The start of the new academic year always feels like new pencil case time. Even though it’s been years since leaving school, the change from late summer to autumnal days seems to happen so quickly. Suddenly informal summer days are replaced by crisper weather and new timetables. For me, there’s always an air of excitement; it feels like shiny new shoes and satchel time all over again.
So September and a new term seems like the perfect time to think about creating an inspiring home-working space. With so many of us spending at least part of our working week at home, it’s more important than ever to get this space right and to make it feel like a place in which you actually like spending time and feel productive. For me, it makes such a difference to know that I can leave my work laid out just the way I want it at the end of the day, to not have to tidy it away to make that space work for another use (namely toast eating, pencil rubbings, homework, papier mâché etc…!) and know that I can pick up right where I left off the day before.
So whilst it may be the dream, it’s not always possible to designate a whole room to home working, but it’s possible to carve out a perfect work spot out of the smallest space.
First the desk
Choosing the desk and chair will set the style for your space. Obviously there are some practicalities to consider first.
If you are going to be working at your desk for long periods at a time at the desk, you really do need to consider the height and depth of the chair and the back support it gives. Some prefer a chair with arms, in which case make sure it can still fit under the desk. There are now many options of ergonomically designed furniture, from standing desks to kneeling chairs, and apps such as Move and StandApp to increase wellness by reminding you to take a movement break away from your screen. Even treadmill desks exist if you want to go one stage further.
If the working area is part of another room, consider the way the style of it will fit into the space. Something industrial, for example, can be great in a larger space, or a painted vintage table protected by a glass or painted wood top. One of my favourites is a trestle desk – the trestles themselves can be picked up at antique fairs or Ikea sell a white painted trestle which is perfect for a neutral scheme with a lovely utilitarian style. The best thing about this kind of desk is that the length can be whatever you chose; Ikea make tops up to 250cm long, or ask a carpenter to cut a wooden top to size. This makes it a great choice for co-working, or if your work needs a little more space. The height is adjustable too, which makes it a perfect choice for a studio or if you like to work at a raised level.
If the room allows, antique captains desks can look great as they are designed to be seen from both sides so can be really dramatic in the centre of the room. Offsetting the formality with an unexpected chair can keep the look eclectic. If you are choosing this layout from the outset of a renovation, make sure to have power points installed in to the floor for your computer and desk lamp.
If space is more limited, consider a bespoke option. A working space may not need to be anything more than a floating shelf, maybe built into an alcove or the space under the stairs. Painting it in an eggshell finish the same as the wall colour can visually enhance the sense of space. Many furniture companies also make cupboards that look like painted armoires but which have a shelf for your monitor and a pull-out desk inside that can be closed away at the end of the day.
Getting the lighting right and positioning your desk in a place that helps you work are both really important. Ample electrical points for printers, telephones, lighting and charging are obviously essential. Natural light is best, so placing the desk by the window is ideal. This rather depends on the view though as it’s easy to be distracted if there’s too much of interest going on outside. Currently my desk looks out onto tall trees and rooftops, which is perfect. The study in one house we lived in looked onto a bustling harbor, which although beautiful, made it pretty difficult to get any work done!
Directional task lighting will illuminate just where you need and will help your eyes. Just make sure you don’t have a bright window or light source behind you as this will make your screen difficult to see.
Having a place for everything makes home working so much more productive, but isn’t easy to get right. Beautiful storage boxes may look lovely for filing, but are not always practical, so consider what you need to hand. Desks with drawers can be good to keep all the less pretty stuff out of sight, leaving the desktop itself free for carefully considered items, whether they be lovely pencil pots, leather or wire in-trays or just a lap top. The space on the walls around the desk can be utilized for shelves or maybe framed cork boards covered in hessian or fabric. Plain magazine holders can look lovely filled with coloured journal spines. Empty candle glasses can make pretty holders for pens and pencils (just pop them in the freezer for a bit to free the wax).
Finally, make your space happy! Working from home definitely has its pros and cons, but one of the best bits is being able to make your work space your own and make it happy. Whether that means surrounding yourself with framed photographs, inspirational prints, lighting a scented candle or incorporating a bit of nature (maybe a couple of stems or a succulent). An aromatherapy atomizer can really lift your energy as well as smell amazing. In the winter I like to have a small sheepskin under my desk to keep my feet cosy. Add a coffee machine within easy reach and working from home is definitely working for me.