Today we’re talking about how you can upgrade your home office. This was originally discussed on one of my favorite Instagram Live design chats last year. So this is a blog-style version with reference images and the ideas in written format.
I had an Instagram survey, and found that many of you are fixing up your home offices right now. After completing my home office (Summer 2020), I created a list of the improvements that made the biggest difference. So while you might already have a pretty sweet home office, these tips can help raise the bar and create an even better work zone for you.
Tip #1: Paint first
If you’re going to paint your office, finish the paint job first. I always say prep on one day and paint on the other. I say this because if you leave any part of a painting project to the next day, or tell yourself “I’ll finish this later,” it becomes the easiest thing to procrastinate on. And tomorrow usually evolves into never.
When I painted my office, I woke up at the crack of dawn, moved everything out that needed to move, and started painting like crazy. I knew that if I was going to need more paint that I could spend 30 minutes in the car and make it to the Home Depot before it closed. And then make it back in time to finish the paint job.
I highly recommend you take a Saturday and Sunday – or even better if it’s a three day weekend. When doing your prep work make sure you have all your rollers, double check everything’s taped off, move all the furniture out. Get the whole room ready to go the minute you are up and moving on the next day. Don’t even open the can until you’re ready to crank out the painting.
Tip #2: Get the Temperature Right
Secondly, address the temperature. I was listening to a podcast that mentioned cooling mattress pads that boast creating the best sleep of your life. I think the concept of perfecting the temperature to keep us comfortable is also beneficial when we’re at work.
In my old office, you would hear a lot of people complain about the temperature. Working in a big space, shared with other people is really hard to control. So sometimes people would bring in personal space heaters to make sure their little space was the proper temperature.
I think when you have a home office, the temperature is 100% something that you can control. Sometimes your home office might be in a room that was originally a bedroom, so depending on where the window is facing, it may not get as much air circulation as it needs. If you already have a home office and you find that you are never IN there to work, consider the room temperature and if that is creating a barrier.
If it’s too cold, consider a small space heater that can work in your space without making it super cluttered. Too hot? You can try one of those skinny fans that has an air purifying setting. There are definitely sleek options for both available. Once you address the temperature for your home office, I guarantee you’ll spend more time in it.
As you may know, I live on a farm and we don’t have central air so my office wasn’t a space for me to be productive in until the day I got a window unit. I sat in my office working crazy hours to finish my website and it was nice to not have to think about how hot the room was. So, I definitely recommend you prioritize the temperature of your office and you will want to spend more time working.
Tip #3: Upgrade Your Shelving
Whenever you look up boujee office inspiration images on Pinterest, you often see built-ins galore. While I LOVE this trend, I was a girl on a budget when I did my own office. And one of the best upgrades I did was switch out my IKEA Kallax shelves. They were just not making me happy anymore. I was not living for the style and didn’t want to to invest in new matching storage cubes.
So, I saw this idea from Harlowe James, with the Billy bookshelves from IKEA and the Oxberg doors. She added custom knobs and I really admired the finished look. In my cabinets, I have a mix of Poshmark inventory, design magazines, and some paperwork.
If you’re working on an office project and you’ve never watched my videos before, go back to episode 7. Specifically at the end, I answer multiple home office questions.
Tip #4: Maximize the Vertical Space
Because the Billy cabinets are taller, they provide more floor space making my office clean and modern. I like the Oxberg doors and how the bottom half is solid while the top half is glass. So I styled the visible sections and used bins from the Dollar Tree for the bottom half. Always go tall, as tall as possible. If you can’t afford to do built-ins, this is a really great budget option. Be sure to measure and plan your space with the new furniture pieces to make use of every inch. Don’t just show up at IKEA and pick whatever looks good, you’ll massively regret it. The more vertical storage you have, the less crap will collect on the floor.
Tip #5: Make a Plan for the Paper
It’s important to have a plan for the paper clutter so that it doesn’t automatically start piling up on your desk. Almost always, especially in my cubicle at my old job, there would be a growing mountain of papers. At my home office, I have a very small glass desk in the middle so I don’t have room for papers to pile up there. Nor do I want it to!
I really like using magazine files to store paperwork that I need to hang onto. I’m also a fan of wall mail sorters – especially if you go through it regularly. Mine looks a little cluttered right now, but the idea is that it’s stored where it’s not cluttering your workspace.
I also have some IKEA Alex roller drawers that I use for large scale artwork and screen prints from art school. I also have some Poshmark jewelry inventory stored with some old-school sorters. There’s a million uses for these drawers, but I love that it can store oversized paper and mementos. The shape of the drawers are excellent for organizing!
In an office, paper happens! So it’s important to incorporate design elements that proactively get it out of sight/out of the way. The Dollar Tree is great to find sorters to help you organize every inch of your cabinets, drawers, shelves, etc.
Tip #6: Balance & Soften the Space with Decor
If you’re not happy with the design of your office, you’re probably thinking it needs decor. And introducing soft textiles and decor elements are awesome to contrast with things like your printer, computer, cords, etc.
The home offices we see on Instagram/Pinterest, almost always have curtains, pillows, upholstered benches and ottomans. When you have soft elements in your office, it makes you want to be there more often.
Tip #7: Layered Lighting
After I completed the One Room Challenge in my office, I replaced the standard builder light fixture with a cuter one from IKEA. But when I turned it on the first time at night, it felt WAY too bright. I hardly use it, but if I need to come in here and look for something or if I’m cleaning, that bright light is helpful.
More and more, I’m realizing I like having my layered lights. On my desk, I have a little light that I use to light up my face when I do my IG Lives and a table lamp for ambient lighting. So when I sneak down to my office at night, I have options for how much light I want in the space. I like the formula of having 1) task lighting, 2) accent lighting and 3) overhead lighting. Plus, the lamps and fixtures can add a dash of style to your space.
Tip #8: Maximize the Closet
Make a plan for your closet space. If you have a closet in your home office – assuming that it’s a converted bedroom situation – maximize that puppy! I didn’t photograph my office closet as part of the One Room Challenge reveal, but the rest of the room couldn’t have come together the way that it did without reorganizing the closet.
In my closet I have a set of drawers to store printer paper, greeting cards and other things. I have a giant shoe bag hung in the middle for all the shoes that I have for sale on Poshmark. Then there’s a little utility cart that fits perfectly and holds all of my Poshmark packaging, so I can pull that out when I need to do a package and then push it back in.
I also have a filing cabinet on the other side and some boxes for Poshmark. For whatever reason my closet has no doors, so I added a curtain from Target. It was a bit too long, so I bought curtain rings with clips and a tension rod, and folded it consistently across the top to crop it down a bit. The closet doesn’t have to be perfect, but use every inch of space you have here to make your work space less cluttered!
Tip #9: Feng Shui Touches
Here are four beginner-level Feng Shui tips to consider for your office.
1) Make sure you have a real plant, preferably something easily manageable. The bigger the pot of the plant, the better. So if you can fit a whole tree in your office with a big pot, Feng Shui teaches that it can make you some money.
2) Have something that ties to water. It can be literal like an aquarium or symbolic, like my water color paintings.
3) Have an inspirational element. For example, some people have quotes like “Work hard so you can shop hard.” You can find quotes like these on Etsy for a couple dollars that you can print yourself.
4) Incorporate some metal pieces. Metallic tones like gold or silver work best here. Which I think look great as part of a well-designed office anyway!
Tip #10: Create a Video Call Backdrop
Finally, my last tip for you is to consider your video call setup. I’m not judging, but I’ve seen some pretty sad looking Zoom call backgrounds and lighting situations. It’s a little dark in my office when my curtains are closed but extremely bright when they are open. When I turn on my overhead light, it gives my face weird shadows, but on a good weather day I usually use light from the window, filtered by the curtain, with an extra light on my face. I think getting your lighting right is more important than your background.
A lot of the time you see people with their head down, looking like they just rolled out of bed, with their face usually too dark or with weird shadows because they haven’t thought about video call lighting. I think the simplest way to solve these problems is to either face a window or invest in a ring light that you can attach to the computer or rest on your desk. Even better to have both!
Your background can be styled 100 different ways, but you need to first decide what angle you’re going to get the best light from. My best advice once you’ve figured out the lighting, is to make sure the backdrop of your office looks finished and has a balance of decor to add personality.
I have a printer behind me (in the video), I can’t really hide that it doesn’t fit in the cabinet. But I think my pin board my lamp and my styled cabinet shelves lets makes it all “work” together.
I think it’s a good idea to make it appear you have this designed office behind you and not just a dark cave that you crawl into for eight hours a day.
If you want more ideas for how to decorate or organize your office, you can check out my blog post on designer inspired organization ideas, which has a few office ideas and links to some products. Leave a comment and let me know which tip you enjoyed most!
Additionally, if you use any of these ideas to bring more life and excitement and and workability and money into your life from your beautiful home office, I hope you’ll tag me on Instagram!
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Kaitlyn Loos [loh-s] is a virtual e-designer for interiors and organizing. She helps busy women and families create dreamy spaces that function for their unique needs. She notably developed the Decluttering Personality Type quiz which has helped hundreds of people break down mental barriers about clutter. Kaitlyn loves to collaborate with clients to bring modern, fresh, and color-savvy design into their homes. Kaitlyn Loos Design delivers style for nearly any investment level. She also enjoys sharing her ideas and projects through her blog and discussing hot design topics on Instagram live.
Kaitlyn is located in the west-central Florida area (Tampa, Ocala, Gainesville, and everywhere in between) with availability for select in-person projects for 2021.
Some of the copy has been altered from its original version for the blog format.