Whether you’re building a permanent home office or setting up something during the pandemic to work-from-home, there are tricks to ensure your new workspace works.
Kathleen Dever, owner of Design Studio of Stowe, says it all comes down to planning. Make sure your space flows well, is comfortable, and isn’t too distracting.
“If you really take the time to plan upfront, you’ll find your space will have a lot of success for you,” she said.
• Pick the right space. If the office will be permanent, you may take over a room. If you’re making something temporary, choose a space that’s quiet and can be left as is when the workday ends.
“Find a place where you won’t have to pick it up every night,” Dever said. “Even in the bedroom, a place that won’t be used much during the day too much. Just a place you can call your own.”
• Plan how to use the space. Dever suggests using cardboard templates to lay out all the features: desk, chair, storage, laptop or computer, printer and whatever else you’ll need.
“This is a great way to see if it’s functionally workable for you,” she said. “People know what they want style-wise, but it’s always good to mock it up.”
• Desk orientation is key. “Here in Vermont, we’re pretty attached to our natural environment,” Dever said, but what’s outside the window could be distracting. “So if you’re thinking about setting up your office near that window that shows that breathtaking view, think again.”
• Furnish well. Once the space is organized and you know what you want where, it’s important to pick the right desk and chair. Dever likes a big desk, because when she’s designing spaces, she spreads out all her documents so she can see the totality of her project. If you don’t need a big work area, it isn’t worth the extra space.
If you’re buying a desk, consider how much desk you’ll need. For people like her, she suggested an executive desk with a return, which wraps around on one or both sides and provides extra surface space and storage. If you don’t need that, a classic writing desk, 25 by 52 inches could work.
If the office is temporary, Dever suggested using an extra kitchen table for a desk, something sturdy that will provide enough space and support a computer and other hardware.
The chair is also important, and Dever said the relative size is something to keep an eye on. Most desks are about 30 inches high, so, depending on your size, the chair seat should be between 18 and 21 inches off the floor.
The work chair should be hard, supportive and unmoving, but Dever said a home office should have a more comfortable chair, too, for long telephone conversations or reading.
• Color: You want a relaxing atmosphere, but not at the expense of concentration. Colors should be neutral — white, gray, brown, cream. Even the shape of a lamp or other items could push a workflow off-track. “Neutral is a good starting place, and you could always add color as you go along,” she said.
• Ample light is important, but balance is key. Dever suggested having task lighting — fixtures that illuminate an immediate workspace — but not to overdo it. Too much light can be overbearing. Find a happy medium, where you can see what you’re doing without causing glare off surfaces and materials.
• Personality to your backdrop matters in a time of remote meetings. “Everybody’s working from home, and it’s interesting to see everyone’s backdrops,” she said, so place art, tchotchkes or memorabilia behind you for or online meetings. “When you see pieces of people and get to know them, sometimes more progress is made.”
• Most importantly, be comfortable.
“If you make it a fun project, you can’t do anything wrong,” Dever said. “If you take the steps to set it up, you won’t make a mistake.”