Office space is shooting up the list of must-haves for house-hunters. The home and work lives of 70 per cent of us collided virtually overnight, so it’s hardly surprising so many are looking for somewhere to spread out.
It doesn’t have to be the luxury of a whole room: a desk and chair can be squeezed into even the smallest nook and cranny. A special spot to ‘commute’ to will help improve focus and can be relatively quick and easy to set up.
Alcoves, the area under the stairs, a corner of a hallway or landing, even the inside of an empty built-in wardrobe are all options. If you’re working from the bedroom, consider other spaces so you’re not spending most of your life in one place. I’m a fan of old-fashioned writing bureaus, desk ladders that lean against the wall with shelving above (see 3 Things I’m Loving) and wall-mounted desks that fold away and take up very little room. Neptune’s Chichester workstations are effectively a study inside a beautiful wooden cupboard, complete with shelves, pull-out desk, storage and doors to hide everything away.
If there’s no end to this ‘new normal’ in sight, now could be the time to consider changing the role of an under-used dining room, spare bedroom, garage or loft, or creating something outside. Sussex-based A Room in the Garden has contemporary one-person offices from £9,500. I’ve also seen some clever ones adapted from sheds, vintage caravans, camper vans and shepherd’s huts (check planning permission rules first). There’s plenty of ideas on my ‘Happy Work Spaces’ Pinterest board for those seeking inspiration.
Sitting up in bed with a laptop, or on a kitchen stool, dining chair or sofa, isn’t going to be good for posture in the long-term. Proper swivel chairs support the back and protect against aches, pains and RSI and there are lots of stylish ones to choose from nowadays (see 3 Things I’m Loving below). If you don’t like the look of yours, soften with a throw, sheepskin or cushion, or see if it can be re-upholstered.
Like the chairs, traditional office desks and filing cabinets can stick out like a sore thumb in a domestic setting. Bisley’s MultiDrawer units come in fun colours and can double up as bedside tables or the ‘legs’ of a homemade desk with a piece of plywood or reclaimed wood, kitchen worktop or old door placed on top. Old furniture can be jazzed up with laminate, metal, eggshell or plastic paint.
Play around with layout. Desks don’t have to face the wall: how about the middle of the room facing a door or window, diagonally across a corner, or at right-angles to the wall? I like to put them under a window, it makes life more interesting to see the world outside and encourages screen breaks.
Dressers, coffee tables, wardrobes, chests, even shelves tucked away in a utility room are useful for storing paperwork and files. Ugly wireless printers, folders and files can be hidden in other rooms. Section off open-plan areas with a large, freestanding bookcase or decorative screen; these also make great Zoom call backdrops. Sliding doors that disappear into the wall provide flexibility and don’t take up space when they’re open.
Wherever you end up, make sure it’s somewhere you’re going to enjoy hanging out. A few finishing touches will make it cosy and inspiring: pictures, quotes and photos, a small rug to soften a hard surface; noticeboards, pegboards and blackboard stickers to keep notes and ideas together; reed diffusers (rosemary, sage and peppermint aid concentration), a bunch of flowers, a new mug … If it feels too quiet, there are hundreds of ambient noise apps around, including ones with the tip-tapping of computer keyboards and background chatter of coffee shops and offices.
Indoor plants add colour, life and increase productivity. Some of my favourites are spider plants, orchids, aloe vera, succulents, bamboo and pilea – also known as the Chinese money plant, and one of the hottest house plants on Instagram, thanks to its cute, heart-shaped leaves). Natural daylight boosts mood and alertness, just ensure there’s no reflection on the computer screen. Brighten up darker days with a reading lamp, or a SAD lamp that mimics daylight and wards off wintertime blues.
Last but not least (and not surprisingly coming from someone who helps others live with less!), try to keep it uncluttered and organised. Tidy everything away at the end of the day if you’re using a room that’s used for eating or relaxing, to ease into ‘playtime’. Paperchase, Caroline Gardner, Muji and Not On The High Street are good places for storage and stationery.
It always surprises me how often even the most stunning properties have miserable, messy offices. Working in a calm environment is known to reduce feelings of stress, and that’s something most of us could do with some more of right now.
Jane Lee breathes new life into tired rooms using a mix of home staging, organising and styling. Get in touch to discuss the best way of working together – she can provide advice and support remotely, by phone, email and video call. A member of the Home Staging Association (HSA) and the Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers (APDO), her website is www.janeleeinteriors.co.uk and you can find her on Instagram, Facebook, Houzz, Pinterest and LinkedIn @janeleeinteriors