How to transform your work space into a home office — from simple tweaks to full design makeovers

·5-min read
 (Athina Bluff)
(Athina Bluff)

From Monday, December 13, government guidance for people in England changed to “work from home, if you can” as part of the Plan B response to the risks of the Omicron variant.

Among the bugbears of spending 2020 locking down in my small south-east London flat was the act of unpacking and packing up screens, a laptop, the pile of books it sits on and endless cables at either end of each day.

I’d mistakenly believed that clearing away all of my things from the tiny kitchen-living space every night would help me switch off, when in reality it made WFH all the more frustrating.

Now, as those who can work from home, I can share how I improved my set-up. If you haven’t updated yours, you’re not alone.

Despite WFH having been a thing for almost two years, many people — especially space-starved Londoners — are still making do.

We don’t have to put up with these ad hoc, cramped and uninspiring work spaces, though. Athina Bluff, founder of Topology Interiors, says even simple tweaks will help you work smarter at home.

Window seat — or fake it

Place your desk opposite or beside a window as the gentle influx of light and movement aids productivity. If that’s not an option, hang a mirror on the wall above your desk to reflect light, shapes and movement from the room around you.

Get the light right

Natural light is king but if you have to work in a darker space, such as a basement flat or a dingy room at the back of a house, get some halogen overhead lights, which are the closest light to natural light. They can be quite harsh so add a floor lamp or desk lamp for warmth.

Red for concentration

If you struggle to concentrate try adding a small splash of red — a pen pot or vase will do — to your work station. It may sound odd but red is the first colour the naked eye sees on the colour spectrum so it can instantly wake up the brain.

 (Athina Bluff)
(Athina Bluff)

De-stress the space

Plants are a really great addition as they subconsciously connect us with nature. A plant or two on your desk can aid relaxation and reduce stress. They’re also great for people who are naturally messy desk people as they counteract the chaos.

Energising art

If you want to feel energised and ready for the work day, try adding artwork that represents some form of kinetic energy, for example, a person moving, waves, trees blowing, a bicycle or even something architectural with steps.

Stay clutter-free

Keep your space clean and tidy. Have a designated clutter drawer if needs be to hide away everyday unsightly clutter.

Athina and her team will design a room in your home from £299. Visit @topologyinteriors or topologyinteriors.com

Home office design inspiration

If, on the other hand, you’re lucky enough to be planning a total renovation or some kind of garden office build, there’s still lots to consider to make sure you can work well at home.

When planning their home renovation in Kensal Rise, David Harrigan and Billie Scheepers, whose contemporary design collective Åben represents emerging Nordic makers, were particularly keen to incorporate an inviting study space that would allow them to produce their best work from home.

“Abundant natural lighting, neutral tones and occasional splashes of colour from Åben’s range of ceramics and glassware work together to make our office serene and inviting,” says founder David.

“Saying that, our best ideas typically come when we’re laying flat on our reclaimed Ercol daybed, staring blankly at the ceiling.”

 (Julian Abrams)
(Julian Abrams)

If you want your office to have a different function after hours, flexibility is key.

Rodrigo Moreno Masey built an “everything room” at the end of his garden in Richmond. Created out of reclaimed oak, with glazed garage-style doors that roll up and over, it’s a living room, a home office and, more recently, a break-out space for his children after home-schooling.

“Most spaces are typically more than one thing,” he says. “When we built the garden shed it didn’t actually take up any of the functional space.”

Interior designer for Imperfect Interiors Beth Dadswell’s office in a former dairy in East Dulwich needed to blend in with the rest of the house so she used Farrow & Ball’s dusty pink setting plaster paint to make cupboards disappear into the raw plaster walls.

“There is a linen curtain that can separate it when guests sleep in the snug but mostly I leave it open so that I don’t feel too tucked away,” says Beth.

 (Juliet Murphy)
(Juliet Murphy)

Clever maximisation of a tiny space can be seen in the addition of a birch-lined room to a one-bedroom flat on the ground floor of a former synagogue in Hackney by IF_DO Architects.

It’s a light-filled home office and occasional guest room in normal times, with a desk running along one side of the room, a mid-century-look daybed against the opposite wall and a terrazzo tile floor.

“For us, the primary considerations were around creating a warm, light and calming environment,” says Thomas Bryans, director and co-founder of IF_DO.

“Large triangular roof lights maximise the connection to the outside, creating an awareness of the changing light and the diurnal cycle that’s so important for our health. The timber-lined interior (now filled with plants) offers a connection to nature that is beneficial for our well-being,” he adds.

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