How to Set Up a Workable Home Office

You got a two bedroom apartment knowing you’re not likely to be having people sleeping in that second room.  You’ve got a comfy couch, after all. No, what you needed was a space to work. You might be a young professional, or an entrepreneur, or you telecommute.  There isn’t a coffee shop in town that doesn’t try to kick you out for trying to hog the good spots with an outlet. And you’ve grown tired of co-working spaces.  You need an office to call your own, and you need it to be the kind of office you not only feel comfortable in, but can be productive in as well.

The Paint

This might be the single most important element for your home office.  There’s a well documented psychological element to colors. Think about what you’ll be doing in the room and go from there.  If this is a space you’re going to be using exclusively, without any guests or clients stopping in, you should choose a color scheme which helps your mindset.  Reds create a sense of urgency and high energy, while shades of yellow can be good for creativity. Mix them together, perhaps in an orange accent wall with an appropriate cartoon character in one corner, and you’ll have plenty of playful energy for your projects.  

If you’re the sort of person who bring clients into your office, go for a scheme which puts you and them at ease.  The right shades of brown can give the impression of strength and security, while darker shades of green are good for creating a sense of calm, particularly if you’re going to be discussing financial matters.  Neutral colors like undertones, white, and gray by themselves may not be the most relaxing for clients or for you.  A dark accent wall with white highlights on the shelving makes a bold statement, but consider a gray mixed in with lighter shades of blue to help the mind stay focused.

The Furniture

When selecting the furniture for your office, you may be tempted to think, “A desk and a chair, what more do I need?”  The answer is plenty, and all of it is going to depend on the sort of work you do.  Anybody working for themselves in a serious capacity should have some method of physical file storage more durable than a cardboard box.  You can use the cardboard box when you’re first starting out, of course, but you owe it to yourself to get at least a short filing cabinet for when the business is really taking off.

A bookshelf is an absolute necessity for virtually any business.  Writers should have hard copy versions of a dictionary, thesaurus, Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, and both the AP Style Guide and Chicago Manual of Style handy for when the Internet goes out.  Lawyers would obviously want law books relating to their particular specializations. Coders and network engineers should have tech manuals and code specifications available.  If there’s any sort of good reference book you use, you should have a dedicated shelf for it.

Desks present a certain challenge.  On the one hand, you want a desktop that gives you enough room to work, as well as a little extra for things like your coffee cup or a pencil caddy.  On the other hand, you don’t want a desk that is so big, getting it out when you move presents a herculean challenge. Try and shoot for simple desk setups.  Even a pair of sawhorses and a thick sheet of plywood will do, provided you can secure it properly and be able to disassemble it quickly when moving time comes around.

Chairs are the other big challenge.  Much like desks, you have to balance comfort against portability.  You should certainly try out the feel of good office chairs before you buy, but when you do, try assembling them outside the office to give yourself an idea of what you need to do to get it out eventually.  Beyond the office chair, furniture for clients to sit down on should undergo the same rigor. Find something comfy, but easy to move in and out. For those looking to supercharge functionality, consider a futon, which will serve as both couch for clients and bed for unexpected guests.

The Personal Touches

This is your office.  It should reflect your tastes and interests in ways which are aesthetically appealing without being cluttered.  If you’ve got a favorite artist, find a print that pops when you hang it on the wall. Are you a model builder in your spare time?  Put out one or two models you’re particularly proud of or that inspire you to keep getting better. The trick here is to make sure you’re making the office personalized without turning it into an inadvertent storage unit.

Check out some DIY Home Office from Matthew Encina

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