Patrick Janelle’s apartment.
Cristina also points out the natural beauty of things like books. “I love to use books as décor, especially in the home office. They are not only informative, but beautiful and inspiring. An entire wall lined with interior design reference books in a design firm’s office was one of the most striking things I’ve ever seen. Plus, when you hit a mental block in your work, books provide a constant source of inspiration.” We can’t argue with that.
Accessories are the really fun part when it comes to designing your office space, because they will allow your personal style to shine through. But be sure to set up those foundational pieces first, and then decide how much room you actually have for accessories.
With these tips, coming home to work some extra hours won’t be depressing. In fact, it’ll be downright uplifting. Just hire one of our Homepolish designers to help you make it a reality.