An Interior Designer Explains How To Create A Home Office With Any Kind Of Space

The way we look at the grind of the average workweek has significantly changed over the last few years. For some people, gone are the lengthy traffic-filled commutes and working away in stuffy offices with benign water cooler chatter. These days, this routine might be replaced with a short stroll down the hall before settling into your home office. This is the new normal for the American workforce. In fact, between 2019 and 2021, the number of people working remotely skyrocketed from 9 million to more than 27 million, according to the United States Census Bureau.

That's why it's more important than ever to dedicate a functional and comfortable area of your house to a home office. This space can signify different things to different people depending on the size of their residence. For those living in a tiny apartment, this could mean your work is done primarily at a small table or on the couch. Conversely, some folks may have a larger abode and are able to have an entire room dedicated to work. In an exclusive interview with House Digest, Dawn Cook, an interior designer and co-owner of BLDC Design, shared with us some expert advice on how to successfully create the perfect home office regardless of the amount of available space.

Update your technology

When first setting up a home office, it's crucial to level up your workspace and think about the tools required to get the job done, such as a laptop, dual monitors (if necessary), a sizable desk, and an ergonomic chair. "When you work from the luxury of your home, it is vital to upgrade technology," Cook explains, "There are loads of innovative tech products that can help you get stuff done without cluttering your desk." 

That means it might be time to ditch that bulky, dusty desktop computer and replace it with a sleeker and more updated laptop. Plus, keeping your work area free of clutter will not only make it look clean and organized, but also helps to reduce stress and increase productivity, according to Harvard Business Review. Making some minor technology upgrades can provide more space, which is ideal for those working in tight quarters.

Of course, working from home also directly impacts anyone else you live with, making it oh-so-important to purchase tech products that won't cause ongoing disturbances. "One recommendation would be investing in AirPods, as most work meetings are confidential," Cook says. "Although you're in your home office, you may not be in a private location; this is especially important if you have family or roommates."

Bring in good lighting

Soft lighting helps cozy up a living room and bedroom, but when it comes to your home office, illumination is key to keeping you in work mode. "When it comes to lighting, in general, it's best to have natural light," Cook explains. "Solar shades, simple blinds, or a standing screen will do an excellent job of diffusing sunlight through a window to accommodate the varying brightness levels during the day." Utilizing natural light can also give a boost to your mental health and is much better for your eyes. Conversely, working in dim light or under the glow of flickering fluorescent bulbs will likely put additional strain on your eyes and even induce headaches or migraines, according to Lumens.

To achieve optimal lighting during the workday, Cook suggests the following: "You can position your workstation facing north or south, so the sunlight doesn't give a shadow at any point in the day," she says. Additionally, moving your desk or work area near a large window helps increase your chances of soaking up those helpful rays of sunshine. Moreover, switching to LED light bulbs will eliminate the flicker of other artificial lights and use up less energy. "If you need better natural lighting in your space, you can always invest in a reasonable ring light, especially for Zoom meetings," Cook notes. Indeed, this is an effective and affordable way of bringing more luminescence into your home office.

Make sure your space presents well on Zoom

Even though plenty of people work remotely, by no means does it get them out of attending important work meetings. Video conferencing platforms, like Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Skype, are essential to keeping everyone connected and on the same page. Because you'll likely need to turn on your camera for meetings, make sure your workspace looks professional and presentable, as it will be on full display to co-workers and management. "Make sure you have a nice, clean, and not distracting background," Cook says. "Be aware if you are on Zoom what is going on behind you because you would want a pleasing view to present your best."

This means removing any clutter from behind, including messes left on tables or blankets strewn across a chair or couch. While not essential, having a tastefully painted wall as a backdrop in light soothing blue tones can create a relaxing atmosphere and also help light to bounce about the room. Similarly, artwork or plants are always pleasant to the eye and won't be a distraction. However, you may not want any personal or family photos in full view or controversial art pieces that may offend colleagues. Instead, walls with a simple design or pale paint tones are definitely more appropriate.

Organize your space well

Organizing a workspace is key to productivity, cleanliness, and a positive outlook on your daily work routine. Of course, there are countless options to make your home office orderly and tidy. "Investing in a portable filing cabinet is essential for keeping sensitive documents and the hard copies you need," Cook suggests. Especially for people who have a big list of clients or different projects on the go, you want to make certain everything has a place. "Once you have your filing cabinet, fill it," she said. "Create a system to organize your files — whatever works for you. Label every file and put it properly in the filing cabinet so you won't have to hunt for it when needed."

In that vein, there's nothing more frustrating and time-wasting than searching for something in a cluttered office space. Luckily, no matter whether you work out of a tiny living room office or a sprawling home headquarters, there are plenty of handy storage ideas to keep everything neat and tidy. Who knows? All it may take is some simple shelving to save files and notebooks from piling up on the floor. Additionally, designer baskets are ideal for housing extra pens, labels, and additional devices from taking up too much room on your office desk.

Add some personality

Unlike traditional offices that may have stipulations on how to decorate or design workspaces, your home office doesn't have to feel plain or impersonal. Indeed, working remotely gives you the freedom to design the area just the way you like it. "Office spaces risk becoming bland, so adding personality boosts morale, increases productivity, and creates visual interest," Cook says. "Try different paint colors, indoor plants, photos, art, and fun wall coverings you enjoy and that inspire you to be productive and bring your home office space to life."

Plus, when you introduce your own sense of style and personality into a home office, it can be a major mood booster. Case in point: Starting the workday with a positive mindset is often attributed to surrounding yourself with the colors and items you associate with well-being and happiness. On top of that, these items can also help you to have a brighter job outlook and increase morale, according to Forbes. Remembering not to over-clutter your workspace, make it a habit to change up designs and styles to keep everything looking fresh.