Designing a home office - Tips and tricks for a productive workspace

A lot of us are working, teaching or learning from home (including myself), and creating a home office that’s both functional and beautiful is key now more than ever.

But not everyone has the space or money to turn an entire room into a workspace, so I want to help you to create your office anywhere in your home.

What you’ll find here

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How to design the perfect home office

Hi, I’m Nadine

Interior design expert, globetrotter and the creative mind behind this blog and NH.DESIGN.

I’m originally from Germany but have been living abroad for over 10 years, from Canada and the UK to Sweden.

So I ask myself the question what “home” means every day.
I have made it my mission to help as many people as possible to find their own answer to this.

Join my creative world on Instagram @nhdotdesign or find out more about me

Set up your home office

The type of work you do in your home office determines a lot of the set up, so ask yourself a couple of questions beforehand:

Where do you want your home office to be?
Do you have an extra room you can turn into a workspace or do you need to fit it into another room?
What do you need in your home office?
How long do you need to work from there every day?

The answers to those questions give you an idea of how to set up your home office.

If you have a spare room you can use as your home office, great!
If you don’t have that luxury and need to incorporate your home office into another room, that’s possible, too (and don’t worry, you won’t even notice it’s there if you don’t want that).

I’ve got specific tips about how to create a home office in your living room or bedroom, keep reading for those.

It’s important to be able to separate work life and personal life, so no matter where your new home office goes, you have to be able to walk away from it at the end of your work day.

To decide how much space you should dedicate to your home office it’s good to make a list of all the things you need in it.

Is it just a small laptop or do you need a screen, keyboard and computer as well?
Do you need other equipment like a printer, stationary storage and recycling?

Even for small spaces there are tons of smart ideas to maximise the space, keep on reading for those.

Your daily working hours from your home office also determine the set up of the space.
If you’re sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day having the right chair and table is key.
Extended sitting is hard on your back, neck and hips so make sure you use a height-adjustable chair and your desk is set up so your screen top lines up with the top of your head.

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    Things to consider when planning your home office

    Getting the layout right is essential for any room, especially for your home office.

    When creating a workspace it needs to be ergonomic (see my illustration), but it may also need to work with a lot of other activities in mind.

    Especially if you don’t have a dedicated room to create a home office in.

    Desk placement

    The most important piece of furniture for a home office is the work surface.

    Depending on the type of work you do, and for how long, picking the right kind of desk or table is key. No matter if you work from home full-time and need a space for your computer or laptop, always place your desk as close to the window as possible. The natural light is better for your eyes and helps to balance the blue light coming from the screen.

    line art illustration lightbulb

    Pro Tip

    Choose a dimmable work lamp for your desk! That way you can adjust the amount of light depending on the time of day and season.

    The right chair

    More often than not I see inspirational images of home offices that use dining chairs, armchairs or even simple stools as the main work chair. Now I don’t know if that’s just for inspiration (but even then it’s quite misleading) or if that’s actually the chair you’re meant to sit on for 8 hours a day.

    Let me say this: if it’s just pretty but not functional, it’s crap. It’s as simple as that.
    And a chair that’s not designed to align with the curve of your back, provide support for your back and neck, is just not a good enough work chair.
    It doesn’t matter where your work area is, it almost doesn’t matter what desk or table you use, but if you don’t have the right chair, back- and neck pain are inevitable.

    Think of it this way: does it matter that much what kind of bed frame you choose when the mattress isn’t comfortable and supportive? You still get back pain and sleepless nights.

    So an ergonomic work chair should tick all the boxes below:

    Also, if you’re working sitting down for a long period of time, take regular breaks to stretch and walk around. The best solution is to switch between sitting and standing while you work. If a height adjustable desk isn’t in the budget, there are some great budget friendly alternatives for desk extensions.

    The right storage

    Around a work area there’s always a need for storage even if it’s just for some pens and post-its.
    For small things like that cups and holders are a great way to get organised. Magazine files keep papers together while hiding the mess that comes with stacks of miscellaneous stuff.

    If you need more storage for things like school supplies, extra printer paper, binders with important papers etc., choosing furniture with doors hides the mess. 

    The ideal place for your storage furniture (read “most ergonomic”) is right behind you. You can simply turn around in your chair and grab what you need any time.

    line art illustration lightbulb

    Pro Tip

    Sliding doors on cabinets save tons of space when your home office is in a small area!

    Focal points, architectural features and flow

    Windows, doors, fireplaces, radiators and other features are the kinds of elements to consider when creating the right layout for your home office.
    As mentioned above, the best place for your desk is as close to the window as possible. But that’s not always possible because oftentimes that’s where a radiator or heating element is placed. You can place a desk in front of it, especially if it’s not a very solid and big one, but it will affect the temperature and air flow in the room, and that’s not great when you’re working there all day.

    When placing furniture in your home office it’s important to think of the right distance between the pieces as well as between furniture and walls.

    Here are some handy measurements as a rule of thumb:

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    How to create a home office in a small space

    When working with a small room it’s important to be super smart about the use of space.

    The rule of thumb here is “if you can’t go square, go cubic”, meaning to utilise the height of the room.
    Tall shelves from floor to ceiling are a great way to maximise the space and make the most of your home office.

    But there is also tons of forgotten space on the floor, especially under the desk.
    A small cabinet on wheels is easy to pull out when you need it, and hide to create space.

    Check out more tips and tricks about how to maximize small spaces in this post!

    line art illustration lightbulb

    Pro Tip

    Use light colours and materials to make a small space feel bigger!

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    How to make your home office more comfortable, cozy and professional

    When your home office is placed in your living room, bedroom or any space that’s shared and visible, it’s important that it looks and feels comfortable and cozy.
    Luckily there are tons of furniture and decoration options out there designed to be functional and beautiful.

    Even though it’s a place to work your home office doesn’t have to look boring.
    Consciously create space to display things that make you happy, inspire and motivate you, like artwork, souvenirs from your travels (or if you’re like me, tons of fabric-, material- and paint samples).

    Be mindful of the colours you choose for your home office, too. Natural colours like whites, browns, blues and greens can help to create a calm and relaxing environment. Whereas bright colours like reds, yellows and oranges create a more energetic and vibrant atmosphere.

    If you want your home office to look more professional organisation is the secret!
    Keep things clean and uncluttered, inside and out, and the space will instantly look more professional.

    Nadine, founder of Malmö-based interior design studio NH.DESIGN.

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    Create a home office in other rooms

    Not everyone has the space to dedicate an entire room to a home office.
    So incorporating a workspace into another room in your home is the way to go!

    Why not create a home office in the shelving in your living room, or hide it away behind doors in a little nook under the stairs?
    Or place a small desk in your bedroom that can double as a make-up vanity?

    How to create a home office in your living room

    The living room is often the heart of the home (beside the kitchen, if you can cook, which I can’t, so…). It’s where everyone spends time socialising, watching movies, playing games and so much more.

    Which makes it the last room we want to be ugly.

    So choose a desk, chair and storage that goes with the style of the rest of the room. If it’s not a place where you sit and work 8 hours a day you can get away with a small workspace tucked away from the focal point(s) of your room or integrate it with other furniture you already have, like shelving.

    Check out how to design the rest of your living room with this post!

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    Pro Tip

    Always clean up your workspace at the end of the day! It'll keep your mind off work and helps you focus on your personal life.

    How to create a home office in your bedroom

    Your bedroom is your sanctuary, nothing should disturb the peace and quiet in there.

    But, sometimes the world has other plans and throws us into full working-from-home-without-an-actual-place-to-do-that-mode.
    So to preserve that sanctuary feeling of your bedroom while still creating a functional home office the key is to blend it in.

    Compliment the rest of your bedroom’s style and colour scheme with your desk, chair and storage. And maximise the space by making it multi-functional, like a desk doubling as a make-up table.

    line art illustration lightbulb

    Pro Tip

    Painting furniture in the same colour as the walls helps it to blend in and create a calm and relaxing home office!!

    Check out how to design the rest of your bedroom in this post!

    Or shop my detailed Bedroom Design Guide with all the tips and tricks you need (and my 6-step design process to design the perfect bedroom).👇🏼

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    Design Guide - Bedroom

    Learn how to design the bedroom of your dreams with my tried and tested 6-step process.

    This step-by-step includes everything you need to design your bedroom, from floor planning to product selection.

    Smart ideas for any home office

    No matter where your workspace is in your home there are always more smart ideas to maximise the space and to make it more functional and beautiful.

    Clever storage for your home office

    One of the things everyone (and when I say everyone, I mean e-ver-y-one) struggles with is storage. In my more than 10 years as Interior Designer the one answer that always pops up in talks about people’s homes is that nobody seems to have enough storage. 

    Let me tell you a little secret: you do have enough storage.

    It’s about how to use that storage, and how to maximise it, that’s the issue.
    Here are a few of my favourite tips and tricks to maximise storage (not just in your home office but across the home):

    • Think cubic!
      Using the height of a room in addition to the floor space is a game changer. Floor to ceiling shelves, tall free-standing cabinets, floating shelves, storage around doors and windows…see, that’s a lot more storage than you’re using today, right?!
    • Sliding doors vs hinged doors!
      As I mentioned further up, hinged doors require at least 120 cm (47”) empty space in front to comfortably open them. Sliding doors only require about 60 cm (24”). You effectively just saved an extra 60 cm (24”)!
    • Inside storage!
      Let’s not forget about all the sofas, ottomans and chaises with storage compartments. Those come in especially handy when your home office is in your living room, tons of extra space for lesser used things!

    Technology for a smart home office

    Smart Home technology is becoming more and more popular and it doesn’t stop at a home office.
    Charging solutions, smart printers, laptops, computers, tablets, smartphones…the list could be endless. Most of these things can really make a difference in the way we work, even in a home office.

    Here are some of my favourite Smart Home gadgets I love having in my home office:

    • Phone charging pad!
      I love this NORDMÄRKE one from IKEA because it’s wireless so it can be built into the desk. Just place your phone on top and it charges while you work (and listen to Spotify). Note: it doesn’t work with all smartphones so check yours before you get one.
    • Sonos speakers!
      We have the Sonos One and love it. I can listen to music while working or ask Google questions when I’m stuck.
    • Smart lighting!
      I love the TRADFRI system from IKEA. We have it everywhere at home and it’s just so easy to dim the lights, change the light colour and control it all from a remote or the app on my phone.

    Thanks for reading!

    If you enjoyed this post, follow along for more interior design tips and inspiration on my Instagram @nhdotdesign, and sign up for my Welcome Home Letter for even more inspiration, tips and exclusive behind-the-scenes.

    Take care, Nadine

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