Working From Home: Designing a Space You Can Live With

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Any room can be turned into an office. This one offers an inspiring view, lots of light and bookcases, which make an artful backdrop for video meetings. Photo by Chris Gonzalez via Pexels.

In my work as a reviewer of high-end, high-design homes for The Georgetowner and others, I’ve come across a number of floor plans grandly designating certain rooms as “home offices” or “libraries.”

No doubt, many of them are fulfilling this promise. But what do you do if you don’t have the square footage to dedicate to a single-purpose room — or to a single person? And what do you do when you must work from home without the occasional escape to the pleasant distractions of a co-working space or a coffee shop?

Take it from a longtime freelancer. It can be done.

Here are some tips to make your new work-from-home experience more pleasant and productive.

Know your work and work habits. How much space do you really need? Do you have a lot of papers or equipment? A large computer screen? Or can you manage with just a laptop? Think creatively about every area of your home — including walk-in closets — that could offer sufficient space, privacy or power (electrical or WiFi). At the end of the day, close the door, if possible, or camouflage your work zone with a decorative screen. That can help create an emotional boundary between your workday and family time.

Organize, organize, organize. Baskets, bins, cachepots and trays are your friends. They will keep everything neat and attractively arrayed. Start by decluttering what “doesn’t spark joy” and set out everything you need to inspire your best thinking.

Ditto storage. Even if you plan to go back to your office post-quarantine, you can never overdo storage. Treat the chests and credenzas in your home as sources of extra space.

Repurpose your furniture. In this brave new world, every item in your home has to work for a living. Take a look around you and see what can take on another job. For example, a console table, accessorized with baskets, can become a desk. So can a kitchen island, which can store your papers and other equipment when not in use.

Shop smart. Retailers of all types have been upended by COVID-19 closures. While their doors may be closed, their online storefronts are open for business. So check the sites of your favorite home furnishings stores for ideas and, in some cases, discounts. If your budget is tight, the Danish company Stykka has created a desk made out of cardboard. For $85, you get an easy-to-assemble workstation that’s both stylish and recyclable.

Don’t overlook ambiance. This could be your chance to design the office of your dreams, even if space is limited and the furniture is doing double duty. A vase of flowers or a plant, an arrangement of your favorite photos or a work of art — all can lend warmth and comfort at a time you need it most. The right aesthetic element can be curative.

Dress the set. Since much of our work is now online and on screen, the right “set” is crucial. Artfully vignetted bookcases can make a great backdrop for video meetings. Windows, with their backlighting, do not. Try different setups and check yourself with a selfie until you find the most flattering framing and lighting.

For more inspo, see the home workplaces reporters and others are sharing with their followers. (Craig Melvin, what were you thinking?)

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