As an interior designer, the home office is normal and many designers and architects work either from a studio which is home based or a separate building. Eg annexe. Space is always at a premium and yet everything has to be ‘design led’ so the impression to clients and customers is professional but also creative.
The good and the bad
Therefore the ‘new normal’ of working from home is a subject well versed in the designer’s home. Of course, like builders, your own space is often at the bottom of the pile in terms of action, but the skills are there to be passed on so you can make the very best your space and budget can afford.
If you have been working from home already then you will know what you are missing apart from the obvious companionship, the face to face conversations but also the lack of long-winded journeys to and from home, which are so time consuming and boring. There are good and bad scenarios. We have all had to make do and learn on the job.
“Now it’s time to take the new norm professionally”.
The home office environment has to be different. It cannot emulate or need to challenge, the large office. It’s a totally different beast and should be more personal, friendly and easy to work in. There are however, some essentials that are necessary and the design of the surroundings should be part of the equation.
Let’s look at the essentials in design terms;
- The technology has to be run into convenient points with minimum cable runs
- The space needs to be warm, dry, well-lit and allow you to work with ease
- A view helps you with small downtimes in between calls to keep you grounded
- There are some essential pieces of furniture we will look at
- You need to appear happy, knowledgeable and professional on calls and video links
- Image, lighting, sound and a practical working space need design input
“A Space, whether it’s a room or just a small area within your living room needs to be accessible each day and inviting enough for you to be able to want to ‘go to work’ every day and also leave it behind.”
Interior design cannot engineer the type of work you have to do, but it can influence your mind set to achieve a ‘best possible’ experience.
Decoration and creating a good feeling to work in
Colour can be instrumental in how good you feel each day. If you follow the trends you may be swayed into deep dark moody colours in a flat matte finish which is definitely going to echo the themes of today, but consider how this will look throughout a long dark winter and lockdown. To lift your spirits aim for colours that ‘compliment’ your personality and lifestyle. Bright, warm colours are also on trend so don’t be tied to what you see in the magazines. Create a scene that surrounds your desk and screen with positivity, giving opportunities for changing the small things that may offer a new look and make your video calls interesting.
The right space
Most people do not have enough space and need to create somewhere that can enhance the working environment that is not going to break the budget. Moving into a loft or basement can work if you have the time and funds to convert. Both are not ideal because you need an outlook and good light for a healthy daily environment. As an office, an on-line lap top view of sloping ceilings gives limited professionalism, but this can all be altered with great design and some preparation. Ask yourself –
“What can people see on my videos calls?”
The right view
Working with a camera needs thought and a little practise. When on video;
- what can be seen of your surrounding space other than your head
- how close to the camera are you and does your head veer out of proportion
- can you look straight into the camera on an even keel to achieve almost eye contact
- is the camera picking up the cracks in your ceiling or glare of a light fitting
- do other people come into view during important discussions
Ideally, the position of the camera and how wide it casts its lens should encompass you but also give a backdrop that supports your business and offers additional content that says something about you. A business conversation often needs informality to start things off. An interesting backdrop need not be dynamic but a simple piece of art or an object could be that ice breaker.
Image: This may look expensive but the wallpaper is from Graham Brown and looks like panels and artworks – an easy and clever solution to a white wall.
The designer workspace on a budget
Practical and easy methods for creating a budget proof work from home scenario can be achieved with simple tools. If you need a snug that’s all yours to work from but restricted by space and money, then look for clever alternatives to the norm. It could be a simple ceiling mounted curtain.
Backdrops for video calls
A wall need not be permanent – it can be a sheet of board from your local DIY shed, painted or given a few drops of wallpaper and wedged in position between furniture and a floor standing plant. Here the company Logo sits so the head position fills the circle from the position of the laptop camera. It sits behind the door when work has ended and you want home to look like home.
Top tip: To keep the DIY to a minimum use ready cut sheet sizes eg 1200 x 2400 or 600 x 1200 or 600 x 1830mms and these all work well with two drops of wallpaper and should suit most ceiling heights.
The next step up
Partition lightweight Kappa polyboard with tape as hinges and painted.
The hidden office can be created with two boards joined by either static angle brackets or multiple hinges, Velcro or even Gaffer Tape allow a stack and store solution. With a temporary wall using an angle you can fill the V section with a floor standing plant and an up-light to give the illusion of depth or a larger office. Using clip-on lighting and an interesting geometric paper a professional and very workable solution can give you a designer look, without the cost and permanence.
Professional solutions for working from home
The lengths you go to – to ‘give the look’ – is up to you and your style of business but be original and don’t be frightened of leading the way. Evoke comment! The stretch fabric options screen printed with logos and scenes show your desire to be taken seriously although are more costly and limited in size. They are still temporary and collapsible.
Lighting and glare
All interior solutions benefit from clever lighting. Ceiling lights on camera often emit glare which is ugly and distracting. A dark matt coloured backdrop will soak up glare. Some downlights can also have a diffuser fitted to spread directional light which minimises the loss of quality light and turns it into a more general light which is preferable to a camera. Natural sunlight moves and can also cause glare, so a blind at a window which is semi-opaque works in a similar way and enhances your natural beauty!
Planning the space you need
Creating a work from home space in your room can be a challenge. Start with the big things first – the desk and chair. An essential ingredient to withstanding the rigours of endless calls and video links is to be sitting comfortably and with the opportunity to stretch out and change position. Therefore you need a realistic approach to the allocation of space to your personal needs and the quality of the chair you sit in. Allocation of funds in a chair can be a back saver.
Image Chair 1: Ergo Tek Mesh Manager £184.80
Image Chair 2: Pledge Kind Full Back Chair
Image: Fabric options
Buying a chair that has been ergonomically designed can be an expensive outlay. Maybe your previous office chair can be delivered to your home if you have the space and happy with the image. The expensive chairs that are all singing all dancing, last forever and will cost from £600 upwards but there are cheaper alternatives. Research the various functions chairs offer;
- the guarantee period
- whether it comes flat packed or assembled – indication of quality
- if it’s a stocked item or made to order or off the shelf + delivery times
- fabric and colour options with samples available
- tilt, waterfall front seat, optional seat and back size, turn, gas lift,2 D or 3D arms and headrests
Storage and space management
The Home Office and Storage can be a challenge but analysing exactly what ‘type’ you need makes storage effective. Printed documents are still required and a unit plus files, need a place to live too. Combining storage and printer space means the depth of a unit must be generous. Open back shelving means care with stacking, but can allow space for other items to add interest and provide an opportunity for display. A backdrop behind you can work as storage, display and give a professional image of you and your business, and answers several needs in one go.
Combining home life and the office interior
Noise and movement are two issues to overcome to allow everyday living and work, thrive in harmony. Young families cannot be continually quiet, calls are not always programmed and access everywhere by all, often essential. Even the best on the TV screen, struggle with keeping this under control! Maybe they can afford the odd bloomer but a new business needs professional status.
Screens, backdrops can shield door movement for access. Apple iPods have active noise cancellation for immersive sound yet have a transparency mode for hearing and connecting with the outside world. Headsets with microphones can assist with unidirectional sound and the worker can benefit from top-end earphones so worth the cost if you are without a totally enclosed workspace.
“For noise control, treat your office space like a home cinema room”
Acoustic panels, screens and full-length curtains with soft flooring are all simple to install. Wood floors are noisy but fashionable so deep pile rugs and stretched or hung felt will massively reduce echo and noise without a huge cost. Acoustic curtains can be bought ready-made and best on track, fitted closely to the ceiling.
The beautiful home office
With the luxury of space, beautiful furniture which integrates into your home interior style can be functional as well. The Ergonomic Chair by Herman Miller will sit comfortably with a designer desk by Julian Chichester as they ooze design and beauty – the true sign of the combination of form and function. The ‘work from home’ experience is here to stay, so investing in top quality items that last and don’t intrude into your interior design is a bonus. They now rival the sofa and kitchens on the priority list of wants.
Technology is now trending high in interior design
The screen, black boxes with attitude and lifestyle technology should be integrated into the design of your home which means a more detailed look of the services and preparation, so the image is streamlined and not an ‘afterthought’. If your personal style is traditional or a rustic ‘Scandi’ design, you need to be particularly creative to blend the techno look with craft. The contemporary look is comparatively easy but also relies on clever integration between cosy comfort and hard lines.
Working from home successfully and incorporating design to transmit a professional image yet give comfort and blend harmoniously with your personal life can be a challenge but not impossible. Whether we like it or not working from home is here to stay. Let’s upgrade our appearance, integrate yet still separate, giving space and meaning to our new joined-up lifestyle. Go with the flow and make it work.