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25 Home Office Design Secrets the Experts Want You to Know


Whether you work at home or just need an office setup so you can tackle projects outside of the workplace, creating a productive and well-appointed place to work in your home can be a challenging prospect. Yet even if you’re not exceptionally skilled at home design or organization, an amazing home office is still within your reach. There are plenty of experts who are willing to share their expertise on home office design, offering you inspiration and guidance that can help you pull together a killer home office setup, even if you’ve never done it before. Here we share just a few of the design secrets that interior decorators and professional organizers use when they create office spaces, many of which are easy and inexpensive to emulate in your own home.

  1. Organization, both in the short and long term, is essential.

    Heather Perrillat and Brooke Butin of Heather Brookes Interior Organization offer this tip for office design. The duo believe that without organization, any office design will suffer. They advise creating storage solutions that not only store items you don’t use regularly but that also manage day-to-day clutter. If that seems overwhelming, start small, focus on problem areas, and create routines that make it easy for you to keep things neat and clean.

  2. Spend more up front to save more later.

    Paul Jelly, head of marketing for Morgan Lovell (an interior design refurbishment company), acknowledges that office furniture and equipment can be pricey but thinks it’s worth it. Cheap and poorly designed offices can waste time, cause frustration, and hinder tasks, which can cost you a lot more in the long run, especially if your primary workspace is at home. He believes that an office should make you excited about being in it, even if you do have to shell out more up front to get that feeling.

  3. Ergonomics are important when furniture shopping.

    Kelly also stresses the importance of ergonomics in office furniture. Spending more on comfortable office furniture that will support you can keep you from dealing with repetitive stress injuries and is always a good investment. He says, “Don’t skimp on furniture. A cheap chair can cause back pain, contributing to complaints and absenteeism. Invest in a good movable monitor arm to put the screen at eye level to reduce neck pain.” Even if you’re working at home, these things still count, especially if you sit at your desk for the better part of the day.

  4. Maximize light and space.

    It doesn’t matter where you’re working or what you’re doing, this design tip holds firm. According to Eric Rudic, creative director at corporate interior design firm MKDA, American workers spend 90% of their working hours indoors. He says this lack of natural light can have a negative impact on mood and productivity, so maximizing exposure is a must. He also says that space is also a major concern, and your office should give you room to move around freely without bumping into things. If it doesn’t, you may want to give it a serious redesign to make the most of whatever space you have available to use.

  5. Design for maximum storage.

    Isabelle Glinka, principal of LUX Design, says, “When it comes to small offices, it is even more important to make sure that everything works together.” One key element of this is storage solutions. Storage shouldn’t be an afterthought, so before you design an office, take stock of what you have that requires a storage solution, leaving room for growth. Then, buy things that fit the space and your needs.

  6. Make your space your own.

    Creating a productive home office isn’t just about getting the right furniture, however. Interior designer Lisa Albers advises making the space personal and comfortable, too. She says, “with just a little effort, we could make changes that would inspire us to spend 10 hour days in that little home office.” She suggests adding wall art, displaying meaningful collections, using unique furniture, adding color, and getting creative with lighting as just a few ways you can add more of “you” to your space.

  7. Know how you’ll use the space.

    Before you ever do any kind of office design, it’s key to figure out how you’ll be using the space. Designer Jenn Brouwer advises doing this as a first step, beginning by figuring out what equipment you’ll need and what business activities will take place in the space. From there, you can figure out the best arrangement, what to buy, and how to set up storage.

  8. Establish activity centers.

    A great piece of advice on home office design comes from professional organizer Vicki Norris. She suggests setting up various activity centers in your office. For instance, you could have a space for working on your computer, checking reference materials, getting office supplies, and even taking a break.

  9. Organize things in your office by how much they’re used.

    Norris also offers a bit of advice for organizing the stuff you have in your office. She believes it makes it a whole lot easier to work in a space when things are arranged by how often they’re used. If you use your printer every day, then place it within easy reach. If you use it once a week or less, then get it out of the way to make room for other things that are used on a daily basis. It might sound like a no-brainer, but office spaces often get designed in ways that prioritize aesthetics over usefulness.

  10. Minimize distractions.

    While there are distractions nearly everywhere, home offices are especially susceptible to them, as the TV, couch, and other fun activities are mere steps away. Experts stress that its especially important to create an office space where these distractions will be minimized. Move TVs to another room, devise a way to shut off your office from other parts of the house, invest in headphones, and locate your office away from things that might distract you.

  11. Minimize paper.

    Jordan Reid, founder of Ramshackle Glam, offers this bit of advice for office design: minimize paper. Instead of dedicating valuable space to files and folders, invest in a scanner and store those documents digitally. She does caution, however, that this method requires a serious backup in case something happens to your computer.

  12. Invest in trays.

    It might be tempting to just stack papers on your desk, but blogger Abby Griffin advises against it. Trays, she says, not only help to keep things more organized but can add more style to a room and make everything look more pulled together.

  13. Get wheeled furniture.

    One of Oprah’s favorite organization gurus, Peter Walsh, knows a thing or two about creating a well-designed office. One of his tips for creating a functional space is to invest in office furniture that has wheels. That way, items can be wheeled out when you need them, and put away when you don’t. It also offers your workspace lots of flexibility.

  14. Get creative with your space.

    While store-bought office solutions can be great, Walsh also encourages creativity in designing a home office. Using your space in innovative ways can give you more room and help you stay organized at the same time. For instance, he suggests storing files on the back of a door or re-purposing items you already have to store office essentials.

  15. Make your office an empowering place.

    Author and Feng Shui expert Sheree Diamond has advice to offer that is useful even if you don’t adhere to this traditional Chinese method of decorating. She states that your office should exude a feeling of success and should support your career goals. To do that, she advocates using artwork that’s inspirational, displaying items that highlight your achievements, and creating a space that’s highly motivational. This design tip will make your office a more pleasant place to be and, in turn, help you get more out of your work day.

  16. Shelving is a must-have.

    Kevin Sharkey, a designer for Martha Stewart, says that shelving is a must-have in any well-designed office space. Shelves should hold items that are used somewhat frequently or that need to be within arm’s reach to do your work.

  17. Buy furniture you’d use elsewhere in your home.

    Designer Stephen Nelson thinks that office furniture should flow with the style and sensibility of the rest of your home. He advises those who are decorating a home office to buy a desk or other items that will not only work in the office space but could later be transferred into another room if you decide to make a change.

  18. Have a plan in mind.

    Home office organization is no joke and according to the experts, it should be central to any home office design plan. The professionals at California Closets advise doing a fair amount of planning before investing in anything for your office. Taking into account your needs and the space you have to work with, an office design should be planned, revised, and mapped in the room prior to bringing anything in to be sure everything will be fully functional for the way you work.

  19. Use dual-purpose items.

    If your office space is limited, one savvy way to make the most of the space is by investing in items that can do double duty. Desks can be storage solutions and tables, and some high tech options even incorporate treadmills so you can work out while you work.

  20. Be smart when sharing space.

    Whether you have to share your home office with someone else in your household or the room you use for your office has to double as guest room, sharing space can get tricky. For rooms that have to do double duty, designers like Lynda Gould advise choosing color patterns that are neutral and carry throughout the room while also choosing furniture that can be moved or put to dual purposes. When it comes to sharing office space, experts advise maintaining a space, however small, that’s just for you.

  21. Avoid making things too casual.

    While you want your home office to be comfortable, you don’t want it to feel so casual that you don’t get much done in it. Jo Heinz, president of Dallas interior architecture and design firm Staffelbach, advises creating a separation between your office and the rest of your home, both in space and in the type of furniture you choose. You can stick to the same style, but choose furniture that won’t inspire you to kick back and relax when you should really be working.

  22. Keep out other rooms.

    Along those same lines, do your best to make sure that your living room, kitchen, or bedroom doesn’t take over your workspace. If there isn’t a door to your office, construct some kind of divider that blocks out distractions. Even more important, don’t bring items from other rooms into your workspace. That big screen TV belongs in your living room, not in your office.

  23. Keep cords organized.

    The best design in the world can be undone by a tangle of computer cords that make it hard to do your work and create a feeling of chaos in your space. Designer Heinz believes that this should be a priority when setting up an office, and she lists failing to consider it as one of the five big mistakes people make in their home office designs.

  24. Pay attention to color.

    Whether red makes you feel angry or energized, it’s hard to argue that colors don’t elicit emotional and physical reactions from us when we’re around them for an extended period of time. That’s why it’s essential to choose a color that works for you for the walls in your home office. Some of the best colors for offices are greens, neutrals, and purple, though individual reactions to colors do differ.

  25. Consider the environment.

    These days, sustainability is a fundamental concept in nearly all aspects of design, home offices included. When designing your office, look to the long term. Avoid buying furniture that won’t last and will just end up in a landfill. Choose materials that are sustainably harvested or recyclable. You’ll not only feel better about making such eco-conscious choices, you’ll also get an office space that will last longer and waste less.

September 27th, 2012 written by Staff Writers

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