Setting Up A Modern Home Office

Setting Up A Modern Home Office

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Last Updated:
July 18, 2020

Inspiration, essential items and unique ideas for designing your own modern home office.

Many businesses and business owners continue to embrace the remote work movement and will continue to do so. You may be one of those remote workers and whether you're new to working from home or already experienced with it, you may be thinking of how you can give your current office or work space a modern makeover. We've compiled a thorough list of colors, styles and important things to consider as you plan your office.

Home Office Windows & Lighting

We're including this on the list first because it's one that tends to be left for last or forgotten altogether when planning out the office.

This usually goes two ways:

1) Too Dark

dark home office
So Dark in Here!

If you're dealing with low light issues then keep white or light paint colors in mind so that you can bounce the light you do have off of walls.

When it comes to artificial light you always want to use a lamp shade or your camera lighting could be too overpowering.

If this is your situation see the lighting section down below.

2) Too Light

too many home office windows
So Much Sun!

If you're on video calls frequently then we highly recommend you get this under control. If not, you're going to start hearing your clients and co-workers say that they can't see you or they're completely blinded by all the light coming through your windows.

Your laptop or webcam needs the right lighting environment to display high quality video of your face.

Keep in mind the time of day and how natural lighting may change throughout the day. You may start your day with low light but by the time you're on video calls, the sun is shining directly into your office.

It's recommended that you try to position your desk so that you're facing a window (without another window behind you) or you could end up with harsh lighting on camera.

This also helps to cut down on light glare on your screens.

You could consider dual window shades, where you have the option to pull down a sun blocking shade for part of the day.

Home Office Lighting

Lighting The Whole Room

We talked about the importance of desk placement in relation to windows and natural light already, but if you're short on windows and sunlight there's a lot of options for artificially lighting things up in your office.

Studies have shown that white/blue light helps keep us awake and alert. This is why many scientists suggest that we stay off of our phones later in the night if we want to fall asleep.

So it makes sense that using a bluer light source could help us stay alert and productive while working from home.

Talieh Ghane, a researcher who studies the link between light and health, was interviewed by Alcon Lighting and mentioned the benefit of this blue light during the day many times in the interview:

"We should make sure that in our workspace, in our hospital room, whatever space that we are confined to, we have high intensity, high CCT (correlated color temperature) light sources with high blue content during the day. We need to have that kind of exposure for at least one hour in the morning."

So how do you achieve this blue light, you might be asking?

Light color temperature is measured in something called Kelvins. And its on a scale from 1,000 to 10,000.

And confusingly, the higher the Kelvin number, the 'cooler' the color temperature is.

So you'll want bulbs capable of at least 5000K to achieve the cooler, blue light color.

We suggest a Philips Hue starter kit which goes up to the 6500K that you'd want for day time. You could schedule it to gradually dim the closer it gets to the end of your work day too.

Video Conference Call Lighting

If you've followed the advice above for cooler light color temperatures in your office then chances are your video call lighting will be on-point already.

Just remember that you want the major light source in front of your face for calls.

If you can't achieve the right lighting for the entire office then you still have plenty of options for lighting your desk area specifically for Zoom calls.

The advice from above still stands. You'll want to find a light source that can output 5000K+ Kelvin color temperature for your video conferencing calls.

These Zoom LED lights go up to 6500K and are adjustable so you can get the angle just right for your calls.

Desktop LED Light for Zoom Calls
Desktop LED Light for Zoom Calls

You can also go the more traditional route of modern desk lamp as long as you find one that's compatible with the right bulbs needed to achieve blue light.

bright desk lamp for office
Bright, Cool Light For Video Calls

Or if the budget allows for it, you could have a custom designer build the perfect light fixture to hang right above your office desk set up. Like this fantastic piece by Ovuud:

custom hanging home office light
Custom Hanging Office Light By Ovuud

Home Office Wall Paint Colors

The paint color you choose should be tied to one of the points above.

Does your office get a lot of sunlight or is your office north facing or without windows?

Lighter colors, especially white, will reflect and not absorb sunlight. Where dark colors or black will absorb the light.

The color you choose may look one way early in the morning but look a lot different by two in the afternoon, for example.

As VeryWellMind explains, the actual psychology of colors and if they truly affect us mentally doesn't look to be conclusive with all doctors.

Most of us have some sort of bias towards colors already and that's where we'll likely lean to when deciding on what colors to use in our offices.

Just remember to grab a few swatches and have them handy to compare what they will look on your wall during morning, afternoon and evening hours.

dark pink tone home office color
pink wall home office
two tone grey office walls

Home Office Desks

The star of the whole show. This is where you'll be working from each day so give your new desk a lot of thought.

What else do you want to fit in your office (this will dictate your desk size options) and do you plan to stand for part of the day? As you can imagine there's a lot of possibilities out there. From different materials, sizes and colors to local and overseas manufacturers.

Should I Sit or Stand or Both?

Standing desks and adjustable desk options have really taken off over the last few years, and most recently demand sky-rocketed with more people working from home due to the virus.

google trends stand up desk
Google Trends Interest in Standing Desks

The Science Behind Stand Up Desks

Many of us assume that standing at our desk instead of sitting would burn more calories. And you'd be correct. Sort of.

As Harvard Health reports, researchers at the Journal of Physical Activity and Health conducted a study and found that standing at your desk only burns slightly more calories than sitting.

You'd get much more out of walking for a bit at lunch time or after your work is done for the day.

But there's more to it than just burning calories right?

There certainly is!

As JustStand.org explains, the scientific community says there's a real problem with not moving enough during the day.

They've given it a name: "Sitting Disease".

Even with mixing some exercise into your day, it's usually just not enough to make up for sitting 8+ hours a day.

Sitting for long periods of time can increase likelihood of cancer and reduces the bone strength in your legs.

But of course standing all day comes with problems too, so you'll have to find a good middle ground!

A popular recommendation is to change it up every half hour or so. Stand for 30 minutes and then sit for 30 minutes.

Okay, with that out of the way, let's jump into different desk styles and options to think about when planning your office.

Wood Desks

Wooden desks tend to be more traditional in style and when it comes to mass produced desks you'll typically find wood (or composite wood) desk tops, but the base and the legs of the desks are usually some sort of aluminum or steel.

That doesn't mean there aren't mass produced full wood desks out there. Just harder to come by and many aren't 100% full wood but built with engineered wood to cut costs.

You can find very nice full wood desks at higher end stores or wood furniture specialty stores. This one looks great:

high end traditional wood desk
Higher End Wood Desk

wood office desk in front of window
Adjustable Wood Desk in Front of Window

Heads Up: utilizing indoor plants is a great way to bring some extra life and color into your home office set up. Here's a perfect list of easy plants you can grow indoors.

If you have the budget and want to find something with a lot of character then we suggest visiting antique stores in your area. You may get lucky and find something like this beauty:

Standard BS 21 Antique Wood Desk
Standard BS 21 Antique Wooden Desk on Instagram

The Lauren desk from Four Hands is a fantastic wood desk option along the lines of the BS 21 desk seen above.

full wood office desk
Lauren Desk

Speaking of character, there's a lot of specialty furniture makers that you can support as well. Obviously the cost will be much higher than mass produced desks, but you'll get real wood and support the art that goes into making it.

These folks, Mokuzai Furniture, created a super cool wood stand up desk seen below. You could have them custom build something like this for your work from home office.

Tall Wood Stand Up Desk
Wooden Stand Up Desk

The Michigan creative studio, Rocket Mission, do a lot of cool custom desk options as well.

We love the idea of both an adjustable option and convenient drawers. Not only can you quickly access everything you need but this helps to reduce clutter if you don't have a lot of space in your home office space.

adjustable wood desk with drawers
Beautiful Real Wood & Drawers

If you're on a budget and still want something with character you can usually find full wood desks at a second hand store like The Salvation Army or a Goodwill near you. Craigslist is a good place to check as well. You may find one that's completely free.

thrift store wood desk
Found at Goodwill for $1.99!

L-Shaped & Corner Desks

More often that not you'll see L-shaped desks placed in the corner of an office space but that isn't a strict rule. It comes down to your square footage and the room design that you have in mind. Here's a very nice oak desk placed in the corner:

L Shaped Oak Office Desk
Oak Corner L-Shape Office Desk by The Crafty Couple LTD

And here's a wonderful DIY project from Warrior Mama 2118 on Instagram. You can see that they've got it placed outside of a corner and it still looks great!

L shaped wood home office desk
L-Shaped Wood Office Desk

There's a lot of options when it comes to readily available, more mass-produced L-shaped and corner desks. You've got corner facing desks like this one from Bestar:

Corner Facing L-Shaped Desk

And more traditional style L-shaped desks like this one from Sauder:

traditional style l-shape desk
Traditional L-shaped Oak Office Desk

Then there's a countless array of lightweight, budget modern corner computer desks like this one here:

corner computer desk
Budget L-shaped Computer Desk

Metal & Steel Desks

There's a lot of desks with metal or steel leg frames but an actual full metal desk top is a little harder to come by.

Much of what you'll find out there is repurposed antique desks that are straight out of your favorite teacher's class room from the 1980s.

repurposed metal desk
Painted Metal Desk
steel desk with drawers
Warehouse on the Quay

vintage metal tanker desk
Vintage Metal Tanker Desk Repurposed By Mustard Tree Market

Again, full metal or steel desks aren't as popular as wood desk options, but that doesn't mean there isn't options for those who aren't interested in repurposing or hunting down antique desks.

Here's a white, modern, metal option from Nathan James:

lightweight white metal computer desk
White Metal Computer Desk

Home Office Desk Chairs

After the desk is chosen, your next item to think about will probably be a desk chair.

Keep in mind that some of the nicest modern designed office chairs can end up being pretty bad for your back and posture. The same can be said for many budget desk chairs too. You don't want to go too cheap on this if you plan on sitting in it for many hours every day.

While we do recommend going with a properly designed ergonomic chair, we understand that they're not always the most visually appealing.

Look for something that's the best of both worlds.

Ergonomic Office Chairs

We've already covered that sitting for too long is bad for your health. But standing all day isn't great for your body either. So when it comes time to sit down it's also very important to have a desk chair that will be kind to your back!

Something ergonomic.

As FitForWork explains, when sitting in your new office chair it's important that your feet are flat on the floor. Your arms should easily be able to reach your keyboard and mouse without hunched shoulders or overstretched arms.

HumanScale suggests that for less spine stress, our hips should always be higher than our knees while sitting, and that there should be 2 to 4 inches between our seat and back of the knee.

If you'll be purchasing a chair online then be sure to research the return policy and read through as many reviews as you can. You may love how a chair looks and what it costs but it could end up being terrible for your body type.

proper office chair posture
Adjust Your Office Chair for Proper Posture

Ergonomic Desk Chair Inspiration

highly rated ergonomic office chair
The Highly Rated Freedom Headrest Chair from Humanscale
frezza ergonomic office chair
Ergonomic Home Office Space by Frezza
Teknion Ergonomic Office Chair
Teknion Chair Designed By Justus Kolberg
classic ergonomic office chair
The Classic Aeron Chair from Herman Miller

Classic & Luxury Office Chairs

Not everyone loves the look and feel of the ergonomic chairs though. If that's you there's plenty of options out there for you as well.

You've got the mid-century modern masterpiece of a chair in the Executive Work Chair, originally designed by Charles Eames and manufactured by Herman Miller:

luxury office chair at dwelling trends
Luxury Executive Office Chair

The Cherner Chair, designed by Norman Cherner in 1958, is an American classic that's been made available again thanks to his sons. They've been producing their father's designs since 1999. The Cherner Task chair is inspired by the original Cherner chair design. Obviously not a chair for long days of sitting, but certainly a great piece of design to include in your new home office set up.

cherner office task chair
Cherner Office Task Chair

Home Office Couches & Lounge Chairs

If the space and budget allows it, we recommend adding a small couch or lounge chair to your home office plans. There will be those times where you're still in 'work mode' but need to get away from the desk when you're off video calls.

Here's some inspiration to get the ideas flowing!

home office couch and shag carpet

home office lounge bed

home office with love seat

home office lounge chairs

mid century modern office lounge chair

Soundproofing Your Home Office

If you've got kids at home, rambunctious dogs or just live in the heart of a loud and bustling city, then you may need to try and drown out some of the sound while you work. Especially while you're on work calls!

Here's a few ideas to think about:

1) Seal up your door - the gap between the bottom of the door and floor is probably letting noise in. You can use weather sealing rubber or throw a thick blanket down there.

2) Better yet - replace your door. Chances are that your office door is pretty thin. You could replace it with a sturdy, thicker wood door + add the weather sealer to really keep the noise out.

3) Pad your walls - while certainly not the most aesthetically pleasing, putting up foam panels on the walls could help keep the chaos out.

4) Pad your floors - for those of you with an upstairs office, this could be a solution for keeping downstairs noise out. There's options for insulating your floorboards or layering up on the rugs and carpet.

Rugs can help if your room tends to be "echo-y" during your video calls too.

5) Not always a solution, but in certain situations, investing in high quality noise cancelling headphones could help keep outside noise down while you're working too.

Other Home Office Items To Consider

Desk Accessories

Computer Monitors

A lot of us work solely on just our laptops and that's just fine, but do you find yourself jumping back and forth between multiple tabs, windows and apps often?

If so, you should consider adding another monitor (or two!) to your office set up.

There's many budget monitor models, like from Acer and Asus, that look great and only cost around $100 or so.

budget acer computer monitor
Thin-Bezel, Budget Monitor From Acer

If you really want to up the ante, and the budget allows for it, then you could go with one of the beautiful ultra wide computer monitors that are starting to become more and more popular as prices get better on them.

Here's one from LG:

LG ultrawide monitor for home office
Ultra Wide Monitor from LG

The ultra wides are nice and the prices have gotten better, but they're still too much for those of us on a budget. You can get a few smaller monitors and put them together for something pretty comparable to having one really wide monitor. Here's a great looking set up:

Double Monitor Home Office Setup From Klungkity on Instagram

Laptop & Monitor Stands

If your only camera for video calls is your laptop cam then you'll likely need a stand to bring it up to eye level. If not, your meeting attendees will be looking at your chin the whole time.

Yeah, a stack of books can work but you'll quickly realize something more sturdy is necessary. And a stand will certainly look a lot nicer than some old dusty books!

You can also take a stand over to your lounge chair with you too, when you're ready to step away from the desk for a bit.

Here's a bestselling Macbook stand on Etsy, for example:

wood laptop stand from Etsy
Laptop Stand on Etsy

You may want to give your monitor(s) a boost in height as well. Especially if you've lifted your laptop up to eye level with a stand. Now your laptop could be in the way of your monitor.

Even if that's not the case, some people just like to have their monitors up a bit higher.

Here's a great looking option from Artifox:

home office monitor stand by artifox
The "Lift" stand by Artifox

Monitor Arms

Another option for your monitors is using a flexible arm that holds it up instead of a stand. This way you get sort of a floating effect and it really frees up space on your desktop.

Heads Up! Make sure your monitors support a VESA pattern on the back or you won't be able to use an arm without an adaptor.

Basically, you need to be able to screw in the arm plate into the back of your monitor.

Many budget monitors, like the Acer mentioned above, don't come with this feature.

Ergotron is one brand that makes highly rated monitor arms. Like this one here:

ergotron monitor arm
Ergotron Monitor Arm

Dual monitors, both supported by monitor arms, makes for a nice looking set up! The swivel ability with these arms is a nice additional benefit as well.

dual monitor arms office desk setup
Dual Monitor Arm Setup Seen on Instagram

Storage & Shelving

You'll want to keep your home office free of clutter and well organized, so find options for storing papers, files and extra accessories that you don't always need out.

Cabinets

Think about the square footage that you have to work in your office space and how many things you'll need to keep inside drawers.

Will you be frequently adding to the pile? In other words, are you going to need space in the future for new papers and folders?

A year from now you'll want to make sure your cabinet drawer space is enough to hold everything.

Need space for a printer? Keep it off your desk. Find something like this great looking cabinet from BDI, which has a slide out shelf for your printer:

home office cabinet with printer shelf
Home Office Cabinet With Printer Shelf

If space is small and you need a filing cabinet, there's plenty of small options that can be placed out of the way under your desk. Like this one here from Herman Miller:

herman miller home office filing cabinet
Filing Cabinet Made in The USA, by Herman Miller

Shelves

To free up space, you'll probably want to get things off the floor by putting shelves on the wall. Similar to the cabinets above, think about what you might need in the future.

Will you be using shelves for actual papers and files? How fast will you fill the shelves up? Be sure to get large enough shelving units to support future use cases.

office wood double wall shelf
Highly Rated Double Wood Shelf From Peter's Goods

If you're just looking to visually display a few things in your office, then smaller, sleek, floating shelves can look great on your walls. Here's a great option from Kartell:

floating office shelves by from Kartell
Floating Shelves Designed by Ludovica and Roberto Palomba for Kartell

We've mentioned Artifox once already, but they deserve another mention because of their great product line. Here's a super useful magnetic shelf that comes in a chalkboard or dry-erase front for note taking. Handy!

magnetic office shelf with dry erase front
Magnetic Office Shelf From Artifox

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