Whether you need a spot for admin or work from home full-time, practical home office layout ideas are going to be essential for your productivity levels. A makeshift desk might have worked for the short term, but if you're regularly spending time working in your home, then you'll want a space that is properly set up for office life. Oh, and it has to look the part too.
The location of your home office is key when it comes to achieving a layout that allows your home office ideas to work effectively. If you have a separate room for a home office then working out a layout for the essentials shouldn't be too much of a challenge. However, if you're trying to add a workspace to an existing room then you'll need to cleverly play around with the layout so that it works for both living and working.
Home office layout ideas
‘A well-curated home office has numerous benefits, from increasing productivity to maintaining good physical and mental wellbeing,’ says Rachel Fell, Furniture Buying Manager at Habitat. ‘And with many more people now working from home, it’s always good to re-evaluate the home workspace, upgrading makeshift areas to more permanent set-ups and breathing new life into these all-important zones.’
1. Make a living room dual-use
We won't all have a separate home office that can be designed entirely around your work needs - sometimes it's all about finding a way to incorporate a practical spot into your existing living space.
'home offices are often areas within existing rooms, which is not ideal - but you can still zone the area using paint and accessories,' advises Sophie Smith, founder at Zhoosh Paints. In this case, open shelving that matches the wood tone of the wall-hung desk creates a work zone within this open-plan living room, so that it feels separate from where you relax and socialise.
'They help keep the desk area tidy and also create a purpose for that section of the space without clashing with your existing colour scheme,' adds Sophie.
2. Opt for an under-stairs workspace
Making use of awkward spaces is key to ensuring your home works as efficiently as possible. The gap under the stairs is difficult to utilise for anything other than storage, but it also makes the perfect slot for a desk.
If a small home office doesn't phase you, and all you need is a spot to work on a laptop, then placing a desk here will provide a place to perch that is tucked out of the way. Just ensure it's illuminated with the best home office lighting ideas so that you can keep focus at any time of day.
3. Make use of a landing
It's easy to believe that a home office has to be tucked away in a dedicated room, but actually finding a less common spot to work could be the source of some much-needed inspiration.
A landing is a perfect placement for this as it transforms an otherwise dead space into a useful focus zone. While an enclosed area away from traffic might be beneficial for some work, being in a busy area can aid creativity.
If you don't want to overcrowd a landing, opt for a desk that blends in with the staircase, whether that be a similar spindle style or shade of wood. This way, it's making excellent use of the space without causing any visual clutter.
4. Maximise natural light
If you have a separate home office but you want it to feel connected to the rest of your home, then glass doors will provide ample light while still keeping noise out.
'Your home office should feel like part of your home since it is an extension of your personal style, but you also want it to be a place with minimal distractions. Luckily, there are multiple easy ways to tune out that pile of dishes or blaring TV and get you the privacy that you and your workflow need,' says Emma Cottrell from BoConcept.
'French doors can block out noise while maintaining an airy aesthetic. Especially ideal for small offices that want privacy without a claustrophobic vibe.'
5. Work at an angle
When planning a home office layout, it's easy to jump straight to positioning a desk up against a wall. While this means you have more floor space to work with, facing the wall isn't always the most inspiring view.
Instead, consider placing a desk more centrally in the room and at an angle. This layout will look more styled as opposed to placing practicality first, and will help to prompt creativity by working in a more interesting position.
6. Find the right spot for your desk
The desk is the most important feature of any home office, so making sure that you put it in the right spot is key. Positioning the desk so that it faces the door where you can greet visitors is good if your work involves lots of meetings. If that’s not possible to include in your small home office ideas, and the desk needs to be positioned facing a wall, then opt for a soft and soothing wall colour when considering paint ideas, alternatively opt for calming foliage and greenery or inspirational wall art.
Position the desk as close to a natural light source as you can. If facing a window is too distracting, then set it at a right angle so that you’ll get plenty of incoming light and can enjoy the view when you’re on a break. If the window is behind your desk, add a light-filtering window covering to prevent glare on your computer screen.
7. Plan out the lighting
No matter how much natural light your office space receives, additional home office lighting ideas will need to be factored in for evenings and autumn and winter months when the light is gloomier.
Consider where your light source is coming from when setting up your work space. A light set behind you is likely to cause glare on your screen and might mean that you are working in shadow, so consider adjusting the positioning of overhead lighting to counteract this. Or bring in an adjustable desk lamp to boost light levels. Position so that light comes from the left side if you are right-handed, and vice versa if you are left handed.
If you're considering purchasing a couple of different lights to suit all your needs, then it's well worth checking if there are any relevant active home decor discount codes on offer.
8. Utilise a divider to create a private zone
If space is super tight and working from home in a shared space is the only option, then try to tuck the desk away in as quiet a spot as you can. A temporary screen, panel or shelving unit that acts as a room divider can all help to provide extra privacy while working. Tall, floor-standing plants and greenery are another option that can help to screen-off an area and help deaden outside noise a little.
‘Opt for a room divider or desk with built-in walls to carve out a designated area for work. Isolating the workspace in this way evokes an element of seclusion which encourages focus and concentration,’ says Rachel Fell at Habitat. ‘These clear physical boundaries also help mentally separate office and living areas, meaning it’s easier to leave work behind at the end of the day.’
9. Keep inspiration close to hand
While an outwardly-facing desk is often recommended, it will require more space, which isn’t always possible if you’re squeezing a desk into a shared living area. Practical elements, such as the location of electrical sockets, need to be considered too. If you have a computer and equipment that needs to be plugged in, while you can look into how to hide wires, trailing wires could be a problem for any centrally-positioned desk.
If the most practical home office layout means that your desk needs to be positioned facing a wall, then use it as an opportunity to get creative with your wall space. Treat the whole area as a supersized pinboard, covering the wall with cork tiles, so you can pin up reference materials, swatches and favourite pictures that will bring inspiration when you’re working away.
10. Zone out a work corner
Making use of a corner is a clever way of gaining extra surface space without encroaching on too-much floor space. Triangular-shaped desks are a smart compact home office desk ideas that will slot neatly into a corner if space is super-tight.
Alternatively, an L-shaped desk set-up offers extra desktop space, with two surfaces set at right angles to each other. L-shaped configurations work well in open-plan living spaces and are a useful way of defining a separate work-space zone.
‘Home working shows no sign of abating, so as a design studio we continue to put emphasis on products that support flexible living,’ says Ben Stanton, Designer at Habitat. ‘This desk unit (shown above) is designed and built to increase storage solutions whilst being adaptable to different home office needs. The unique swivel mechanism allows for a multitude of positions: the 'L' shaped desk can zone a space or make the most of unused corners, and it can also extend flat against a wall.’
11. Go for a multi-tasking work table
Whether you work from home, want a desk to do paperwork or a space where the kids can spread out and do their homework, a work table can be a useful addition in a family room or open-plan living space.
A peninsula-style desk or table is a space-saving option if you don’t have the space for a central work table. With one end positioned against a wall, it will take up less floor space, while still allowing traffic to go round it at one end.
12. Double up desks in a shared space
If more than one family member is working from home at the same time, then working out an arrangement that accommodates both is needed if 'hot desking' is out of the equation.
Consider butting two desks up against each other, his-and-hers style, and setting them centrally in the middle of a room. Or position them with one end against the wall in a peninsula-style set-up. Both arrangements will require face-to-face working, but as long as that won’t be a distraction, it can be a good use of space.
13. Switch to side-by-side working
If face-to-face desks aren’t an option, or your office space is long and narrow, then consider a side-by-side arrangement instead. Positioning two desks next to each other will mean that each person has their own individual space, but can swivel round and interact with each other when necessary.
Use the wall space above the two desks for extra storage so that the floor space doesn’t feel too crowded. Open shelves and cubbies are handy home office storage ideas for files, books and paperwork and are easier to access than cabinets.
14. Set up a home hub
Integrate a central hub in your open-plan living room ideas or family room with a high work table and stools set-up that will give plenty of table space for all the family to work at. Choose materials that blend in with and complement the room’s decor and use a large rug as an anchor point to help define the work area more prominently.
15. Section-off an office space
Sneak a compact desk set-up into your hallway ideas or upstairs landing if you don’t have the space for a dedicated home office. A slimline desk makes a handy landing spot for a laptop and can be tucked neatly away into a recess or alcove.
Timber panelling can be used to create a simple room divider that will provide a little extra screening and privacy in an open area. Vertical uprights can be fixed onto battens to section-off an area, with open slats that will still let plenty of light through.
How do you set up a home office layout?
When setting up a home office you need to first consider the size of the room you're planning to use as a home office. If you are working with a dedicated room you'll have a lot more freedom with the layout, and therefore alot more decisions to make than if you're converting a small closet into a dedicated work space.
Your starting point is to work out the best place for your desk, that could be under a window if you have one or close to the sockets. Once you have decided on the location, before you buy any furniture work out how much space you have for the desk and office chair to fit in comfortably. You should be able to pull the chair in and out easily, and have enough space for a laptop as a bare minimum.
Once that central decision has been made, you can start building your home office layout around it and start including lighting, followed by storage. Lighting is an incredibly important part, aim to include task lighting over the desk and ambient lighting for a productive work zone.
When planning out storage, consider what you actually need to store in your home office and the space you have available. Whatever, you plan in, whether it be shelves or drawers, make sure you can easily access everything on the shelf without having to move anything out of the way.
Which way should a desk face in a home office?
Where you position your desk will dependent on the size and layout of the room you are working with. If possible avoid having your desk facing wall, this is a big interior design no-no. To quote Michelle Ogundehin from the home office episode of Interior Design Masters: 'it's like putting yourself in detention.'
Ideally aim to position your desk looking out over the room, with a window to the side to provide plenty of natural light. However, if you're working with a section of another room or a small space try aim to position your desk next or under a window, so you have light and something to look at.
If you have no option but to position your desk up against a wall make sure you have fun with your home office wall decor ideas. Hanging plants or wall art, can help liven up a dull wall, and even boost productivity.
Your home office layout ideas should inspire productivity, so if you're struggling to work in your current set up it could be time for a change.
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Lisa is Deputy Editor of Style at Home magazine and regularly contributes to sister title Ideal Home. She has written about interiors for more than 25 years and about pretty much every area of the home, from shopping and decorating, crafts and DIY to real home transformations and kitchen and bathroom makeovers. Homes and interiors have always been a passion and she never tires of nosying around gorgeous homes, whether on TV, online, in print or in person.
- Holly CockburnContent Editor
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