How to Set up a Successful and Stylish Home Office

A home office space by Creative Tonic. Photography by Julie Soefer photography.

While many people quickly created makeshift home workspaces in the spring, with the possibility of working from home stretching far into the future, it might be time to revisit those areas with an eye toward improving comfort and function. Here, Houston, Texas-based interior designer Courtnay Elias of Creative Tonic and Mendham, New Jersey-based interior designer Jane Connell of  Fun House Furnishings and Design discuss how to create a home office that not only enables you to get your work done, but that also brings you joy.

Assess your working style. Your home office should reflect the way you like to work, Elias shares. If you do your best work behind a desk, then consider ergonomics as well as style when choosing a desk and chair. Alternatively, if you prefer to lounge on a laptop, pick out a comfortable chair or couch with an ottoman in addition to a traditional desk setup. The goal is to create a space that you will actually use.

Approach the design like you would a bedroom. Since this workspace is in your home, it should feel like home. “I tell my clients to decorate it like they would their bedroom,” Elias says. She and Connell both recommend putting a large, cozy rug in the area to immediately make it feel warm. Also consider accents like throw pillows, lighting, and window treatments, which will soften and add personality to the space.

Get creative. Not everyone is in a position to dedicate a spare room as an office space. Still, there are ways to create a lovely office within your home’s current footprint. Elias notes that many secondary bedrooms have linear closets where you can build a desk. “You can take the doors off, or keep them on and be able to close everything away when you’re finished for the day,” she says. Another option is to convert a room that was previously underutilized into a workspace. For example, Elias has a client who never used her formal dining room, so when the pandemic hit and the client and her husband found themselves working at home, they called her in to transform it into a new shared office.

Make organization a priority. Elias recommends carefully assessing the elements you’ll need to have a functional and efficient office, from supplies to storage, and thinking through the mechanics of how you want to work. Your office should function as smoothly as a well-thought-out kitchen, Connell adds, which means making sure that everything you need is nearby.

A home office space by Fun House. Photography by Laura Moss.

Don’t settle for standard office furniture. “Your home office doesn’t have to look like a corporate space,” Connell says. Instead of shopping at an office supply store, look to shops in your area, especially antique stores, where you can find wonderful old desks that often have better storage than sleek, modern ones. Meanwhile, Elias recommends going custom with your seating when you can. “Ordering a custom desk chair that fits you ergonomically trimmed in fabrics you love will be a purchase you’ll never regret.”

Think through your lighting. Elias and Connell both agree that lighting is one of the most important elements to consider when designing your home office. You’ll need task lighting to illuminate what you’re working on, but also overhead lighting to brighten the whole room, and whenever possible, natural lighting will enliven your whole space. When choosing task lighting, Connell notes, keep in mind that you’re not limited to office-type fixtures, so go ahead and choose a beautiful table lamp to further convey a sense of home.

Conceal your technology. Elias and Connell concur that hiding all electrical cords and wiring is essential in creating an inviting space. Connell achieves this primarily by placing the computer table against a wall, and finding cabinetry that will hold the printer, which is often the least attractive and bulkiest piece of office equipment. When approaching the design of the space, Elias tries to choose furniture and built-ins that will make computer monitors and TVs less obtrusive.

Remove visual clutter. Since the sight of extraneous items can be stress-inducing, Connell likes to contain everything in vessels of all types. Rather than typical office storage bins, which can look very sterile, she advices seeking out baskets, boxes, and pretty containers in which to keep your essential work items, which could even entail perusing your collection of silver and serving pieces for possible paperclip holders. A file drawer can also work wonders. “You can file everything you need instead of having it sitting out,” she says. “I have a file for bills to be paid, my to-do list, receipts, and any number of projects I am working on.” Tucked away alphabetically, she knows exactly where it is when she needs it, and her desk is a clean slate.

Have your office do double-duty. While some prefer to have an office where they can close the door and leave it behind at the end of the workday, others may wish to make the space flexible for other needs, which is entirely possible, according to Elias. “I believe the space can absolutely serve a dual purpose,” she says. “A home office can easily serve as a library, TV room, or sitting room.” As an added benefit, making your office a space for more than just work can help it feel more comfortable and inviting.

Make it personal. Adding personality to your work-from-home setup will only make you enjoy it more. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, according to our experts. “I love to create a gallery wall for my clients, mixed with framed diplomas, family photos, artwork, and any professional accolades,” says Elias. Adding in books or travel souvenirs that bring you joy will also enhance your office.

TSG Tip 380 from Courtnay Elias, owner of Creative Tonic in Houston, Texas, and Jane Connell, owner of Fun House Furnishings and Design in Mendham, New Jersey. Creative Tonic is featured in The Scout Guide Houston. Fun House Furnishings and Design is featured in The Scout Guide Northern New Jersey.

Browse your local TSG city guide to find a Scouted interior designer in your area.