Working at home can have a lot of perks: the dress code is definitely more relaxed, your commute is only a few steps long and you get to make your own rules. Still, despite these pros, it’s totally common to get caught up in a less-than-ideal workspace when working from home – I’ve heard many stories about cluttered corners of the dining room table serving as a home office. From choosing the right spot to set up shop to smarter lighting to functional home-office furnishings, here are 16 ideas to take your home office from plain to productive.
Brian McCourt is a contractor, design expert and co-host of HGTV Canada’s Backyard Builds.
Choose Your View
Whether you’re working from home every day or it’s a supplement to another work space – if you’re spending significant time in your home office – it’s important to plan out where you’ll work. Ideally, set up your office in a room with a window (if you have a choice, why not give the best view to the room you’ll spend the most time in?). Alternatively, if you don’t have a window, creating a better view could be as simple as moving your desk away from the wall.
Begin With the Basics
If you’re setting up a home office from scratch, the best place to start is with the essentials. No matter how big or small of an area you’re working with, make it look and feel like a dedicated workspace by getting yourself a durable desk, a chair and storage. Here are some stylish home office furniture options for under $300 for inspiration.
Of course, when it comes to your home office, you don’t always have a separate room – but there are ways to make an office space within a space (like your living room or bedroom) feel distinct. Try painting an accent wall to define the office area or configure furniture to create a pseudo wall (this Save My Reno home office used an L-shaped desk to separate it from the living room, for example).
Think Outside Office Supply
Just because it’s an office at home doesn’t mean that you have to stick strictly to “home office” category pieces when outfitting it. A unique dresser can make a great storage option, upcycled wood can find new life as a character-rich desk and a living room easy chair can be the perfect office reading seat.
When creating (or revamping) your home office, it’s important that you design it to be both visually pleasing, but comfortable and ergonomic too. This means adjusting or choosing furniture so that it’s at the right height for you (for example, your feet should rest flat on the floor when you’re seated), keeping commonly used supplies within arm’s reach and ensuring your monitor is the right height so that you’re not slouching all day.
, but it’s especially important in your office. While I’m a fan of work-life balance, there are times when you might be at your desk after hours – so a bright desk lamp can save you from squinting and keep you productive at any hour. Also, good home office lighting can help you look more professional on (now so common) video meetings. For video calls, natural light is always optimal, but in lieu of that, positioning your desk lamp to face you will put you in your best light.
Of course, saying “keep your desk tidy” is easier said than done. To make the tidying process quicker and simpler, set yourself up for success by having dedicated places for all of your desk supplies to go – as we did with sleek hanging containers in this Backyard Builds workspace.
Store It All
For off-the-desk items like books, files and office equipment, storage furniture like cabinets and drawers keep things out of sight, but not out of mind. My tip? Home office storage is a good place to save on your budget by shopping at big-box stores or upcycling older inexpensive pieces.
Make the Most of Vertical Space
It’s a fact that many home offices are short on space – so don’t be afraid to look up. Incorporate tall shelving units and floating shelves into your office design to make the most of the room’s vertical square footage. If your home office area is truly tiny, here are a few more design tips to help.
Add Some Art
You don’t have to be an art collector to reap the benefits of good art in the home – especially in the home office. Whether you go for a big-impact painting over your desk or a curated series of smaller framed photographs and prints, adding art to the office is an easy way to make you feel good when it’s time to get to work. Here are some stylish, cost-effective art ideas for inspiration.
Consider Your Colour Palette
White walls are always airy and light, but they aren’t your only option. Bold brights and deep, saturated hues can add interest and character to your office space. Read these tips for choosing interior paint colours to help spark your imagination.
Bring in Nature
Even if you’ve got a great view, spending a long time working in the office can make you feel disconnected from the natural world – so bring a little bit of the outside into your office space. Adding indoor plants to your home office is a great way to subtly boost your mood and refresh the room. A few good options to start with? Try low-maintenance snake plants or spider plants for pops of green.
It’s hard to be productive when you’re not comfortable. Since you’ll be spending a lot of time in your home office, it’s smart to address the comfort level of the space. If there isn’t natural air flow, for example, can you add a good fan to keep you from overheating during your workday? Is there space for a mini coffee machine? Can you add speakers to play soft ambient music while you work? Small luxuries can lead to big boosts in productivity.
Show Your Sentimental Side
As much as I advocate for keeping your office neat and uncluttered to maximize productivity, you also don’t want it to be too sterile: incorporating purposeful sentimental items can help inspire you while adding a personal touch to your space. How can you tell the difference between a comforting sentimental object and a dust-collecting tchotchke? Give each item a Marie Kondo-inspired treatment and consider if it sparks joy, evokes a happy memory or makes you feel calm. If not, keep it out.
Make the Space
If you don’t have a clear office space, it’s always possible think outside the box to come up with a creative place to work from home. If you have an under-used garage or shed, for example, you might consider converting it into an office space, or – for a bolder solution – you could try a creative addition like this shipping container backyard office we created for Backyard Builds.