Designing the Perfect Home Office
As Mamapreneurs, many of us work from home and having the right home office space is so important! When Mamas & Co. first suggested I write a blog about designing the perfect home office, I looked around my office space and had a revelation... my own office was not working for me! I had all the right things (ergonomic chair, bookcases, filing cabinet, a few artfully designed vignettes), but my home office had become cluttered, and ineffective.
There were stacks of magazines and business cards, product samples, old tech collecting dust on the floor, stuff I never had time to deal with. So at five o'clock on a Friday night when I should have been starting dinner prep, I started hauling junk out of my space so I could do a deep dive.
I set to work to change the situation I had found myself in, the classic ‘shoe-makers’-children-have-no-shoes’ situation.
I tried following the advice of organizational guru Marie Kondo, by creating piles of like things but I was not finding any joy in the process. For those of us who are entrepreneurs, we understand that working from home has its perks, but creating the perfect home office was proving to be challenging. Having an effective home office takes almost as much planning and thought as a designing a kitchen.
So I did a little research on how to create an office space that is more effective and inspirational. With the space clear of clutter, I was able to take a look at how I could reconfigure the space to make it more useful. In order to truly create the home office of your dreams, you must cover the essentials and add a little personality.
The EssentialsWhen considering what area of your home to convert into a home office these factors are essential to productivity success.
- Location, location, location. You'll likely spend many hours in your home office, so don't stiff yourself on space (e.g. squishing a tiny desk into a windowless closet to preserve the rarely-used guest room). Also, consider traffic flow and your ability to withstand distractions. Do you work best in the thick of activity, or should your office be tucked away in a quiet space?
- Privacy. No one can work effectively in a sea of noise or interruptions. When planning your office area, ensure that it affords a degree of privacy from surrounding activities. Portable screens can be used to shield the work area from nearby activities. Alternatively, divider walls that double as bookcases will not only divide the area but provide superior storage solutions.
- Layout and functionality. First, determine how you plan to use your workspace. Make sure to map out your workflow and room layout before purchasing any furniture. You will want to ensure you have a big enough desk to accommodate the tasks you plan to use it for. And you may also want to include a small seating area for meetings if clients visit your office. Many home offices aren't swimming in square footage, so using space efficiently is imperative. Organize vertically and horizontally. Hang floating shelves on the walls to get papers and office equipment off the desk, and use vertical file folders on the desk to keep important papers within arm's reach.
- Atmosphere. Give yourself a view. Position the desk where you can stare at something more interesting than a blank wall (even if you do love the colour) when you glance up from the computer. A window's natural light is ideal, but if you're in a windowless space, hang a pretty picture above the desk, or position your chair to face the door.
- Organization. The old rule, "a place for everything and everything in its place" was coined to relieve stress. Organization is key to starting every workday fresh and also helps you manage your time. If you have carefully thought through your storage requirements, you'll have the space you need. Are you a stacker or a filer? If you tend to make piles, get a nice basket to tame your mail, notes, and papers. If you prefer a clean desktop, designate one drawer for your "to-do" papers. Wooden or metal cube storage is a fun alternative to bookshelves. Using baskets, boxes, and colourful organizers for files and documents could not only save you valuable time but create the order you need (and inspire you to maintain it). An organized desk is essential for productivity and keeps pending work in order and prevents the chaos of disorganized piles. A cluttered workspace reflects a cluttered mind!
- Master your technology. There's not much you can do to beautify the computer, printer, and phone, but you can hide unsightly cords. Start by making sure your equipment is close to outlets and easy to access if you need to unplug. Then hide those cords! Feed the cords from your computer and monitor into a desk grommet,(a plastic or metal cap that helps guide cords through a hole in the desk and hides them underneath. Tame the cord pile on the floor with cord winders, tubing, or a wire organizer that's attached to the desk and lifts the cords off the floor.
- Lighting. Good lighting is essential. Ideally, you want as much natural daylight as possible to cut down on eye strain and headaches. If your space has a window, it will enhance the lighting. Daylight is the most evenly balanced source of white light available. Position the computer monitor so there's no glare from a window or overhead light, and put a small lamp on the desk for task lighting.
- Comfort is key …so invest in a great chair! You spend hours parked in your office chair; a beautiful, ergonomically-correct, comfortable seat is worth every dime.
Adding Personality & InspirationNow it’s time to make the space your own. Your office should be a connection to yourself, your spirit. It should inspire productivity. It should afford focus rather than distraction and be a place you want to be and want to spend time in.
- This is your space, so feel free to add items that make you happy like controversial artwork on the wall, or books and magazines you like to read can channel creativity.
- Set up a gallery wall of your favourite family photos or knick-knacks from your travels. These will keep you calm and remind you of what you’re most passionate about.
- Plants are a great way to add colour and life to an office and keep the air clean when you're slugging it out in there.
- Bold colours within a simple space add character and define a playful atmosphere. Creative people work well in spaces that are not crowded with unnecessary details.
Maybe you don’t have a big working space. Maybe it’s just a filing cabinet somewhere and a laptop on the dining room table. But if you’re working from home, it’s nice to have a clearly defined space where you can get down to business!
As for me, since tearing my home office apart, I find the new layout very functional and pleasing, which has lead me to be less stressed and annoyed in my space. There are still a few piles of junk I have to weed through, and my filing system needs to be overhauled, but I’m definitely feeling happier and more productive.
Melissa Peretti is an interior decorator in Toronto who creates warm and wonderful spaces that perfectly reflect the people that live in them by incorporating personal, unique and collected elements, and offers a full suite of interior decoration and design services. She is a Mama’s & Co member and mama to Poppy 7 and Oliver 11.