Setting up a home office? Here’s where to start

Writing desk with task lamp
Jennifer Morgan,-Interiors Editor

Working from home? Set up an inspiring workspace that is both productive and organised

As the cycle of lockdowns continues, more and more of us are looking to create home office spaces – and there’s a big emphasis on flexibility. From a desk that can work as part of our living room to laptop stations in our kitchens, from dining tables that are big enough for homeworking and homework, to spare rooms hastily converted into the home office, it’s so important for our productivity and creativity to get that space working hard.

The flexible workspace

‘The first thing to do when decorating anything is determine who is using the space and what is it being used for,’ advises Helen Maxfield, Partner & Assistant Buyer, Living & Dining. As obvious as this sounds, do consider if your home office is going to be shared by all the family – children and their homework included – or solely used as an adult workstation. This will determine how much storage you need, too. Whether you’re converting a bedroom or furnishing an alcove, make sure you have at least one plug socket nearby and have measured the space meticulously. 

Choose furniture to suit – a console-style desk with a drawer underneath for your laptop won’t intrude on your living room style too much, while a modular system, such as String, can be designed to include a desk combined with plenty of shelf space – great for a family-friendly open-plan space.

Home office desk setup

Shop smart

You don’t have to spend a fortune, but there are some key buys that will make your work zone infinitely more pleasant. A well-designed desk, a comfortable chair and decent lighting are essentials. ‘Spending money on an ergonomic chair that you can adjust to fit to you is really, really important,’ says Maxfield, especially if you’re going to be sitting for prolonged periods of time.

Lighting is also key, especially if you’re not by a window. Helen recommends a task light, which should be positioned to the opposite of your writing hand so it doesn’t cast a shadow when you’re writing. They are also ideal placed behind laptop screens to help deflect the glare. 

Working from home in the kitchen

Working from the kitchen table?

If you don’t have space for a desk and you need to work from the dining table or kitchen island, it only takes a few tweaks to make your kitchen feel like a workspace.

Starting with comfort, you don’t want to work full time from a wooden dining chair if you value a pain-free back. Find a happy medium with a cushioned, ergonomic chair that can work equally well as either a desk or dining chair. That way you’re not compromising the look of the room or your comfort. Think about lighting next, can you incorporate a small lamp on the island or near the table? Perhaps a battery-operated lamp such as the Flos bellhop if there's no plug socket nearby. Finally, make your home office feel like a dining room again at the end of the day by stashing your keyboard, laptop and stationery away in a small freestanding cupboard or sideboard when you’re not using it.

Home office desk setup

What about storage?

We’re encouraged to be paperless, but if you find yourself with lots of documents to keep or books to refer to, then you’re going to need more than just a surface to house a computer. Look for desks that come with built-in drawers or, better still, co-ordinating drawer towers that slip underneath. A filing cabinet may be the answer for lots of essential paperwork – and you can rest a printer on it.

Home office desk setup

Think about your wellbeing

Bring in a few tips from the corporate world to make your new space more inviting. ‘A home office is almost always a second thought,’ says Maxfield. ‘So make the space comfortable for you and somewhere you’ll enjoy sitting in – it’s not just about the desk and the chair.’

Something as simple as hanging artwork on the walls or placing plants and trinkets along shelves will create an environment that is more welcoming. Separation – especially if you’re sectioning off an area in a room – is also a good idea. Maxfield suggests a rug: ‘So that you can say, “I’m in my workspace now”.’

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