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How to Design a Small Home Office


Inside: A massive portion of the population now works from home, so having a great home office is a must. This is an outline of how I designed my small home office to be beautiful, functional, and flow with the rest of the house.

To be honest, I never imagined this room would ever be anything but a sitting room. When we moved into this bright and cheerful, beach-side home five years ago, I assumed this sunny spot would be for afternoon naps and reading magazines. But life changes and so do rooms and that’s okay.

Here are some things to consider in a home office space:

  • the location of your office
  • good home office storage solutions
  • general design elements like desks and lighting
  • tech set up options to make working at home easier

Once I launched my own business, it became very clear that I needed a place to actually work – like pronto. I had a few options including converting the guest room into an office (but I love our guest room), finding space in the playroom to carve out for a desk and computer (but that was instantly problematic), working in the actual DIY studio (which proved no fun as there’s very little natural light). And so the natural place to put my office was in the sunroom off the dining room and kitchen.

Picking a home office location

This is what I learned from that experience. After moving around from room to room, having no real place to hang my hat, I learned that a home office has to be ‘easy’ and incredibly functional above all else. The current location of my office is steps from our main floor powder room (no running up and down the stairs to the loo), it’s a hop from the front door – so receiving client packages is super simple and takes no time and it’s bathed in natural light. The lighting situation is good for my soul and it’s great for shooting desk videos and taking client video calls.

The bottom line on location is this – if you’re working full time from home, your office should be the room you most enjoy being in. Don’t force yourself into a basement or a corner if it doesn’t make you feel open, productive and creative. You’ll only find yourself gravitating towards the couch or the dining room and that will create chaos.

This was what my office looked like before I started this makeover. I definitely had my work cut out for me. 

Finding Good Home Office Storage

This was challenging for me for a couple of reasons. For one, my job is mostly ‘creative’ in that I spend at least one day a week building or painting or creating something that needs to be photographed and showcased for the blog or for my social media channels. I love that aspect of what I do and I look forward to my ‘studio’ days, but it caused me issues when I thought I had to be near to all my paints and tools in order to do my job. 

In reality, that was not the case and removing much of that clutter and dust and distraction from my desk office space was the best move I’ve ever made. I stopped trying to only have one space in the house and now I have two – a place to be creative (in the walk-out basement) and a place to do business – in my office.

Once that decision was made, finding workable storage was a lot easier. No longer did I have to find shelf space for scrap book paper, paint, turpentine and power tools and I was left to simply find storage for office supplies and a few tech things like cameras, microphones and headphones.

I dedicated the longest wall in the office to storage and opted for a hanging credenza unit to hide all the ugly things like file folders, tax receipts, USB cords and all that stuff. Above it is one long bracket shelf to display some of my books and a few nicer decor items. Below the credenza unit are some large white totes from Ikea that hide seasonal decor I use for staging photos, a few business travel essentials like briefcases and extra office supplies like printer paper, planners and client products.

Settling on a desk and lighting for a home office

This also took me a while. Are you sensing a theme here? This office was not built or designed in a day. I think my most key takeaway is that this was a totally iterative process that resulted in me having an office that I love. Most of the assumptions I made to start were proven totally false or not functional at all – paramount among them the desk and lighting situation.

At first, I thought I needed a giant desk with leaves and the ability to expand so I could take photos. So I bought a cheap one from IKEA and put it into my office and lo and behold, all that did was cause problems and clutter. I never pulled the leaf up because it was too annoying to move everything else around to get it to pop up and the overall height of the table-turned-desk was all wrong and I was having crazy wrist and back pain.

My solution was to build my own desk to size so that it was the right height and dimensions to accommodate only what I need at any given moment. In my case, that’s my laptop, large screen, phone holder, keyboard, mouse pad and two planners or notebooks. That’s it. When I need more surface area to work, I move to another room in the house, ideally my DIY studio downstairs. 

The other assumption I made was that I needed a light on my desk. I did not. With computer screens these days, ambient light is a nicer environment in which to work. So instead of trying to fit a task lamp onto my desk, I added one close to my printer and then an oversized table lamp to the office that provides general lighting for the whole space. I also installed this mega gorgeous chandelier that is more of a decoration than lighting, but it also casts lovely light at night.

Don’t fight with your home office tech solutions

Once again learn from my mistakes and don’t try to fight tech solutions because that will only create an unworkable environment. At first, I was desperate to have one of those fancy desks that floats in the middle of the floor, with space all around it to stretch and think and dance. I mean, who doesn’t love this set up for John and Sherry at Young House Love??

But in reality? The plugs for all my gear and tech are on the walls – not in the middle of the floor. (If I were designing a home office from scratch, I would install outlets in the floor, however.) So I had to give into the natural flow of the room and set up my desk in a place the minimized the cord reach and made it easy for me to plug things in. 

I assessed the room and had a couple of choices – the back corner where there are two plugs, or right under the window where there’s a main plug and another that is reachable. I chose the window. Always choose the window. Now my cords tuck out of the way and I’m not tripping over them every time I run in and out of my office.

My best advice is to take your time with a home office. Don’t try to get it perfect on the first go. This office took me a YEAR to figure out, so don’t sweat it if you’re still only near-perfect. It will come! Once you figure out what you need in the space and how it needs to function, you can focus on decorating and painting and all of that.

I will be writing posts soon about the decor elements in here! I’ve had so many questions about the paint and the accent wall, but that is an entire new post – so stand by for that!

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