With so many people working from home, a home office, or a small work space at one end of a room, has become an important consideration.
At first, many of us worked on a kitchen counter, the dining table, an outside table or a makeshift table made from a hollow-core door propped on each end by a filing cabinet. Remember those? I’ll bet everyone still has one even though a file cabinet is of so retro.
But having suffered through makeshift for so many months now, many at-home workers are realizing this may not be temporary. So why not spend some time, and money, to design the perfect space? We’ve gotten used to how to light yourself for Zoom meetings — or not. We’ve put on a decent top even if we’re at the computer in shorts and flip flops under the table.
So the next step is to address the question: How do you want to work? What does your space say about you? In what environment do you imagine yourself? How much or little room can you live with? Do you want your office to be an extension of the décor in your home or can you go a little crazy, making it your fantasy of the perfect office? It’s a creative challenge that I did a long time ago. Now I’m not so sure it’s working.
Most offices concentrate on the desk. And many desks are made of dark wood. Proportion and size come into play if you have given it some thought and not just picked up a castoff from a yard sale. And if you didn’t go out of your house then maybe you looked around at what you have and decided what piece of furniture could accommodate your workstation. Next comes a chair; not too big or heavy, since you may be moving it, especially if you used an extra chair from your house that has to do double duty.
Lighting is an essential ingredient. Natural light is so important for good mental health — or so I’ve read. Some people think that the closer you are to natural light the better you feel and the more productive you can be. A standing lamp or overhead fixtures can illuminate a room nicely for working. If you’re really into it, an architectural design chandelier is visually dramatic and opens up desk space. It creates interest and draws the eye up and away from the mess on your desk.
The essentials for doing business — electronics, papers and in my case little pieces of notated papers taped to my desktop or the windows over the desk — make a home office visually unappealing. It’s almost impossible to ignore and for some reason, people who have a home office are more loosey-goosey about the need for a neat home office than one in a real office building. Not sure if I’m right about this. Weigh in if you want.
I really think that everything in an office should be as well designed as the rest of the house. Containers to hold mess, beautiful catchalls, a vase of flowers and the art of the walls should be designed to work as a whole. Good design and function are not separate entities. Shelves can be carefully curated, designed with visual conferencing in mind. These items add character or personality. Add things that are important to you. Books can absorb sound as well as inject interest if arranged artfully.
A workspace should be an extension of your home. Everything should announce your personality. A significant work of art can integrate an office into your home décor.
My office was once a small bedroom and has a double set of windows on one wall overlooking a deck surrounded by mature plantings. Jon built a desk from clear pine, no knots, running under the windows from wall to wall. He edged the front of the pine with a 3-inch facing to make it look like a thick slab of wood and then stained it with Minwax wood stain. The walls are painted “paper bag.” Shelves line the wall at one end and there are bookcases and a narrow table on another wall over which hangs a enormous clock. But everywhere there’s space hangs artwork, photographs, a poem from Jon and everything has meaning to me. I love that room but now find myself back at the kitchen island.
While many people would die for a separate at-home office I don’t like being shut away. I like the organic integration of my everyday life and my work where I can write, wash the dishes, easily take my computer outside or any place I want to be. But I do like the fact that the office has everything I need, organized and neat — most of the time. And the best part is I rearrange everything when I want a house project. By the way, I always have fresh flowers on my desk. Look around your house. There’s a creative project waiting to be discovered.
Leslie Linsley has written more than 50 books on crafts, decorating and home style. She resides on Nantucket, Massachusetts. Her latest books are “Salvage Style” and “Upscale Downsizing” (Sterling Publishers). Her email address is email@example.com.