The humble home office has been transformed from a ‘nice to have’ to a necessity in the last 12 months, and as we settle into the new year, many of us are processing the fact that this might not be a short term thing.
Our expectations around ways of working are shifting, and many of us are realising how much more productive we can be from home.
Online interior design firm, My Bespoke Room reported that in 2020 the number of home offices they designed went up by 70% compared to 2019. They also saw that investment in home offices increased by 45% in the same period as well as a huge number of requests to add in home office zones within other rooms like kitchens and bedrooms.
We interviewed some of their designers for their top tips when designing a home office worthy of the 9 to 5.
Location, location, location
The first step is to find the perfect spot in your home to set up your new office.
We’d recommend positioning your desk in front of a window for three reasons: you get that all important vitamin D, fresh air will keep you alert and you avoid any annoying glare on your screen. Not to mention it’s more flattering for zoom calls!
Privacy is also key. Having a dedicated space to shut out distractions and minimise household noise is ideal for a productive working environment.
However, many of us aren’t fortunate enough to have a room going spare in our homes and so we’re all finding creative solutions to carve out some space. Head of Design Lucy at My Bespoke Room notes: “I love the challenge of designing workspaces that can be incorporated within open plan living spaces. A great solution can be a bespoke desk concealed within a cupboard or pocket door at the end of the day.”
Fellow designer Rosie also adds not to forget transient spaces like in a generously proportioned landing or under the stairs. “Often spaces that are an afterthought tend to be excellent spaces to add a home office when space is limited.”
“Often spaces that are an afterthought tend to be excellent places to add a home office when space is limited.”
A tidy space equals a tidy mind
If you feel physically cramped in your working environment then your creativity and productivity may follow suit.
Take a good hard look at your current setup and jot down a list of what is cluttering your desk. What do you need constant access to, and what can be stored away? Try to make sure everything has a clearly defined place in the room so the clutter doesn’t gradually creep back uninvited.
Home offices tend to be smaller spaces and so look to your walls for storage solutions. “Closed storage is preferable to hide clutter but open shelving can often be more affordable. Use opaque storage boxes (such as rattan) to hide away paperwork and clutter” suggests Claire.
Another common piece of advice amongst the MBR design team was to incorporate storage on wheels into a design: “Using storage that can be easily moved around gives more versatility when a change is needed.” explains Tracey.
Personalise your space
Unlike the traditional grey, uninspiring offices of old, you have an opportunity here to put your personal stamp on your new work space. Like it or not, you’re going to spend a great deal of time there, so surround yourself with colours and personal items that bring you joy and inspire you.
“The work day can be stressful, especially at the moment, so include pieces that make you smile. An office needs to be very functional, but make sure your personality is shown in the design so you can remember who you are when everything is getting a bit much!” says Jess.
“The work day can be stressful, especially at the moment, so include pieces that make you smile. An office needs to be very functional, but make sure your personality is shown in the design.”
Picture ledges are fantastic in smaller spaces like offices. Dress them with books, art, photos and plants for a stylish and affordable zoom background. The wonderful thing about them is that you can continuously refresh them over time without wielding a hammer!
Pinboards can also be a great way to get clutter off your workspace. They allow you to get creative while staying organised - a double win!
Natural greenery is also a must-have for a home office according to the MBR design team. Not only are they easy on the eye but they also have brilliant health benefits too. Plants are proven to improve focus, boost mood, reduce anxiety, all whilst purifying the air - ideal for home working!
Layer your lighting
While natural light is always preferable, short winter days means that investing in artificial lighting is crucial to avoiding a headache at the end of a busy working day.
The success of any lighting scheme (particularly in a home office) is through layering. Combine directional task lighting such as a desk lamp to keep you focussed with softer, ambient lighting in the background through floor and ceiling lights.
Where possible, arrange your lighting on several separate circuits and make them dimmable for a warm, comforting glow - soothing for those inevitable late night deadlines!
Make sure you’re comfortable
It might be tempting to opt for style over function for your new office chair but comfort and ergonomics are crucial. Without a correct set up you'll end the day with all kinds of aches and pains.
Fortunately we’re seeing many new options hitting the market lately that combine both comfort and style so you no longer have to compromise.
If you don't have the money to splash out on a new desk chair right now then don’t panic. Take your current chair and ensure it’s at the right height (your legs should be at just over a right angle, and your arms at a right angle over the desk). You can also get relatively inexpensive cushions designed to support your lower back.