Working from home – it sounds fantastic until you actually try it. It can be challenging balancing your work life with your home life when the two are sharing the same space. If you are setting up your home office for the first time or what you currently have just isn’t working, you want to design a home office space that makes for a smooth transition from home life to work space and back again. Here are 5 must-have design elements for your home office space to work for you and your lifestyle:
1 - Create Division
It’s great if you can have a dedicated room for your home office so you can shut the door and put your workday behind you, but that isn’t always feasible. If you can’t put your office in a separate room, then create a way to visually ‘put away’ the office. Existing closets can become desk areas with storage above, and freestanding armoires are available that convert to home offices. Other options include folding screens and freestanding bookshelves. You can even mount a curtain divider on a ‘hospital track’ for floor to ceiling separation.
2 - Find Adequate Storage
As a designer working from home, one of my biggest challenges is storage for all of my samples. I keep gathering new samples and spec books and the collection seems to constantly grow, without a way to expand the storage space! To keep things under control at least 3 times a year (put this on your calendar) review, discard, or return samples and supplies.
Keep only what you need close at hand. Can some files you need but seldom use be kept in your attic or basement? Prioritize what you use the most and keep it close to your primary workspace. If you cannot hide everything, then invest in attractive boxes for items that need to be kept in sight. Use a labeler, not only does this lend an air of organization and consistency, it will help you outsource tidying up samples and supplies to an assistant.
3 - Give Yourself a Comfortable Work Space
You most likely spend a lot of time at your desk so take your time with this design element. I personally like to see the door from where I’m sitting so I’ll always place my desk perpendicular to, or facing the door (this is also in alignment with Feng Shui principles).
If your deskwork is laptop-based, your desk does not have to be the traditional 30” deep. I’ve used lovely mid-century secretaries as desks that have the advantage of closing up and becoming fashionable furniture when not being used. You may want to consider making a custom desk. I’ve used hollow core ‘slab’ doors from the lumber yard, along with IKEA legs for an economical ‘custom’ solution.
Have someone working with you? Make it space efficient by putting a long desk top along a wall to work side by side with a filing cabinet between you. Just make sure to allow a minimum of 30” for the desk portion, and an additional 18” minimum between the ‘stations’.
If you need a workspace to spread out, you can always use a dining table temporarily. Here’s an idea I love – a drop leaf panel mounted to the wall can flatten to the wall when out of use. Finally, there is fantastic hardware for creating retractable counter extensions (designed for kitchens, but adaptable to other wall mounted cabinetry). Here’s a link to see an example: http://woodworker.com/fullpres.asp?PARTNUM=937-404&LARGEVIEW=ON
4 - Pick the Right Color for YOU
You want to pick a ‘high productivity’ color for you. While there are numerous studies regarding which colors produce the most effective work environment, it is a very personal choice. For example, you may find that a blue color in your space looks cool but perhaps it’s not stimulating enough for you to function at your highest. I used to have a lovely blue office but when I switched to a citrine wall color, (which some may find too stimulating) I felt like it was a little boost of caffeine when I walked in the door.
Be mindful of color saturation as well, and make sure that you’re picking a color – or version of a color – that will not be too heavy or dark. Your best bet with color selection? Get some oversize color chips and try them out different parts of the wall different at parts of the day, then choose what really feels right.
5 - Select the Best Lighting
As in any other room I suggest a combination of overall, ambient, and task lighting. This may mean one central fixture or recessed lights in the room to provide basic illumination and task lamps on each work area. I actually find that having several sources of light really helps because you can modulate the amount of light based on the time of day and even your mood. Consider a table lamp on your desk as supplemental lighting for a cozy vibe. If you have a flood of daylight in the room, install solar shades — there are lots of inexpensive online retailers now for these.
Make sure you are conscious of your bulb choice in fixtures - the newer LED bulbs are great, but they vary greatly in color and quality. I prefer a 3000k or similar color temperature for all bulbs, otherwise they look too blue. Also, an LED encased in a lens or diffused glass bulb will help soften and diffuse the light, resulting in a look closer to incandescent bulbs. Could you use a little extra guidance in designing your home office space, or any other room in your house? Click here to learn more about my upcoming Design Coach Series where I will coach you through your design project. (This is the best option for people who want an affordable option but don’t want to go it alone.)