Have you been left wondering how to set up a home office? Keep reading for expert tips on planning and designing a work at home or personal use office that best suits your needs.
How to Set Up a Home Office
Setting up a home office for remote work or even for personal use isn’t hard. It just requires a little thought and planning to create the best set up for focus and productivity.
Home Office Planning
The key to planning a home office is to remember it is a process. What you start with may need tweaking or changing over time. That’s the beauty of smart space planning, you get to tailor the room to your needs.
First let’s look at fucntion. Function takes into consideration the physical space itself; shape, size, etc. and how it will be used.
Whether you’re using the dining room or a guest room as a dual purpose space or converting it altogether, here are few questions to ask yourself as you begin the planning process.
- How do you want to use the room? Get real specific with your answer. Think of every purpose this room will serve and how you want those functions to serve you. Imagine yourself living in each scenario to draw out ideas.
- If the room is going to serve more than one purpose, what will those purposes be? List each one and prioritize them according to how often you’ll use the space for each purpose.
- And most importantly, what are you goals for this space? In other words, what outcome are you looking for. When you imagined yourself living in this room, what were you doing? How were you doing it? Does this align with your needs for the space and you overall personal goals?
I ended up choosing to use my dining room as a home office. Initially it was because it bothered me to look at a room that just sat empty for so long between uses. Secondly, I didn’t enjoy using the space as a dining room when we had people over. It just felt too cramped.
But, because I enjoy hosting my large family, I wasn’t willing to let go of having a separate dining space. That lead to me trying it out as a dual purpose dining room.
Dual Purpose Dining Room
The dining table became a desk for day to day use. And I used some Ikea Billy bookshelves from Facebook Marketplace for both dining storage and home office storage.
But the space just didn’t work.
I believe that’s because the multiuse dining room just didn’t feel natural to me. It felt too much like a dining room for it to be a productive home office. Not only that, no one was really using it as an office or study.
If you decide to have a multi-use space as a home office, pay attention to how the space makes you feel and ask yourself these questions:
- Is there tension between the multi purposes?
- Does the room function as you intended?
- Is your family actually using the space?
The answers to these questions are important to consider when planning a home office. It may indicate you’d be better served by a single use space.
Repurpose Your Dining Room
It wasn’t long before I moved the computer and other office supplies out of the dining room. But I was still left wanting an office space.
Then one fateful day, I walked into a model home that had a similar floor plan to mine. However they were using the space our home builder designated as a dining room as a home office. And the space that is a breakfast area in my home was being used as a more traditional dining space.
Seeing the spaces used differently inspired me to repurpose the dining room in my own home. This way I still get the dining room I want and have a home office.
The lesson here is you don’t have to use a space the way a builder intended. You have the freedom to repurpose those spaces to suit your lifestyle. I encourage you to take the time to look at the rooms and closets in your home and think about how you can repurpose them.
Doing this has allowed me to have a yoga room, too.
Once you pick a space for your home office, it’s time to think about form.
The saying is form follows function. Form looks at the objects you place in the room; their size and shape, materials, comfort level, etc.
I knew I wanted this home office space to also function as a study and a place to sit and read.
I had the perfect furniture piece for lounging and reading. But, I needed a surface area for writing, playing board games and seating six people when I host.
Considering how small the dining room is, I needed a piece of furniture that could be multipurpose rather than using three different pieces of furniture.
After lots of thought, I started looking for a vintage dining table that had a leaf. I could use the leaf to seat six when I host. For day to day use, the leaf could be stored so that the table doesn’t take up too much space.
With that said, I did not have enough space to keep seating for six in this room on a daily basis. So, when I’m hosting, we grab two accent chairs from the living room to place at each end of the table, borrow a bench from another room (that’s actually a dining bench that was being used as seating at the foot of the guest bed), and then place two card table chairs on the other side of the table. It works beautifully.
By the way, if you’re using a bedroom as a home office, a small desk or table can do double duty as a nightstand.
Mood plays a big part in the function of a room, and color and lighting play a big part in setting the mood of a room.
Choosing a Color for a Home Office
I finally had the room defined and functioning the way I wanted it. But, the mood wasn’t right.
My dining room turned home office had terracotta walls. While it was a warm color, I’d grown really tired of it and didn’t find it inspiring at all.
Since the office is open to the common spaces in our house, I decided to paint the room the same Aesthetic White we’d used in the other areas. This really opened it up and made it feel like part of the house.
Also, white makes a good home office color if you want to reduce distractions while you work.
When I originally bought the first two Billy bookcases, I painted them an antique cream color. That’s what I loved at the time. But years later, it just felt dated and dingy.
I was craving a a deep, moody color reminiscent of a formal study. After seeing some deep blue bookshelves in a model home, I decided to go with a similar deep blue that I’d painted my kitchen island.
Painting the bookcase blue really created a cohesive look in my open floor plan. Not to mention, blues and greens are good calming colors to include in your home office, especially if your work is stressful. These colors also boost productivity, along with red or yellow.
After years of being agitated by the color of this room, the new color palette was like an exhale for my soul. Now it was time to fill out my home office with other design elements.
Home Office Lighting Ideas
Our builder actually included a built-in desk area off the kitchen that could easily serve as a home office. However, it’s very dark with little to no natural light; something I need in a home office.
While I could put a task lamp on the desk, it just wasn’t enough light for a home office. Our dining room happens to get great natural light all day.
Other lighting to include in your home office:
- overhead lighting/ceiling fixtures – many dining rooms already have some type of pendant light or chandelier. You can always add shades to the bulbs if you need to diffuse the light.
- task lamps – these are perfect to place on your work surface
- floor lamps – placed near a chair for reading
One other type of lighting you might want to consider is a light therapy lamp. I use this one in the winter to counter the dreary, gray skies and early sunset, and it really does help lift my mood and boost productivity.
I’d replaced the chandelier a couple of years before and still really love it. So that was taken care of.
I placed the desk in front of the window to take advantage of the natural light. However, I could still benefit from a desk lamp at night. And I’d like to place a floor lamp next to the chaise for reading light.
Whatever light you choose, make sure it doesn’t cause a glare on your computer screen or shine too brightly in your eyes.
The way my desk was facing caused a lot of glare from the windows. That could easily be solved with curtains or blinds, but I ended up turning my desk which allows us to pull up an extra chair to create a game table for two, exactly what I wanted.
Home Office Furniture Layout
Once you have all the design elements and the furniture you need it’s time to arrange it in the room. When arranging furniture keep in mind:
- room layout (where doors, windows and outlets are located)
- flow (getting to and from the room and moving within the room)
- wall measurements – for placement of bookcases or office furniture
- how you’re using the room – consider each use if it’s going to be a multipurpose space and prioritize those functions.
- how many people are using the desk
You can place a desk under a window or against a wall if just one person at a time will be using it. Set the desk perpendicular to the window or wall to accommodate two people; one one each side.
You’ll also want the desk to be near an outlet for plugging in a lamp and charging your computer.
A corner near the bookcase is the perfect spot for a reading chair and a lamp.
You can also place one or two chairs facing the desk if you host meetings.
When deciding on a furniture layout, be sure to prioritize the most common use first then go from there. For example, I gave priority to using the space as a home office, then as a place to read or study and play board games and lastly as a dining space when I’m hosting.
One other note. Furniture arrangement takes a lot of trial and error. So don’t be discouraged if you don’t get it quite right the first time.
You know that game where you guess which color pegs are in the right place? And you keep moving the pegs until you’ve figured out exactly where each color goes? Furniture arranging is a lot like that.
I played around with a few furniture arrangements before landing on one that felt the most inviting and was still conducive to the all the ways I planned to use the space.
How to Organize Home Office Supplies
Now that all the key components are in place, it’s time to organize your new home office. Make a list of all the office supplies you’ll need. The most common ones tend to be:
- printer paper
- tape dispenser
- rubber bands
- paper clips
- reference books
- text books
Since my home office serves as a place for me to write, I only needed my laptop and a few tech items. Those are kept in a decorative box on my desk.
Other office supplies are stored in our home command center which is nearby if I need anything. Our printer is stored on the desk in that area, too.
Our bookcases hold books and a few board games.
Whether you’re using a dining room or guest room as a home office, dressers, buffets or closet shelves could easily house office supplies. Desk drawer organizers will keep them organized and readily available.
For shelf or cabinet storage, reuse tin cans and glass jars to store staples, paper clips, back stock of pens and pencils, rubber bands, staples and other common office supplies. Place those containers on a lazy susan, a.k.a. turntable, for convenient access.
Keep your desk tidy with just the minimal supplies you need on a daily basis.
Ways to Decorate a Small Home Office
A home office is the perfect spot to display family photos and sentimental items.
I have a framed drawing my daughter made in third grade leaning on a shelf in the bookcase. Other family photos are tucked into the shelves too.
- Add life to your room with plants and other natural elements. Place plants in the corner or on bookshelves. Wood objects or items from nature make good bookcase decor.
- Keep your desk simple with a photo or two and maybe a small vase of flowers or a plant.
- Use decorative boxes and baskets to store office supplies or hide a printer.
- hang or place art where you can see and enjoy it
- add warmth with a throw blanket tossed over a chair or spilling out of a basket
Enjoying a Happy Home Office
It took me several years of refining my goals and letting go of what no longer served us, but we finally have a home office space that is perfect for what we need. It’s become a happy place in my home.
Taking a seat behind this makeshift desk emboldens me to share my writing gifts. The chaise lounge invites me to pray, meditate and journal before I write. And calls me to rest with a book or even just to scroll through social media. Sometimes it becomes a stool for my husband as he unwinds with his guitar after a long day of counseling.
We enjoyed an intimate game of Scrabble; something I’d been wanting to do for years but never had the space or made the time for. And the room has easily converted to a comfortable dining space for my family to gather.
It may seem like just a home office on the surface, but really it’s become an expansion for my soul, giving me room to grow and express myself. That’s what intentional space panning is all about.