More and more people are figuring out how to set up an office at home nowadays.
I’ve been working from home since 2015, and haven’t looked back since. Of course, I feel fortunate that we have an extra room in the house from which I could find some semblance of an office. But through the years, I have learned that when you have all the essentials to a work space, you will be able to comfortably churn out work and be productive.
Below are some key elements one would need in order to set up your own office at home.
Start with the basics.
Whether you’re allocating an entire room in your home or just a small corner in your living area or bedroom, you will need a worktable from which you can, well, work.
1. Work desk
Pick one that is the right size: Standards desks are normally at 75cm high from the floor, and 60cm deep (from back to front of the desk). This gives you sufficient space to put your laptop or desktop computer, and a little more room for jotting things down in a notepad, notebook, or sketching.
My own desk is 1.20meters long, so this allows me some space to put material swatches, my client folders, a sketch pad. In an ideal world, I would want double that length. When designing projects for my clients, I often need fabrics, stone swatches, paint decks fanned out in front of me, so I need all the space I can get.
If you can invest in a standing desk, that would also be suitable, as studies have shown that sitting for prolonged periods can actually shorten your life. You can either get a completely height-adjustable desk, or a “riser,” which you just put on top of a regular desk, converting it to a standing desk. Check out the options available locally here and here.
2. Ergonomic chair
As for a chair, ergonomic office chairs work best for comfort, as you will be seated for the most part of your day. I myself use a refurbished vintage office chair from Rescued Furniture. It swivels, is on wheels, and is height-adjustable. It also allows me to recline a bit, when I need to stretch my arms from time to time and think.
If you can’t purchase an ergonomic office chair—perhaps due to budget or space constraints—invest in posture support seats that you can put on top of a regular chair. These will allow you to get the necessary support your back needs, especially when you find yourself seated nonstop for more than 2-5 hours a day. I haven’t personally tried this, but I’ve heard some friends use Backjoy for this specific purpose.
Better yet, try working standing up. A bar or kitchen counter could be used in lieu of a standing desk riser or converter, but the best way to be able to work in peace is to stand in your own working corner.
3. Adequate task lighting
Have you ever tried working under warm, yellow lights—and got a headache at the end of the day?
Yup, your regular overhead room lights aren’t enough when you’re working from home.
You can get fairly inexpensive task lights that will help you work over your—you guessed it—work tasks. I myself use two of these Tertial work lamps from Ikea, which I ordered some years back from Furniture Source Philippines.
I placed one on each side of my desk, although I also replaced my home office’s overhead room lights with daylight bulbs. There’s a reason why most offices do not use warm white bulbs. But if you find the bright white lights too much, you can add an ambient lamp in a different corner of the room, just to soften your room lighting and add warmth to your work space.
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Designate a meeting space.
If your work requires you to meet with people—clients, suppliers, contractors, other freelancers, etc.—then assign an area where you can meet with them.
Of course, coffee shops serve this purpose. But sometimes, in the interest of saving travel time (and the expense of buying extravagantly priced coffee), it’s good to have an area in your home where meetings can be held.
(This can also be a great option for these days, when we cannot really meet with people from outside our homes. A “meeting area” can be that one fairly decorated spot which you can use as a backdrop to your Zoom or other video conferencing calls.)
I normally use our dining table for this, as it is the only table big enough to accommodate 4-6 persons. It also allows me to spread materials on the table for presenting.
Another plus to having this in the dining room is the accessibility to drinks or treats that you can serve to your guests. Nothing makes a meeting or presentation feel less stressful than when your guests are comfortable and at ease.
If you can’t really decorate the rest of the house, then just pick this one spot that you can make presentable for receiving guests—whether in person or online. Our dining area is pretty much guest-ready, except of course when we are preparing or eating family meals.
This is why I also schedule meetings outside eating hours. No working lunches or dinners for this work-from-home mom!
Carve out your own office pantry.
This is of course highly dependent on whether or not you have space in your home. But even just a trolley where you have crackers, coffee, coffee mugs, and an electric kettle is enough.
In the home office I designed for one of my very first clients (above), he asked me how to set up an office at home using his open-air roofdeck. Apart from closing it up with proper roofing, we transformed the utility sink into a small office pantry. Because he wanted a “cafe industrial” feel to his home office, we “highlighted” the pantry area by painting its walls chalkboard-black (we mixed regular black paint with tile grout).
This was also intentional, as the construction of the roofdeck walls was pretty shoddy, and we had to hide all the waves and imperfections on the walls and the concrete sink.
In my own office, I use another Ikea item for my pantry staples: the Ikea Raskog trolley in aqua.
Here, I put individually packed biscuits, nut bars, and crackers, my coffee and creamer jars, a Brita pitcher for my water, some mugs and utensils, and an electric kettle. This allows me to enjoy my mug of coffee and some snacks without having to go all the way downstairs (my home office is on the third floor of our tiny but tall townhouse).
Create a centralized spot for office supplies.
Having one spot where all your office supplies are located and within reach takes the hassle out of having to look for them every time you need them.
I would recommend not having them on your desk as much as possible, so that your worktop is free and clear of clutter.
Another advantage: Not having to tell your husband different answers when he needs the stapler, scotch tape, markers, paper…. Just say “supply station” and he knows exactly where to go 😂😂😂
These are just some basics you might want to start with in order to build your own home office. I certainly started with these when I first set out to be a work-from-home writer and design student.
Of course, when I pivoted my business into a residential interior design studio, I had to add a few other elements (storage for samples and client folders and props, for one).
But that is for another post!
Again, if you need help with designing your own home office, or perhaps just have any questions on how to set up your own office at home, then let’s get on a call!
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Photos of black, red, and wood home office by Toto Labrador. Photo of home office desk in minty palette from Ivory Mix. Photos of Ikea products from Furniture Source.