Creating the Perfect Home Office (No Actual Office Required!)
Remember last March, when we all thought we’d be working from home for two weeks? Welp, here we are a year later. Looks like Working From Home (or WFH, for those in the know) is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. So, why not make the best of it by designing the home office of your dreams? But how do you decorate a home office (or a home office space, if your office is your laptop on your couch) that makes you feel happy, productive and professional?
First, let’s talk about where you do your most inspired work at home. Is it your living room? Your balcony? Your kitchen counter? Everybody is different. Here are a few spaces we’ve utilized for #workflow:
- A favorite chair or nook
- A shared space (in a guestroom, kids’ playroom, bedroom, etc.)
- The dining table or kitchen area
- The bed! Let's be real, despite warnings that working from your bed can increase stress levels, we loooove a good latte-and-laptop-in-bed moment.
- An actual designated work room or home office
- An outdoor spot (when the weather’s right!)
Wherever you are bringing forth your genius, here are some home office design guidelines we swear by:
Professional Meets Personal
This is your home office, which means your space can have as much of a personality or casual vibe as you want (read: you don’t have to be formal or stuffy for your Zoom meetings!). Think of your home office as an extension of the clothes you wear—it’s all about whatever makes you happy. At H&B, we love to be organized in our work space, but we believe the most important thing is incorporating personal items that bring us joy. For example you can keep your professional reference books on your shelf, but go ahead and add your beloved, worn fiction books, too (you can also get some from an online used book store like thriftbooks). Using vintage pottery to house pens, pencils and scissors in your work space is another good way to blend the personal with the professional—bonus points if it’s something you got from your travels, or something that has special meaning. We also love throwing a few candles on the desk or coffee table to bring in good vibes and create an instant cozy moment (sometimes you need a little extra comfort on a Monday morning!). You can also create a gallery wall of family photos, although these are best used on a “non-Zoom” wall, because you want a background that is inviting but non-distracting for video calls (more on that later).
Texture & Natural Elements
Natural elements, such as a plant, basket or piece of driftwood, all bring a sense of earthy warmth to a space, and can be affordable ways to enhance the look and feel of a room. Some items in one of our offices include: wood frames, varieties of succulents, old Asian reed brushes, seagrass baskets, and a dead cactus (painted gold!). We also love to feature large fluffy feathers and big plants (like a Fiddle Leaf Fig tree) for a “wow” moment. And we can’t rave enough about putting wool on your wall: our artisan partners in the Carpathian Mountains weave all-natural wall hangings that add instant warmth to a space. It’s like wrapping your whole room up in a blanket (and it’s good for acoustics, too). Just one or two pieces with texture or natural elements can completely transform a space.
Patterns & Color
Patterns can be thoughtfully combined to add personality without overpowering your office space. Color combination is key here. “But what’s the right amount of pattern or color?” you may be asking. Well, it’s whatever amount feels right to you! Remember our mantra: whatever makes you happy! Designers typically use like-minded color palettes, where one piece of art has a more dominant, notable pattern than the other. If the color combination is the same, then it’s typically a good idea to have artworks be of a similar size, so that they essentially function as a single work of art. If you’re going for a color pop, try using yellows, pinks and oranges for warmth, or blues, greens and purples for a more zen touch. Gold, silver and rose-gold add luxury to a space, but we recommend you use these sparingly, or else you may end up with a “Versailles” vibe (although, if that’s what you’re going for, full speed ahead, mon chéri!). If focus and calm are your goals—as they are for many of us right now—using similar colors in your art and trinkets/treasures can create a harmonious, soothing space, because it’ll allow your eye to experience the room as a cohesive idea, as opposed to jumping from object to object and getting overstimulated with visual information.
What’s a home office without some lovely art?! We obviously love using our own H&B blankets or framed art as backdrops, but art can be anything from posters to sculptures to drawings made by your little ones. If you have abstract pieces, know that larger patterns create a more dominant focal point. When using a substantial piece with a dramatic pattern, it’s wise to plan all surrounding accessories around it, so that the art shines. And, if you're like us and find yourself cozying up in your bed to get some work done, don’t rule out the option of rocking art as a headboard. An artistic headboard is chic, unexpected, and if you happen to be taking calls from bed, still looks professional. It’s worth noting by the way, that art doesn't have to be hung on the wall! Not everyone wants to hang stuff (especially if you’re a renter and don't want to mark up your walls). You can easily place art on a buffet stand or table. We are currently obsessed with using rugs or table runners on top of surfaces as a base, next to a textured element such as a plant or basket.
Doing It for the Gram (or Zoom)
A lot of us are spending a good deal of our work time on video calls or in Zoom meetings. When a wall is blank, the starkness can be magnified for the person on the other end, and this can even psychologically affect the flow of a meeting, especially in the beginning of a call, when people are looking for ways to break the ice! A piece of art or a thoughtfully planned shelf display gives a viewer a warm focal point, so that they feel invited into your space. It actually influences the viewer’s mentality, making them feel more included in the conversation, rather than accentuating the fact that you’re both far apart on a cold video call! And by the way, what’s actually in the room is irrelevant (we see you, pile of dirty laundry!); it’s what the viewer on the other side of the screen sees that's important. Placing a key item of interest or two on a wall behind you, or on an adjacent wall (depending on how your screen is situated) is what will make the space feel interesting to the person looking at you. For most professional settings, we always say, books, books, books! An organized bookcase or shelf of books adds instant smarty-pants energy and visual interest. Your Zoom setup is also a great opportunity for all that art we’ve been talking about. Art on a shelf can be “chef’s kiss” for a Zoom meeting, because someone will inevitably ask, “Oh, what’s that art on your wall?” Instant conversation starter. And we’re obsessed with a well-designed shelf (we love taking “shelfies”!). A beautiful shelf makes a space feel designed and you can easily swap out items when the mood strikes you. We like to change up our shelves every season; and if stay-at-home boredom hits, you can do so more often!
So, now that you have your walls and decor in order, what about your actual furniture? For us, comfort is just as important as aesthetics. Make sure that where you work is comfortable and encourages you to stay in one place for an extended period of time. We are all about lumbar support, be it from your couch, bed or chair; and you’ll want your laptop or computer to be on a level surface. If you have a laptop, you may be moving from desk to kitchen table (closer to the fridge for work snacks nom nom). Embrace the changing spaces, but remember the goal is for wherever you're working to feel optimal—both to you and to whoever is viewing your space on the other side of the digital divide. And it’s okay to have work items on your furniture, such as a stack of books or a binder. The trick is making it setting-appropriate (i.e. a vase full of fresh flowers looks great anywhere, but a bowl of lemons might be best on a kitchen table setup). And if you’re looking to spice up your furniture game, nothing dresses up a couch like a patterned runner or some throw pillows—this is where we especially love a pop of texture or color.
Lights, Camera, Work!
Lighting is super important in a WFH setup. If you’re doing Zoom calls, we rely on ring lights to make us look like poreless, professional beings. At the very least, choose lamps that give bright white or bright daylight equivalent effects, as they’ll help keep you alert during the day. And if you’re working outside (you lucky duck!), the key is to have lighting that allows you to see what's on your screen, and allows the viewer to see you! Shade is often best for calls, as opposed to direct sun. Speaking of outside, don’t be afraid to bring the inside outside! We incorporate plants, baskets, pillows, rugs, etc. to create an outdoor live-work scenario that feels warm and inviting.
Whatever your WFH location or style, the only thing you need to remember is to embrace what feels right to you. Everything about the past year has been unexpected, so go ahead and allow yourself to experiment with unexpected elements that make a place inspiring to you. You may be working, but that doesn’t mean you don’t get to have fun along the way!
Need a hand designing the home office space of your dreams? We do interior design! H&B is currently offering FREE fifteen-minute design consults. You can book your time here, or reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to chat about creating a space you adore.