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 a time when you imagined that work stopped when you left work? You thought to yourself that when you left the office/restaurant/or whatever workplace that work would simply stop. Of course, now we know better, when you leave your place of work, work doesn’t magically stop. With today’s constantly-connected lifestyle you can work virtually ANYWHERE! But we also know that isn’t true either. Sure you “can” work anywhere, but it’s a lot easier to work in a place where you’ve set yourself up for success instead of perched on the end of your sofa or huddled in your guest room or distracted by your Netflix queue.
Home offices are less luxuries and more necessities—and unlike a formal workspace—can be set up to your exact necessities. So we asked our designers to weigh in on how to set up the perfect space.
Design:; Photo: Julia Robbs.
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. But as anyone in NYC knows, there’s not always space to spare.
But don’t let that stop you. A multi-purpose desk in a bedroom, a roomy kitchen table, or even a converted closet can give you enough space to get things done. The key is allowing the design scheme of the rest of your home to flow into your workspace. We love how Tali Roth incorporated an office behind the living area of this stylish loft.
In addition to space considerations, consider your personal work style. Are you the type needs to work in complete silence or do you adore distractions (hi family!)? It’s a matter of personal preference. Homepolish’s Rosanna Lee puts 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.”
With that in mind, 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, of course, preferred 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…
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 designertells 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.
Design:; Photo: Sean Litchfield
Design:; Photo: Chad Mellon
Building the right team
You want to start by hiring the perfect “employees.” When it comes to desks, our designers veer toward larger work surfaces, and recommend choosing the roomiest piece that fits in your space. 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.”
Then, choose a chair that is (and this is essential) COMFORTABLE. You may find a gorgeous Mid-Century Modern antique piece, but think about what it will feel like to sit in it for four hours or more. Support and comfort should override aesthetics. If you can find one that combines function and form, all the better.
Aas Homepolish’s Christine Lin recommends keeping in mind ergonomics, like “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.”
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. But the main qualifier is you—if you like working in it, it works for you.
Turn on those lights
As we explained in our guide to lighting, multiple sources of lighting are important. You’ll want to make sure there’s a mix of task and overhead (aka ambient) lighting, preferably set on a dimmer. One benefits of working from home is you don’t have to fight your coworkers to decide the level of light, saving you eye strain and 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 an 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
Now’s the hard part—you’ll want to keep this space as organized and clutter-free as possible. Storage solutions are a must and should be tailored to your specific needs. Some might need plastic, clear bins so you can easily see the contents inside (which you can then 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. To keep things looking unified, opt for a simple color scheme that blends in with your decor. 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.
Design:; Photo: Nick Glimenakis
Design:; Photo: Amy Bartlam
Let’s get personal
If work can ever be fun, than picking accessories for your office is the fun part. 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.
Designer Cristina Lin 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.
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Opening image—Design: Gianna Marzella; Photo: Seth Caplan