Imagine the beginning of your workday starts like this: You wake up, shower, brew a cup of coffee, and walk to your office—less than 10 feet away from your bedroom (yoga pants optional but encouraged). It sounds too good to be true, but this scenario isn’t far from reality for the increasing number of people who choose to freelance or telecommute, meaning home offices are becoming a “must have” rather than a “nice to have” on the checklists of today’s homeowners. “If it’s designed well and if it’s designed in a way that’s going to make you productive, you are probably working less and getting more done,” says Maggie Tarr, owner of Margaret Jane Design Group. Here, the interior designer and architect shares her tips for creating a space that makes you feel inspired and excited to get down to business.
1. Pick practical furniture.
Your idea of an office might include a traditional desk and swivel chair, but it doesn’t have to. Scrap your preconceived notions about what a workspace should be in favor of what you need to do your job, whether that’s a drafting table for an architect, an easel for an artist, or an armchair to kick back with your laptop. “It really depends on the homeowners, what they do for a living, and how they’re going to use the space,” says Tarr.
2. Add special touches.
No matter how much you love your job, work isn’t always fun, so “you have to really create an environment that you want to be in,” says Tarr. Hang a beautiful statement piece, like a chandelier, or incorporate amenities that make the space cozy and comfortable—think: a fireplace for those cooler days, a television to catch up on the news, or a mini-fridge for an at-home happy hour drink.
3. Think about location.
You’ve heard “location, location, location” in reference to the importance of (you guessed it) location when it comes to real estate, but the same phrase can be applied to your home office. It’s hard to feel inspired when you’re staring at a screen in a dark, damp room for eight hours every day. “Offices aren’t going downstairs in the basement anymore. People don’t want to be in a little hole in the wall at the bottom of the house,” says Tarr, who suggests placing your workspace on the main level or extending it off your master bedroom, so you can still feel connected to your partner during those late work nights.
4. Properly light the space.
Staring at a computer screen is hard enough on your eyes. Don’t make it worse with poor lighting in your home office. Invest in quality fixtures (remember that chandelier we mentioned?), and install large windows to let natural light and the outdoors inside for an afternoon pick-me-up dose of vitamin D.
5. Keep distractions to a minimum.
Though work-life balance and playfulness may be high on your list of home-office priorities, it still needs to be a space where you can be productive. Save pattern-heavy wallpaper for the powder or laundry room, and instead opt for solid colors that show off your personality or classic embellishments like wood paneling. And don’t forget about storage space to keep paperwork, printers, and filing cabinets out of sight. “Every room has to have a purpose,” says Tarr. “The office needs to be a place where you’re not distracted, where you feel calm.”