From shopping checklist to decor guidelines, from how to select furniture & how to place it, here’s your COMPLETE guide to home office design.
Home offices are such a great thing to have – they make us efficient and productive, all the while being comfortable. But they weren’t as common in the pre-pandemic era, mostly reserved for startup entrepreneurs, freelancers or young professionals. However, the Covid pandemic changed everything, and now they’re almost as necessary for the working population as a mask.
If you have long work from home hours, creating a good home office is very important. Not only does it help you set a routine and get in the mood for work, it builds up your confidence too. Separating your personal life and work life in a neat, elegant way, it improves your mental health tremendously.
As an architect, I worked on many office projects, and even had my own small desk-setups at home for freelance work. However, I never learned as much about home office design until I became an entrepreneur. I have worked full-time in a home-office for nearly 6 years now. Slowly, I even extended it to allow for other employees of our company and kept evolving it to make everyone productive. In this article, I’ll be sharing all my learnings of creating a good work-space.
So let’s look at how to design your own home office, balancing practicality, aesthetics and productivity.
Home Office Design: The Basic Rules of Design
The mantra behind your home office design should be ‘form follows function’. This means that you should design for functionality first, and let everything follow it. So beautification should be your second thought.
Use a Separate Space
Your home office should be set up in a secluded space in your house, where you can work without distractions. Ideally, you need a room with a window, good lighting, and enough space to keep a desk-chair and a storage unit.
However, if you don’t have a spare room, that’s okay too. Using the following guidelines, you’ll still be able to set up a good work-space even in a tiny corner or a small room.
Design for Productivity
The right home office design should enable you be efficient and help you concentrate. So your desk will be the focal point of the office. Clean walls and no fluff – these should be the starting design elements.
Never Make your Home Office Cozy
Your home office design shouldn’t be too cozy. Ideally, it should be the most uncomfortable place to fall asleep in. You don’t want to spend your whole day and night here, so avoid building a lunch space. No couch or lounge chairs. Keep it minimal and proper. Avoid plump furniture, fuzzy tectures, soft surfaces and cushions.
Choose Ergonomic Furniture
Ergonomic home office design means built for comfort and efficiency. Ergonomic furniture is something that you can work for long hours in without hurting your body parts in the long run. And since every body shape is different, your personal furniture should suit your personal needs.
Your chair should have adjustable height so you can sit up straight without hurting your back or slouching. Your arm-rests should allow you to rest your elbows while working. Your desk should be at a height where you can rest your hands at an angle parallel to the desk, without hurting your wrist.
Furthermore, your laptop should be elevated so you can look straight into it without having to bend your neck constantly. Get a cushioned mousepad to rest your hand, and even a chair cushion so you can sit up straighter. If you’re short, you can also use a foot-stool.
Design for Flexibility
Your home office should allow you to seamlessly work on different tasks depending on your daily needs. This really depends on your profession and work style. For example, if you like working with papers, have a large desk where you can write alongside your laptop, and get a paper organizer or file cabinet. If you have to stare at your screen for long hours, allow for a walking space behind your desk where you can take short breaks.
You may need to have a separate desk for printer, drawing, or conferences, as per your work-requirements.
Other Design Elements
Work with Natural Light or Sufficient Lighting
If your home office space already has natural lighting, we’ll make use of that while planning the furniture placement. Your home office should have proper lighting. Ideally, we prefer ceiling lamps in offices that don’t reflect in the laptop screens. Have sufficient lighting that can enable you to read without straining your eyes. For offices, fluorescent lighting is the best idea, not warm.
Use Lively, not Bright Colors
Yes – color palette is always an important part of home office design as it helps set the mood and even increases efficiency. You definitely don’t need overly lively colors like yellow or orange, but certainly not dull either. The interior color scheme shouldn’t make you feel sad or sleepy. The ideal colors to have in your home office are white, pale blue, cream and accents of earthy tones like brick or olive green.
Go for Simple Textures
While smooth textures contribute to a modern and minimal design, depending on your preference, you can also go for natural textures like brick, real plants, rugs or curtains. Home office doesn’t have to mimic a corporate office – it should be your personal work-space where you feel productive yet relaxed.
Build Storage Space & Organizers
You must have lots of storage space even if you don’t work with papers. It can help you store your regular work-things and keep them organized, like charger, books, files, desk-rag, pens, stapler, eraser, mousepad and what not.
Use drawers to store your everyday things like laptop, charger and papers, etc. so that you can leave your desk clean and uncluttered at the end of the day.
Design a Clutter-Free Space
A clean, minimal space can help you concentrate. So think of where things like cords will go. Is there anything in your office that can make noise or create visual distractions? Think closed storage space instead of open. Get a desk with cable management system.
Create a Brainstorming Space
Clarity in thought process not only makes you more productive but also helps improve mental health. So create focusing elements in your office like an inspiration board, white-board for your tasks, and bulletin board for your deadlines. You can also use a glass, digital display or sticky notes.
How to Select Home Office Furniture
Your desk and chair are the most-important things in home office design. Go for a desk that is at least 2’ deep and 3’ or 4’ long. The standard desk height is 2’-6” however you can get one custom-made for your height. A good desk should have a drawer and ample leg space. If you don’t need it next to a wall, you can get a desk with a front-panel.
It’s a great idea to invest in a solid-wood table if you plan on working from home for many years. If not, even a desk made out of engineered wood could be okay. You can go for a color that matches the built-in furniture/doors of your room.
Obviously, you need an ergonomic chair that can allow you to sit for long hours without hurting your back or legs. A revolving chair with a back-support is idea. And it should have arm-rests. Go for a chair with adjustable height, arm-rests, and back. The arm-rests should be soft. Make sure that the seat fabric and arm-rest material don’t cause you allergies.
Choose a light-weight chair that you can move easily while cleaning the floor, etc. You may also need chairs for visitors, depending on your work.
A drawer unit is a great idea for keeping your office-things organized. Before you know it, you’ll have plenty of things that you’ll want to store in your office for daily or occasional use – like books, glue, printer cartridge, mail, stapler-pins, sticky-notes and what not!
Go for a storage unit with easily cleanable surfaces that you can wipe with a wet cloth.
Depending on your needs, you may need a LCD display, or white board for discussion or displaying your deadlines, work, etc.
Décor & Other Items
Blinds or Curtains
If you have a window, it’s a good idea to get blinds or curtains to keep the sun’s glare out. Go for adjustable blinds or plain, gloss-free curtains.
If you don’t have sufficient lighting in the room, you may plan to invest in a table lamp. However, personally, they strain my eyes, so I prefer good wall or ceiling lighting.
Laptop Stand & Mousepad
As I mentioned earlier, a laptop stand can raise the laptop height to a proper distance where you don’t have to bend your neck to read things. If you use one, you may need a separate keyboard for typing (I use these and they help me greatly).
Similarly, invest in a cushioned mouse-pad to rest your hand.
At work, I use a lot of printed sheets to check and edit my employees’ work and a trash can is constantly needed for throwing used sheets, staple pins and other trash!
If it helps you feel more relaxed, go for small plants or succulents for your desk. You may also use other tiny décor items like paper flowers, etc. I have a whole set of tiny animal toys my dad gifted me, and even my husband’s photo in a frame! Coasters are also a great idea if you like coffee or tea at your desk.
Here are some other items you may need, depending on your work:
- Pen stand
- Punching machine & stapler
- Book-case (go for closed design so they don’t collect dust)
- A surge-protector if you need multiple charging points.
How to Place Furniture in Your Home Office
- As your desk is the focal point, let’s start with it. Place your desk next to a window if possible, so you get natural light while working. It’ll help you set your body’s clock, and also be easy on your eyes.
- Avoid a window or wall-lamps behind your desk, as they’ll reflect in your screen, making it difficult to work.
- Also avoid lighting in front of your desk, as that’ll cause glare. So the window should be on the side of your desk.
- Make sure your desk is placed next to a plug-point, so you can charge your laptop and phone. You may also need an extra one for your printer.
- If you’ll be having visitors, place your desk with some extra space in the front for those discussions.
- Place a side-desk on the side of your main desk if you want extra writing space or printer. You can use the space underneath this side-desk for placing your drawer unit.
- If you have built-in storage space, make sure it’s near the desk for easy access. However, be sure to not block it with your desk and chair placement.
- If your work involves making videos, you can also choose a good background for your desk. Options include a book-case, a plain wall or an accent wall.
Home Office Décor Tips
Now that you know the design basics and how to place your furniture, let’s go over a few last-minute tips to ensure your office looks good.
- It’s best to go for a minimal design so as to make it less distracting. So try to have plain walls and choose simple paint colors.
- If you want to go for a wallpaper, choose a plain one, or one with light texture only. You can also have a printed wallpaper behind your chair so that it makes the office seem lively, but doesn’t distract you either.
- If you have a startup, you can also go for a signage behind your desk or on an accent wall with the name or logo of your company.
- Match the color and shade of all wood in the room to give a well-put-together look. This includes wall panelling, door, window frame, desk and storage cabinets.
- Use your desk or furnishing to create accents. For example, your desk could add a deep tone in contrast to an otherwise white office. Or your curtain, storage unit, or chair fabric could add some color.
- You can also go for small accents to contrast the desk, like a bright-colored trash-can, pen stand or file organizer.
Hope my guide to home office décor was helpful. I’d love to know how they helped you so do write back in the comments below. Or share a pic of your own home office design with me by tagging me on Twitter @shilpa1ahuja.
Shilpa Ahuja is a designer and editor of Decorisk Magazine. She has worked in hotel interiors at The Park Hotels, India, and has completed several home interior design projects as a freelancer.
She completed her Masters in Design Studies (MDesS) degree from Harvard University Graduate School of Design. She also has a Bachelor degree in Architecture (B.Arch) from Chandigarh College of Architecture. Her work has been published in Indian Design & Interior magazine and exhibited at Harvard University and at Aroma Hotel, Chandigarh.
Shilpa is also the Editor-in-Chief of Shilpa Ahuja Digital Media, which includes ShilpaAhuja.com, one of India’s most-read digital fashion magazines. Originally from Chandigarh, she is currently based in Chennai, and can be reached at [email protected]