LOCKDOWN INTERIORS: THE RISE OF THE HOME OFFICE
2020 – the year of home. And yes, that’s my very positive spin on a, frankly, INSANE few months, which have been both astounding and catastrophic in equal measure.
Never – EVER – have we spent quite so much time at home. Even my first maternity leave in 2012, shrouded under a heavy cloak of sleep deprivation, was more fruitful. Days – months – spent staring at our four walls. As the crazy, scary events of the outside world unfolded, we retreated. Cocooned, we began to both appreciate and evaluate our current set ups. We tested boundaries, creating multi-functional spaces (playroom/gym anyone?), and redecorated 100 times over in our heads.
A beautifully architectural office space by Joseph Dirand Architecture, Paris
THE RISE & RISE OF THE HOME OFFICE
There are some lifestyle shifts and trends that have already become apparent as a result of the COVID-19 enforced lockdown. These will affect not only how we live but the environments we choose to inhabit. Our requirements have changed. From the surge in home offices to our increased longing for space, our homes will certainly be shaped by the events of 2020.
WHY THE HOME OFFICE?
A beautifully warm, triple aspect study by Fiona Barratt Interiors
2020’s lockdown enforced home working for so many across the world. With city centres and offices abandoned, monitor sales spiked as we blended working with home life. For some, the laptop-on-the-sofa scenario played out for many months. Initially celebrated, the bad back became an unfortunate but inevitable side effect of this frivolity. Rooms were repurposed to accommodate our lifestyle shift – the spare bedroom became the home office, the dressing table a study, the kitchen table a home learning/business hub.
A playful, feminine study-within-a-bedroom for a teen client at Sarah Mailer Design
With many now fully accustomed to this new, more flexible way of working, there is a question around whether we wish to ‘go back to normal’ – What is normal anymore anyway?
One thing’s for certain, home offices have become hot property. That designated somewhere to work productively – and Zoom with confidence – without dirty washing and everyday life the backdrop. Closing the door at the end of a working day certainly helps enforce that work-life balance.
LOCATING YOUR HOME OFFICE: SPACE AND LIGHT
Whilst Eyeswoon‘s Athena Calderone’s pared back study resides in a kitchen nook, it certainly commands attention. for Architectural Digest
Choosing the right space to house a home office is key. Whilst you may not have the luxury of options (sometimes a stolen corner of your kitchen will have to do), if you are rejigging things to incorporate home working, or planning a move or extension, deciding where to locate such a room should not be overlooked.
It can be tempting to cram your home office into the smallest of spaces – after all, it’s only work and why would you ever substitute actual living space for it?!
Whilst I understand this argument, it’s important to remember that, if you spend significant hours at work (at home), then surely you deserve more? If lockdown has taught us anything (apart from the importance of hand-washing), it is to respect, nurture and relish our environment. And let’s face it, working in an under-the-stairs, windowless cupboard à la Harry Potter, does not sound like fun.
Natalia Miyar Atelier has successfully utilised this bright mezzanine, creating the ultimate textural, layered study space
Consider how you will use the space and all the furniture required within it. Ensure you have enough room for a sizeable desk, so you are able to spread out and avoid feeling constricted. If you require multiple screens, choose a wide tabletop to allow for this and ensure enough depth for computer accessories, notepad etc. Beyond this, space for closed storage is advised so that you can maintain a manicured backdrop for video calls.
If only all offices had that vista! A cool, calm and collected space by Collett-Zarzycki
Desk location should be a key consideration when planning your home office. For the laptop-and-go person, a desk installed centrally in the room could work well, if you have the space and are happy to command it. Alternatively, locating your desk at a window will really help you feel connected and engaged with the outside world. This is ideal if you are inside all day, every day.
*Warning* The south-facing desk dweller will experience glaring sun for most of the day (compromising what they can see on their monitor), will endure hot sweats in the summer months and fall victim to an extreme, unflattering bright light (and somewhat glazed forehead) for all those video calls! Those with a south-facing vista, proceed with caution…
If you decide (or need) to stare at a wall, make it a beautiful one with some artwork! Interior design and ‘wall-spiration’ by Turner Pocock
As discussed above, choose a room with a window – ideally a large one – so that you can connect with the outside. It’s important for our Circadian rhythm and mental health. For me, natural light is absolutely essential so that I can pick up on the nuances of colour and texture in samples when building design schemes.
An impressive bay window floods this elegant study with natural light. Interior design by Park and Oak
For those miserably dull winter days, when the sun retreats at 3pm, artificial lighting is a necessity. Buildable task lighting – desk lamps or directed spot lighting – will make both your work endeavours and environment more manageable.
There are some great products available, at varying price points. I really love the HumanScale Horizon desk lamp, which is not only ergonomic and functional but also deliciously slick. (See it here). Even a little ambient lighting (i.e. a pendant on a dimmer) doesn’t go amiss, especially if you expect to work later and want more of a relaxed and informal feel. Ceiling pendant wise, super-size to amp up the space and showcase your style.
Stark contrast and iconic, retro furniture gives this home office a cool, mid-century flavour. Interior design by Montana Burnett Design
As with all interiors, the ideal is to mix and layer your lighting sources. If you are designing your home office from scratch and are lacking in floor space, wall lights are a great addition where you might otherwise have incorporated a freestanding floor or table lamp. This does require some forward planning (it’s never great fun to have to chase out a freshly painted wall for some cheeky retrofitting) but it’s certainly worth the effort!
To nail the home office, functionality is paramount. Storage, storage, storage. You need to space to hide away all the clutter so you can focus and think clearly.
Symmetry, storage and ‘shelfies’ for the win! Interior design by Kelly Hoppen Interiors
Stylish storage is the ultimate goal. Whether you’re sprucing up a trusted Kallax, or sourcing something wonderfully individual and antique, form and function is ever the perfect union. Once you have established enough space to conceal the ugly, carefully consider where everything is stored. Label if necessary to avoid those frantic, ‘headless chicken’ days. I’m actually OBSESSED with my electric label maker – like this one here. (Don’t judge but it’s actually hours and hours of fun)!
A final point on storage – searingly obviously but nevertheless worth reiterating… Measure. Don’t just rush in, place the order and expect it to fit. I say this with love – I’ve witnessed the mistakes. (This and other repeated interior design errors to avoid outlined in my post here). Oh, and introduce some open shelving too, if space affords, so you can showcase your styling!
Kelly Wearstler designed this glamorous, playful office with a statement graphic rug and punchy, raspberry chairs.
If you’re committing to a full-on, long-term home office (rather than a temporary housing solution), then chances are you will be dabbling in a little paint/colour selection. Now – before you panic at this wide and, frankly, overwhelming topic – fear not! I’ve already done the hard work for you. Here’s my blog post on Choosing the Right Paint Colour For Your Home. It covers all bases and should make the subject much easier to navigate.
What I would add to this, is that for a home office, easy-on-the-eye is preferable if you’re planning to send several hours each day in situ. This doesn’t necessarily mean neutral (although I am a longstanding advocate) and it certainly doesn’t mean drab. I just feel that a room intended for concentration and inspiration should be comfortable, visually. Not headache-inducing or unhinging. That rules out neons for me. And loud wallpaper… Somehow, block paint colour feels more appropriate. Blues and greens are always a winner – comforting, soothing.
With hues and textures inspired by nature and layered, eclectic styling, this striking home office is perfectly balanced. Interior design by Studio Ashby
Mid tones are great too as they are the perfect back drop for layering artwork. I recently used Farrow and Ball’s Drop Cloth in my home office, which is a strong beige with a lovely khakis undertone and is perfect for a layered look so the all-important artwork can sing!
All the glamour – Nate Burkus Associates
We’ve talked about the importance of measuring before… take heed. It’s also worth noting how important selection of furniture is, practicality wise. I’m all for beautiful things and the aesthetic of a space is central to my job as an interior designer, but usability and practicality are also crucial considerations. An interior should always be designed to be fit for purpose. And with the home office, it’s simple ergonomics.
The fact is, if you are sitting at your desk all day, it needs to be the correct height for you. Many ‘proper’ office desks are adjustable so you can make them work effectively. Your monitor should ideally be around eye level to reduce neck strain. Similarly, the chair you select should offer back and lumbar support, with arm rests for additional comfort.
That chair! Interior design by Studio Ashby
When sourcing furniture, it will become apparent that home office design can be a dance between style and practicality. Harmoniously marrying the two is the ideal but, for the full-time home worker, practicality really takes precedence.
Whilst there are many chic, mid-century modern desks with drawers under the table top, for those of us who are long-legged, this can be a disaster. Knee bashing, unsightly bruises – the restrictive nature of this design just isn’t worth it. Instead, opt for drawers off to one side or table-top storage for that handy calculator. Shame, I do love a beautiful antique desk! Alternatively, if you choose to go bespoke then all these considerations can be addressed and tailored to you. (Here’s my post on The Beauty of Bespoke Furniture for those considering exploring this avenue).
A place to ponder and draw inspiration by Fiona Barratt Interiors
If you can incorporate a little seating area in your office, do. This will balance the hard lines of desk surface and storage. It also makes the space more inviting and offers you a change of scene for a more casual call or time away from the computer whilst remaining ‘at work’.
#6: CABLE MANAGEMENT
Possibly one of the least glamorous subjects known to man, cable management is hot topic when working on a home office interior. There’s no use having a beautiful space with electrical cables snaking about all over the place, interrupting your zen. This cable holder works a treat attached to the back of a monitor, organising and securing phone charger cables and all their electrical friends.
Planning where everything will go in advance so as to reduce the visible cables and sockets is the best approach. Particularly if you wish to place your desk away from walls as this will likely require an electrical socked installed in the floor.
HOME IS WHERE THE OFFICE IS…
Work. Life. The lines are pretty blurred. That’s not to say they weren’t already, with emails on phones and work calls creeping into evenings, but lockdown was a real game-changer. Creating a designated space, to reside during the working day, will help to divide and conquer. If you can afford the space, it’s the way forward.
One for inspiration board. Interior design by Collett-Zarzycki
How have you found working from home during lockdown? Is your current space meeting your requirements and inspiring you? If you’re becoming unstuck on how to design your home office and need some professional guidance, please get in contact with me here at Sarah Mailer Design. I would be happy to help!
Girl signing off,
** If you’re looking for more interior ideas or inspiration, the following posts my be useful: Dreaming of White Decor | 5 Ways to Achieve a Luxury Boutique Hotel Style Bedroom | Coffee Table Book Styling | How to Design Children’s Bedrooms | How to Create a Spa Bathroom