clock menu more-arrow no yes

All About Home Offices

Today, every home needs an office—or a space that can double as one.

Home office Nat Rea

Whether or not you’re one of the ever-growing number of people who work from home, you necessarily do work from home…and you need a place to get the job done.

To create a functional workspace, consider who will be using it and for what purpose. A home office can range in size and complexity from a corner of the kitchen counter to the whole top floor of your house, depending on its uses—and users. Should the space be private or out in the open? These factors will help determines the location. Only then can you begin to think of practical matters: desk height, lighting, storage, etc. Let’s start at the beginning.

Use of the Office

Home offices can serve multiple purposes, including keeping track of household finances and volunteer activities, a place for students to study, or a place for entrepreneurial ventures.

Many parents want to keep an eye on children’s Internet use, in which case an office space inside or open to the kitchen makes sense. A slightly more private space can be found in a wide hallway or second floor landing. For deep work necessitating, more privacy, your best bet’s a dedicated space with a door to shut out household noise. A nice compromise is to replace the solid door with a multi-pane French door so that other household members can be seen and not heard.

Where Do You Find the Space?

After determining your size and privacy needs, certain places in the house may start to emerge as likely candidates for an office. Here are some likely and unlikely places to consider:

How Do You Equip and Outfit Your Home Office?

As with any other room, your home office planning must take into account both form and function. Let’s start with the functionality.

Floor plan: Back to the Door or Not?

Some people adamantly believe you should face the door while sitting at the desk to be in view of household goings-on, while others vehemently believe your back should be to the door for better concentration. It’s an individual choice (and not an immutable one), so act according to your own desires.

Desk height

Most desks are 30 inches high. But if you sometimes prefer to stand while working, consider a 42-inch bar-height desk, with a bar stool to accompany it.

Lighting

Natural light is usually preferable to artificial light, so place your home office near a window, glass door, or skylight when possible. Supplemental lighting might include a combination of recessed lighting and task lighting. A small desk lamp can add charm. Pro tip: Place a mirror opposite a window or other natural light source. The daylight reflected in the mirror imparts the sensation of another window on that wall.

Ergonomics

If you’ll be sitting for long periods of time, make sure your chair is ergonomically designed to reduce fatigue and stress on your back, neck, arms, and wrists. The more comfortable you are, and the more aligned your body is, the more you can stay focused on your work.

Ventilation

Airflow will be especially critical if your home office is small and located in a closet or nook. Consider a fan or even creating an opening in a side wall to encourage circulation.

Wire Management

A mass of cables and cords hanging from your desk will create a mess and a hazard. One solution involves running cords through a grommet-trimmed hole in the desktop and discretely down the closest desk leg. A more ambitious solution is to create a false wall behind the desk to house and hide the cords and cables. (The latter presumes your desk would be placed against a wall.)

Storage

To keep a home office tidy, you’ll want to have a place for everything and everything in its place. Look around and see where your “pain points” are in your current setup. You may have an abundance of paperwork, too many books, not enough room for electronics, etc. Each point of pain tells you a storage solution is needed. And storage solutions are abundant; they include cubbyholes, drawers, open shelves, and closed cabinets, among others—and they don’t have to be expensive to be efficient.

Home Office Style

How do you want your home office to look and feel? One school of thought suggests that a home office should blend with the rest of the house in terms of colors, materials, fabrics, etc. But you might want a home office that transports you to another realm. If you have a comfy, cozy home, maybe you want an industrial vibe in your home office to put you in the work mood. Or maybe you have a country western home, but you want your home office to take on a beachy tone. It’s really all OK depending on personal preference.

Here are some office styles to consider:

  • Quirky cottage style—Quirky means you and mix things up, which might help with creativity in the office. Rustle through wallpaper books to find your vibe, then find your desk (industrial perhaps?) and an old dresser drawer and a vintage floor lamp.
  • Nautical style—Who wants a nautical style office? Either you live near the sea, or you want to. Maybe you are earning money in the office to pay for your cruises. Think white walls with sea foam green trim, nautical flags, old buoys, and pewter accessories.
  • Vintage appeal—What’s more fun than flea market shopping? Your new office gives you an excuse. Consider a distressed wood floor, blending wood with metals, vintage prints, and one comfy settee.
  • Any style you want—As you can see, if the functionality of the office is solid, the form can be anything you want. Blend with the house, or let your own unique sense of style lead you. When you feel comfortable and inspired in your home office, magic can happen.