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 one 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
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 cover or your camera lighting could be pretty overpowering.
If this is your situation, see the lighting section down below.
2) Too Light
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 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, like this one here, which goes up to the 6500K that you'd want for the 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.
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.
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:
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.
Home Office Desk Styles
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.
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 we've got a real problem with too many of us 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.
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:
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 true character we suggest visiting antique stores in your area. You may get lucky and find something like this beauty:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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!
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:
And more traditional style L-shaped desks like this one from Sauder:
Then there's a countless array of lightweight, budget modern corner computer desks like this one here:
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. A lot 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.
Again, full metal or steel desks aren't as popular as wood desk options, but that doesn't mean that there aren't options for those of you who aren't interested in repurposing or hunting down antique desks.
Here's a white, modern, metal option from Nathan James:
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!
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.
Ergonomic Desk Chair Inspiration
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:
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.
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!
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
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.
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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:
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!