In Inspiration

Instantly Improve Your Home Office Set-Up With 10 Easy Tips

an office desk and styling accents in the corner of a bedroom

This week marked the fifth month of full-time working from home in our house since we were sent home from our respective offices in mid-March. Back then, we were cavalier – perhaps even optimistic – about how a bit of home working. We do this a day a week or so already! We love our home! Perhaps we’ll get more done than before!

Reader, it did not go like that. Of course it didn’t – it’s been months of a terrifying, dreadful, tragic global pandemic taking lives and liberties and it continues to rage on. And while we were lucky to have worked throughout lockdown – our incomes secure – our cobbled-together work set-up wasn’t fit for the medium- or long-term.

With a return to regular office life in 2020 looking less and less likely, I decided to finally make some long-overdue improvements to my own bedroom workspace. There’s no dual monitor here, no expensive ergonomic chair. And these are not health-and-safety tips, they are very much superficial and frivolous – but I’m a creature driven by environment, and as you’re reading an interior design blog, I expect you are too. Working in a nice space that feels cohesive and coherent has significantly improved my work – and more importantly, my mood – in the last few weeks.

Some, all or none of these might work for you. That’s fine – how we work is intensely private. But if you’re struggling with the monotony of showing up to work a few feet from your bed each morning, see if these refreshes might help…

1. Rise Up

A practical start: you need a laptop riser. I know you don’t think you do – you think your posture’s fine or the stack of magazines you’ve been using works of. You don’t, and it doesn’t.

A simple riser will instantly improve the alignment of your neck and – as a bonus – it’s amazing what a difference it’ll make to how flattering your web cam is (I’m looking at you, out-of-nowhere double chin??).

I managed without a riser for months until I put this IKEA one into play and, God, what a difference it instantly made to how productive and professional I felt!

acacia wood cookbook or tablet stand

Acacia Wood Tablet Stand

£25
A two piece connecting laptop riser in eco plywood

Eco Crossed Laptop Stand

£29.90
a moulded pressed wood laptop stand

Wooden Cooling Laptop Stand

£38.99

2. Pick a lane, stick in the lane

Styling a small workplace truly, honestly isn’t that difficult. To instantly and dramatically improve the appearance of your ‘office’, pick one colour or texture. Go on, right now – choose one. If you’re not sure, here are some ideas that are easy to make happen for workspaces:

  • Untreated wood/plywood – (my chosen theme – you can see it in my binders, riser, mirror frame and even the pale Canadian ash of the wishbone chair
  • Matte black – super easy to find luxe-looking but affordable office accessories for this scheme. Think a black leather notebook and matching pen holder, then tie it in with some slim black picture frames on your nearest wall
  • Rose gold – perfect if you’re lucky enough to have a rose gold MacBook (the dream). The big stationery places like Paperchase stock lots of lovely accessories in coppery tones, from paperclips to the ring binding on a diary
  • Cork – a richly textured, androgynous and bohemian option for your workspace. If you’re into this, I recommend an IKEA trip for their large cork mouse mats – try tacking on to the wall in front of you for a cheap and minimalist pin board
  • Neon – want something a bit more punchy? Neon accents are a great way to use several colours, using the tone to tie them together. Neon pops lend themselves to a creative workspace – look out for design-led postcards you can stick up and neon office supplies.
Stacked beech wood desk organiser

Wooden Stacking Desk Organiser

£25
black and walnut tower desk organiser

Yamakazi Tower Desk Organiser

£30
white terrazzo base and marble arm headphone stand

Terrazzo Base Headphone Stand

£20
carved white marble desk organiser with styled accessories

Podium Marble Desk Organiser

£49
a bleached wood and matte black desk organiser

Horizon Document Organiser

£49
plywood mini desktop chest of drawers organiser

Plywood Mini Drawers

£17

3. Style with your personality

It’s a workspace, but it’s still your home. Yes, it’s important to keep the space professional and functional so that you’re able to transition as cleanly as possible between work and life.

But if you’re anything like me, you’ve spent your entire professional life until recently amongst ceiling tiles and dodgy carpets and wood laminate peeling from the edges of desks. Now you have the chance to work somewhere that actually reflects you back – take advantage.

Use prints, postcards, accessories, objet d’art that particularly resonate with you. In my experience, a space that feels like a good fit can even help with some of those feelings of uncertainty and yawning ‘temporariness’ we’re experiencing.

ceramic minimalist face sculpture on black base

Ceramic Bust Sculpture

£19.99
taupe stoneware vase with two small handles

Stoneware Speckle Glaze Urn

£14.99
vase in shape of lower half of a greek statue's face

Grecian Stoneware Vase

£19.99
stone coloured vase with abstract black face motif

Shallow Bowl With Face Motif

£12.99
cobalt blue leather bound journal

Clare V. Francophile Journal

£14
gold hexagonal desktop photo or note holder with a postcard in it

Gold Hexagon Note Holder

£5

4. Minimise clutter as much as you can

Organise your papers into folders or trays. Keep your pens in a holder. One water glass on the desk at all times, not three or four (I’m talking to myself here).

I know it’s easier said than done, but space is at a premium with home working, and the more you can bring order to the physical space around you, the more order you can bring to the work itself, and to your busy mind.

And as we’ll see later, it’s really important to ‘close down’ your workspace at the end of the day – much easier if there’s a few key items around than if your desk is overrun with bits and pieces.

minimalist matte black rectangular shelf unit

Matte Black Large Wall Shelf

£99.99
gold coloured wire organiser basket

Gold Metal Wire Basket

£9.99
vintage rustic looking wooden crate

Wooden Storage Box

£12.99

5. Inspiration, not distraction

While a gallery wall or notice board collage may look great, they could also be a distraction. Especially if, like me, you’re going to find yourself wanting to neaten, rearrange and faff with it almost constantly.

If you’re easily distracted, place something large and uncluttered just beyond your laptop view. I use this abstract Matisse gallery poster – I can focus on it while I’m thinking, the colour scheme is soothing without being a distraction, and if my eyes land on that then they’re less likely to stray to my phone and magically open the Twitter app by themselves.

photo print of moody still life composition

Moody Romantic Floral Poster

£12.99
vintage floral illustration print

Vintage Style Flower Illustration Poster

£12.99
slim oak wooden picture frame

Slim Oak Wooden A4 Picture Frame

£34.99
black and gold typography poster in black frame

Cool To Be Kind Black & Gold Wall Art

£59.50
abstract art tropical leaf poster

Iro Leaf Green Framed Wall Art

£59
burnt orange henri matisse poster in frame

Henri Matisse Burned Orange Dance

£34

6. You deserve fresh flowers

In the offices I’ve worked in, fresh cut flowers are reserved for the reception area, not the ‘factory floor’ (as it were, I’ve never done anything as useful as factory work in my life).

Well, you don’t have a reception area anymore and you’re in charge. You deserve the bright, fresh scent of flowers on your desk (if there’s room – otherwise put them nearby instead). It’s indulgent, but affordably so if done every couple of weeks (peonies and hydrangea are in season now, and can be easily, naturally dried in situ so that they last much longer).

fresh lilies on a desk next to an open laptop

7. The “work mug”

Sounds mad to have a work mug when you’re working from home, right? The entire mug cupboard is yours now! No digging around for the least stained plain white mug that’s the wrong side and the handle’s uncomfortable and who chose these??

Probably, the mug you take to work is your Worst Mug. The one you don’t really care if it disappears, or you spot Jeremy In Accounts Payable using it for his cup-a-soup.

But we’re at home now, and looking for moments of joy wherever we find them. Don’t sully one of your normal mugs – treat yourself to a new one you really, really like. H&M Home, John Lewis, IKEA and all supermarkets have really lovely tableware for under £5. Don’t drink from it on weekends – this is the Work Mug. It matters.

I know it sounds daft, but if it makes your morning coffee break a little brighter, why not cheer yourself up?

retro 70s style ochre and gold mug

Retro Style Mustard and Gold Mug

£12
large pink glazed ceramic mug

Carmen Pink Stoneware Mug

£16
cream mug with black brush stroke illustrations

Hestia Mug With Abstract Illustration

£12
three mugs styled with teaspoon and biscuits

Zabra Glazed Elegant Mug

£12
glass mug

Crystal Clear Glass Mug

£3.99
ceramic mug with ombre glaze in earth tones

Set of 2 XL ’70s Ceramic Mugs

£23.99

8. End of the day = put it away

Without a commute to act as watershed on your work day, it’s SO important you’re able to ‘leave the office’ by closing down your workspace at the end of the day. Of course, if you’re working in a study or spare bedroom, it’s easy enough to close the door.

But if you’re working from your bedroom or living space, I can’t recommend highly enough that you put the work stuff away. I put my notebook and laptop in a drawer, and hide the riser under my desk. It’s a simple visual cue that it’s no longer work time, so I won’t be tempted to crack the laptop back open after dinner.

a computer on an old fashioned bureau with modern hairpin legs

9. The backdrop back-up

If you’re on video calls all day, you’re probably already thinking about the backdrop pressure! What can your coworkers see behind you, and what does it say about you?? The truth is: they probably aren’t looking, they probably don’t care, and they’re probably wondering when they next have enough time to make a coffee.

But if you do want to smarten up your space, stick a big plant off centre behind you – it’s a great background, can cover cluttered corners, and is effortlessly bohemian. If your back’s against the wall (literally speaking), think about a couple of minimalist, graphic prints in slim frames to frame your face.

tall faux monstera in pot

Tall Faux Potted Monstera

£245
artificial string of hearts on mantlepiece

Artificial Trailing String of Hearts

£95
faux rubber plant in pot

Faux Potted Rubber Plant

Faux Potted Rubber Plant

10. Take more breaks

This one isn’t a design tip. It’s just a gentle nudge to be easier on yourself if you’re working from home right now. You don’t work for 9 hours straight when you’re in the office – no, you can’t protest as much as you want, I don’t believe you. You’re up, chatting, running into colleagues, fetching tea rounds. You’re moving between meetings and spending the first 10 minutes of them making small talk.

At home, my partner and I work in separate rooms (largely because we’re constantly on calls) so we pop in on each other a few times a day for a chat – it helps it feel more like an office environment. And we walk the dog, nip out for a take-out coffee, and sometimes go out for lunch. Remember, this isn’t just working from home – this is working through a pandemic. You deserve a break.

laptop and open notebook on desk next to a takeaway coffee cup
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