Whether your home office is designated space for running a business, the occasional telecommute, or simply a nook for paying bills and organizing your schedule, you deserve more than a metal desk and extra chair stuffed into a spare corner. Why? An office that reflects the design and comfort of the rest of your home is a place you’ll want to burn the midnight oil. Here are 10 tips for creating a charming, practical work space.
1. Location, location, location. You’ll likely spend many hours in your home office, so don’t stiff yourself on space (e.g. squishing a tiny desk into a windowless closet to preserve the rarely-used guest room). Also consider traffic flow and your ability to withstand distractions. Do you work best in the thick of activity, or should your office be tucked away in a quiet space? If clients will be stopping by, a private space with ample seating is a must.
2. Don’t sacrifice form for function. Your desk, shelves, and storage should serve you, not the other way around. Consider your workflow and what items you need at your fingertips before investing in furniture, and then look for pieces that are both beautiful and functional. Home office furniture should complement other rooms in your house instead of screaming “soulless cubicle.” If your home has traditional décor, warm wood and soft, comfy chairs or a loveseat are ideal if you have the space. A contemporary home office can feature artistic pieces or modern metal furniture.
3. Invest in a great chair. You spend hours parked in your office chair; a beautiful, ergonomically-correct, comfortable seat is worth every dime.
4. Paint the walls a color you love. Forget “office beige”: you need a color that gets your work motor humming. For some people, that’s a bright, cheery color like orange or lime green. Others need a calming shade like botanical green or sea foam blue to perform. Find out more about how certain colors can affect your mood.
5. Give yourself a view. Position the desk where you can stare at something more interesting than a blank wall (even if you do love the color) when you glance up from the computer. A window’s natural light is ideal, but if you’re in a windowless space, hang a pretty picture above the desk, or position your chair to face the door.
6. Choose homey accessories. Unless you’re going for a contemporary look, choose extras that enhance the comfy feeling of your home office, like a pretty mug for a pencil holder, trendy notepads and sticky notes, and a decorative waste basket. Wrap your bulletin board in a gorgeous fabric, and hide utilitarian bookshelves behind curtains made from the same material. Hang inspirational prints on the walls, whether that’s simply your kids’ framed artwork or a classic painting.
7. Organize vertically and horizontally. Many home offices aren’t swimming in square footage, so using space efficiently is imperative. Hang floating shelves on the walls to get papers and office equipment off the desk, and use vertical file folders on the desk to keep important papers within arm’s reach. Are you a stacker or a filer? If you tend to make piles, get a nice basket to tame your mail, notes, and papers. If you prefer a clean desktop, designate one drawer for your “to-do” papers. Wooden or metal cube storage is a fun alternative to bookshelves, since each space can be used for books, knickknacks, or baskets of odds and ends.
8. Master your technology. There’s not much you can do to beautify the computer, printer, and phone, but you can hide unsightly cords. Start by making sure your equipment is close to outlets and easy to access if you need to unplug. Encase cords on the desk in a pretty fabric cord cover like this one from Taylor Gifts, and feed the cords into a desk grommet, a plastic or metal cap that helps guide cords through a hole in the desk and hides them underneath. Tame the cord jungle on the floor with cord winders, tubing, or a wire organizer that’s attached to the desk and lifts the cords off the floor.
9. Let there be light. Here’s a bright idea: make sure your office has plenty of light to cut down on eye strain and headaches. Position the computer monitor so there’s no glare from a window or overhead light, and put a small lamp on the desk for task lighting.
10. Inspire yourself. Set up a mini-shrine — a few cherished knickknacks, a piece of framed art, a special photo on your desk — that motivates you to create and/or get the work done so you can get out of there. A print of Paris can channel your inner muse, or a photo of your children might remind you that you’re doing it all for them.