If you’re anything like us, you’ve likely been spending more time at your dining table over the past few months—but chances are your table hasn’t been decked out with dinner plates and wine glasses but covered in laptops, notebooks, and day planners. As many of us made the quick shift from working in an office to working from home this past spring, we’ve had to improvise when it comes to our workspaces, and we’ve quickly learned the benefits (no commute!) and the distractions (kids, pets, dirty dishes) of WFH life.
With major corporations and small businesses alike electing to make at-home work a more permanent reality, it’s time to get serious about your setup. We asked three local interior designers to share their tips, tricks, and ideas for moving your desk out of the kitchen and into a designated space. Spoiler alert: You don’t need a spare bedroom or empty basement to create a stylish and functional home office (although those are solid options if available)—all you need is a little bit of design savvy. “Make it your own, make it inviting, and make it a space you want to spend time in,” says Rachel Stoeckl of CCDG Interiors (435.214.7791).
First things first. There are a few home office must-haves to consider: desks, chairs, lighting, and storage.
“Make sure you have a surface that provides ample space for a computer and additional equipment,” says Stephanie Hunt of Stephanie Hunt Interiors (949.933.7409). The right desk height is also extremely important—Hunt recommends a desk that is 29 to 30 inches high for most people. Another option is an adjustable desk, suggests Jennifer Chipman, senior designer with Alder & Tweed (801.651.3532). “More manufacturers are starting to produce these,” she says, “and they can be used while sitting or standing.”
When shopping for home office pieces, Chipman prioritizes finding a desk chair that is comfortable. “This can really vary from person to person, so take your time to find the right chair for you,” she says. Comfort is key, so consider a dining chair, armchair, or club chair as an alternative to basic office chair designs.
Lighting is an important but often overlooked detail for a home office. “If the space doesn’t have adequate overhead lighting, be sure to include a desk lamp or task light,” says Chipman. Don’t be afraid to get a few options—Stoeckl recommends multiple lamps, both table and floor, to provide more light when you’re working late into the night. As for Hunt, ample task lighting and natural light from a window, when possible, are her preferred forms of home-office illumination.
“Be sure to create storage solutions,” Chipman advises. “Home offices can often become cluttered, which then distracts from the aesthetic design elements in the room. Smart storage is essential, and it can be beautiful as well.” She likes to incorporate a credenza or étagère to store a printer and other electronics that are necessary but eyesores.
When it comes to decorating your space, Hunt’s simple but smart advice is: “Think more home, less office.” She suggests throwing a blanket over the back of your desk chair so it feels cozy and comfortable and infusing the space with some color, whether that’s via an upholstered chair, painted walls, or a powder-coated file cabinet or desk. And don’t forget the art! “Even a framed poster or a family photo will liven up the space,” Hunt says.
Chipman recommends taking advantage of the available wall space. “Offices are often thought of as boring, so this is the perfect opportunity to go bold with a dramatic wall covering or an amazing piece of art,” she says. Case in point: For an office Chipman designed in a local Deer Crest home, the space was located close to the front entry, so she wanted it to be sophisticated and a little bit glamorous. “We selected a dramatic wall covering, a beautiful credenza for storage, a bold pop of emerald for the club chair, and a chandelier with some shine to top it off,” she explains.
Stoeckl likes to add some greenery to inspire the feeling of being outdoors, and Chipman suggests adding chic desk accessories that you will want out in plain view. “Decorative boxes are another great way to accessorize and also stay organized,” she says. “I also always try to include additional seating that is not only comfortable but very stylized so it adds appeal as well as function.”
Small but mighty
For those who lack excess square footage in their home, fret not—Hunt says there are plenty of creative options for smaller spaces that can still provide some peace and quiet. “A great idea for someone without an office or empty room can actually be utilizing a surface in the master bathroom or closet,” she says. “A vanity or makeup table both work great for a laptop and provide the privacy that a kitchen sometimes cannot.” Or, she says, set up a small desk, a chair, and a table lamp in a guest bedroom—you can even swap out a bedside table and add a small desk in its place if space is tight.
Chipman’s go-to solution when clients don’t have a dedicated room for an office is a small dining table and chair set. “We can usually tuck this into a corner of a family room, and it can serve as a multipurpose area that provides an extra dining spot, a family game table, and a workstation,” she says. “Built-in secretary desks are another option—and perfect for rooms where floor space is limited.”
Home office dos and don’ts
Designer Stephanie Hunt shares her quick tips for a better WFH experience:
- DO make sure your desk chair is comfortable and sturdy, and your desk is the right height (typically between 29 and 30 inches).
- DON’T lean over a coffee table: ”It will kill your back!” she says. Have a surface to spread out on, even if it’s your dining table.
- DO get a good desk lamp and work in a space with natural light, if possible.
- DO invest in a pair of earbuds or noise-canceling headphones. “With your favorite playlist,” she says, “they do wonders to block out the world!”